Crazing and Shivering

Welp, this has officially been the worst couple of weeks I can recall having in quite a long time, and it’s probably not a coincidence that the downward spiral began exactly when Mars went into retrograde, lol. I don’t follow astrology much at all, other than the monthly Chani Nicholas horoscope that shows up in my email inbox which I don’t even read regularly. But sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the way life is life-ing that I have to consult with my tarot reader friend who then gets me up to speed: “yep, everything sucks, for pretty much everybody, pretty much everywhere, so struggle through it, it ends mid-November” (not a direct quote).

a shot of my workspace in the Pot Studio. I need lots more storage down here and more table space would be great too, but I am very thankful for this set up we have created using stuff we already had in the garage/house.

It’s been both big things and little things. My best buddy got an unexpected, very unwanted medical diagnosis that I remain optimistic about but still feel devastated by. My partner has been experiencing unparallelled stress and anxiety that has manifested itself physically and emotionally in ways that I feel powerless to rectify. My brother’s mom passed away suddenly and the hospital may have some responsibility in not giving her the care that she needed because she had no health insurance. I accidentally washed my face with sunscreen. Twice in one week I used the wrong side of the salt shaker to ruin a meal, mistakenly using the “pour” side instead of the “shake” one; four tablespoons of salt into a freshly made pot of kale and white bean soup one day, two tablespoons onto my just-heated tupperware of leftovers on another. Then earlier this week, I realized that the last big batch of pottery I had completed and was finally ready to sell on etsy was ruined because of an issue called “crazing”, where the glaze essentially does not fit onto the claybody it has been applied to, so the glaze shrinks smaller than the ceramic underneath and creates (an admittedly pretty) cracked effect. Crazing is a technique that is often used on purpose, but only for decorative ceramics. For domestic pottery, crazing renders the piece unusable because it isn’t food safe- bacteria can get into the cracks of the glaze, tiny as they are, and create an environment of bad news for bodies. Some people insist that crazing was present in the majority of ceramics made throughout the ages and is not that big a deal but…our ancestors weren’t exactly THRIVING back in the day, with their short life expectancy and ignorance about food-born illnesses. I’d rather be safe than sorry, particularly when selling wares to others. So it’s back to the pottery wheel for me.

This is one of the more obviously crazed pieces, where the crazing shows up even when it’s dry. It was briefly a drinking cup but now its relegated to being a pot for claire to put plants in.

Given what the rest of my life has been looking like lately, I am actually not too devastated by the news that I have to essentially build my merchandise stock back up from scratch- this feels like small potatoes compared to everything else. I think it’s also because I am still so deep in the process of learning that everytime I pull a completed piece out of the kiln, I already have between one and eighteen things I know I want to do or change for the next time I make it, so at least now I have the opportunity to implement those changes and have my offerings look even better than before. Next time I wanna make this part bigger, next time I should attach this when they are still a little wet, next time I want to pull my handles separately so they are all uniform, next time, next time, next time. Normally I don’t mind the “next time” thinking because it reminds me that I am learning and experimenting and still being challenged in my creative pursuits, which I love. But it can be really overwhelming when you’re in the middle of a learning curve while simultaneously trying to capitalize on the stuff that you do know how to do. It just feels like a lot. But as I said in an earlier post, ceramics have given me something to focus on and immerse myself in, which has been an absolute blessing during this pandemic. It has kept me (mostly) sane, grounded and engrossed, and allowed me to obsess over something I actually have control over, something that brings me joy, unlike all the things happening in the world in which I feel a mere stunned observer.

This pot is made of the same clay and has no crazing- totally smooth and non- crackly both inside and out- it’s safe!

So even though the crazing was so disappointing to learn about, I feel like I have the information necessary to move forward from it. Here’s a simple breakdown of the crazing issue for anyone who is interested (there is lots more detail to the information I am providing so please only consider it a brief overview):  Clay is generally divided into low, mid and high fire ranges, which coordinate with the temperatures at which the clay vitrifies (vitrify= becomes it’s strongest self and can effectively hold water without being porous anymore): low fire clay gets fired at a lower temp, mid fire is higher than that that and high fire is of course the highest. More specifically, the clay is referred to by it’s “cone” number, which is essentially the effect of time + heat on the clay. When you fire clay, depending on what kind of clay you are using, the clay will shrink a certain percentage which is why when you make stuff with raw clay you have to account for the size you want it to end up after firing, not the size of what you have actually made.

