I’ve saved my favorite story for last. This spark, like those for the voodoo dolls and the milagro pin dolls, happened in New Orleans. Another year, another visit. I was looking out the window as we rode the trolley down St. Charles Avenue. Standing on a corner in a crowd of people was a young woman in a skirt. Now, I couldn’t see her well, and the trolley didn’t stop. She was partially obscured by other people, so I didn’t see her face or really get a good look at what she was wearing. But it seemed to me, as I craned to get a better look as we rolled past her, that she had on a jean skirt covered in something–patches or something added onto the denim. That’s all I could see, no matter how I turned around and tried to get a better look before she was lost in the crowd.
The spark was immediate. In my mind, she had been wearing a skirt made from a pair of Levi’s, soft and worn and faded. On it, there had been all kinds of things. I started talking to my husband, chattering excitedly about how you could do this, and what if I did this?
I became just the tiniest bit obsessed. When we leave New Orleans, we go home through Houston, staying near The Galleria. We spent the evening there, looking in shops for a jeans skirt. Now, at some point I remember checking out a Levi’s store for Levi’s skirts, but in a check this morning I don’t find a Levi’s store in the Galleria in Houston. Maybe there used to be one, or maybe we also went to Dallas to hunt. It doesn’t matter: what I’ve learned is that The Hunt is an important part of what I do. I hardly ever buy anything when I hunt for stuff, but the looking and the thinking and the refining of what it is I’m thinking about–that’s vital. I have to explain to other people what it is that I’m looking for, and in that explanation, I hone the idea. In looking at jeans skirts and not finding anything that was anywhere close to what I imagined I’d seen, I figured out exactly what I wanted the skirt, the base of the project I imagined, to look like. And I came home and made my own from–duh–an old pair of Levi’s 501s.
[Note: because I tend to get a little obsessed, I started collecting 501s. I asked everyone I knew. I went to garage sales and told people what I was doing, and people would go in their houses and come out with totally torn up 501s from their rag bags. Women would go in and bring me jeans from their husband’s closet floor. I ended up with dozens of pairs of jeans from size 29 to size 36, from fairly new ones I had to pay for to ones with the crotch completely gone, which doesn’t matter when you open them up and make them into a skirt.]
Once I figured out how to make the skirt so that it fit and didn’t pooch out in a weird way, as those homemade skirts usually do, then I started the fun part. In the months-long process of collecting the jeans and making the base skirt, I’d refined my idea and knew that what I wanted to do was to do everything on jeans that you could do in a paper journal. I wanted photos and text, movable pages and collage, paint and stamping. I wanted, in short, a wearable journal.
On Monday, I’ll finish this story and share a couple of photos. Then you’re in for a treat later next week as I start to share others’ Creative Sparks–see you then!
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