Working in A Series: How Do You Know When You’re Finished?

No, I don’t mean knowing when you’re finished with the series. Because I’m not–I have no idea *when* this will end for me or how I’ll know when it does. I’m still having a bunch of fun with it, so I thank you for sticking around and indulging my experiments.

No, I mean: how do you know when you’re finished with a particular piece? I’m thinking about this because I thought I was finished with Experiment #2, this gray sweatshirt:

I’d cut it and stitched it and wore it, but it just didn’t sing to me. I looked at it and realized it was just too plain. Too boring. Too color-less for me. So I used some more of the t-shirts I cut up for the hem, ironed that to fusible webbing and cut out a bunch of circles. I ironed them on and then stitched around them to make them secure.

I like it a lot better.

When I talk to artists, I ask them how they know when a piece is finished. It’s not that I think this is a big issue for artists–most of them are kind of baffled at this question, I think. I ask it because I love the answers I sometimes get–the rituals people go through for finishing a piece. Jodi and Richard Creager set up the finished figure for photography and then sit down in front of it and raise a toast to their work. I love this–the ritual of welcoming a new piece into the world. Other artists say they’re never finished, that they may go back in months or even years later to tweak something. Maybe they’ve found yards of a new ribbon that would be perfect, or maybe they realized that blue area over there needs to have just a little more green. There’s no hard and fast rule for when Done is Done–it depends on your medium (how flexible it is–polymer clay isn’t going to be as changeable as fabric, for instance) and your deadline (or lack of it–having deadlines makes knowing something is finished a LOT easier: it’s done, at least for now, when you put the packing tape on the box) and your own personal working methods (maybe you like to keep tweaking things for days, or maybe you prefer to finish a piece, put everything away and clean your studio before you start something new). There’s no right way to Be Finished; it’s however works for you today. The challenge is to figure that out to your own satisfaction so you know when to raise a toast and call it good.


Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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