Now in addition to the variables with claybodies, you add even more when you add glaze to the equation. Glaze is a combination of clay ingredients + water + glass, and when heated to a certain temperature (glaze is categorized by cone numbers as well), it melts and then hardens to form the glossy, brightly colored finish you find on most modern ceramics. An important thing to note is that, like most substances on this earth, glaze also changes when heated and cooled, expanding and shrinking in tandem with the temperature it’s withstanding.

In my little “pot studio” I have been working with cone 5 clay and working with glazes between cone 06  (lowfire range) and 5 (midfire range). And here is where my Learning Success™ lies: sometimes if you put a lowfire range glaze on a mid or high fire clay body and only fire it to the low range of the glaze, the clay hasn’t fully vitrified and/or shrunk down to it’s smallest self, so essentially the glaze is firing smaller than the body of the clay. When the piece cools the glaze shrinks more rapidly than the clay underneath does, which causes the glaze to crack and create the “crazing” effect as seen above. All the pieces that I have fired to mid range have come out perfectly with no crazing at all, but most of the pieces that I fired to low range (to accommodate the low fire glaze I painted them with) have come out crazed, though I didn’t know it at the time. For my pieces, the crazing wasn’t evident until they were rinsed with water, and then all of a sudden I could see this crackle effect all over! I didn’t even know it was “bad” initially- I thought it was just something happening with my glaze application or the brands of glaze I was using. Thankfully I did some research after seeing it happen on so many pieces and was able to alter my process before I started selling them. Although I have so enjoyed learning at my own pace and in my own space, this is the price of learning without a ton of professional guidance along the way. Trial and error is my preference, but it does not come without its’ downsides!

This is the mishima design that I have developed over the past couple months and I love it so much. Unfortunately these aren’t safe but I will absolutely be making a new and improved batch soon.

Anyways, to remedy the crazing issue on my future work, I ordered a new lowfire clay body to try out which should work better with the low fire glazes I have in my studio, and I also ordered a midfire clear glaze to use with the midfire clays I already have (the clear glaze is important for the mugs I make with mishima decoration seen above). Ideally I prefer firing my kiln in the low range because it uses less energy, but the actual midfire glaze effects are some of my favorites. Their finish has this antiqued look to it and the colors look a little vintage and worn, which I love. But many of my speckled glazes are low fire and I LOVE the speckled glazes, so I want to get as much use out of them (and everything else I currently have in my studio) as I continue to hone in on my style and design preferences.

edit: A lot of people on IG wrote me asking whether or not I could save the crazed pieces by reglazing them, so I guess I didn’t clarify the details of this well enough. I put a low fire glaze onto a high fire claybody and fired it at a low fire temperature to accomodate the glaze. The lowfire glaze cannot withstand a higher temperature (otherwise I would have been firing at that temp all along). So reglazing the pieces with high fire glaze wouldn’t rectify the fact that there is low fire glaze underneath, which will have a bad reaction to being fired at a higher temp and will likely ruin the entire piece in a new way, not to mention the fact that putting a new glaze on top of an unstable (crazed) glaze would probably make the new glaze malfunction as well. So no, there is no fool proof way (that I am aware of) to save a crazed piece of pottery that would keep its’ original condition intact. Apparently you CAN reglaze non-crazed pottery if there is an issue with the glaze or color or something, but I personally haven’t done it to great success- my pieces either came out with more issues or didn’t fix the issue that made me reglaze it in the first place. Also, some ceramics are totally fine at first and then can develop crazing over the years, so if you’re uncomfortable eating off of non-food safe ware, just relegate the pieces to decoration or get rid of it. 

if you look closely at the far right side of the bowl in this picture, you can see a little shadow inside the lines… that is where the underglaze has bubbled and lifted up off the claybody during the bisque fire. SHIVER.

Another issue I have been faced with trying to remedy is something called “shivering”, which is peripherally related to crazing. I’ve been experimenting with a decorating technique called sgraffito, where you cover greenware (unfired clay) with something called underglaze, which is a product that behaves a bit different than regular glaze. Once the underglaze has dried, you can remove the underglaze and some of the leatherhard clay underneath with a tool to create images and decoration on the piece. Once the clay is bone dry, you bisque fire it and the underglaze, muted and matte, is permanently attached to the clay body. Next I cover the piece in clear glaze which allows the underglaze color to pop a bit and makes the whole piece glossy and water tight. Similar to mishima, I love this technique so much because it allows me to essentially draw on the ceramics in a way that gives the piece texture and visual and tactile interest, but for some reason a lot of my bisqued pieces end up with the underglaze flaking off in small chunks, even though it’s supposed to be firmly adhered to the claybody. Apparently a potential cause of this is that the underglaze is firing and shrinking at a different rate than the claybody, but there can also be issues with the chemical makeup of the underglaze (which I will be the first to tell you is absolutely over my head- I use pre-made commercial glazes so I’m not mixing the ingredients up and adjusting the recipe myself). When I read up on shivering, the easiest ways suggested to remedy it were using fewer layers of underglaze on the claybody and diluting it with water to lessen its’ strength. I also read that it tends to happen on very round pieces as opposed to flatter pieces, which made sense as my mugs and bowls were all affected the most. So hopefully I can test out these fixes soon and see if it makes any difference.

A close up of sgraffito on a mug. These haven’t been bisque fired yet, so not sure if they will shiver. Instead of leaving the lines “raw”, I’m going to try slip trailing darker underglaze into them to see what kind of effect it creates.

It’s been so interesting committing to selling handmade things while also experimenting and learning and testing and inspecting and studying the process of making ceramics. It’s like both things, the manufacturing and the learning, are on the same highway traveling at the same speed, but they started in different places, and they are struggling to stay in line with each other. I have so many ideas in my head of what I want to make and offer that it’s hard for me to keep up with them all, but I am also learning so much that it sometimes feels like there isn’t room for all my ideas. As soon as I make something for the first time, I very quickly figure out how I want to make it even better the next time, and then I get so caught up in “next time” thinking that the piece I made, which was perfectly lovely and nice, suddenly feels obsolete.

People on IG love these toast plates so much, which I am so grateful for! Previously I have been handbuilding them from slab and molding them into a slightly upturned plate shape on the edges, but next I want to try the “poof” technique, where you use foam and a piece of wood to create a recess in a piece of clay. Hard to explain so I will take a video of it if it’s successful and share what the process looks like.

I’m not sure what the rush is, why I can’t just sit back and enjoy the process of learning (which you know I love!) instead of doing that while also trying to sell things at the same time, but I blame COVID-19. In truth, I think it’s partly due to the enthusiasm of my instagram followers, who have been so supportive and excited to consume whatever I end up sharing in my etsy shop, and of course partly due to the unwanted stasis that the pandemic has brought to us. My life changed abruptly from being super busy with work, flying between 2 and 6 times a month to and from Vancouver, to suddenly not even needing (or wanting, for safety’s sake) to leave the house for more than a grocery run. So I think focusing on selling the ceramic items I’ve made has afforded me some forward momentum in my life to keep me engaged and feeling productive and creative.

I call this mug “Bow Down, Stitches”, which obviously has a sewing theme. It didn’t turn out well when I made this design with some of the lighter colored underglazes but it works beautifully with this coral color, and this is one of the only sgraffito mugs I made that didn’t shiver!

Now a lot can be said about the concept of “productivity” and the “capitalist inside of all of us” which makes us feel like we must force ourselves to work and be fruitful and busy all the time in order to be “valuable”, and I totally appreciate the conversations that have been springing up around this topic. But I also know my habits well and can recognize that I am not pushing myself to do something I don’t feel like doing, but rather I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone, a small, but important difference. And quite honestly, something that my brain really needs these days. Worst case scenario for me is that I spend a lot of energy on the physical and mental work of developing a line of products to share on etsy and then I realize I just don’t enjoy the process at all. Thankfully the stakes for that are not very high, and if it does happen, the fix is easy: I just won’t sell publicly anymore, and I will save my makes for bestowing upon my friends and family.

These are incense holders and small bowls!

Thanks to Claire for most of these pics, and thanks, as always, for your encouragement, readership, support, and enthusiasm. It’s very inspiring and I do hope to be able to offer some fun ceramics products in the near future!

 

Life these days…

It just occurred to me while I was writing another post that I have been pretty bad at updating this blog with anything else I do aside from sewing, which is a terrible misstep for me- this blog is about being TryCurious and trying all kinds of different things in the realm of making, which I absolutely do on a regular basis, but I just forget to share it here! Although to be fair, I do a GREAT job of sharing all my different interests on my instagram account. So this post will just be a little catch up of some other things I have been spending my days immersed in during quarantine.

Of course, work is pretty much at a standstill for me since not many auditions are happening due to the fact that very few projects are currently in production. Every time a new production gets started, they have to shut it down because people start immediately getting sick. So I have been able to sink my teeth into some other interests over the past few months, mainly selling prints of my illustrations in my etsy shop and getting back into ceramics.

I felt inspired months ago to start drawing illustrations that depicted different aspects of a maker’s life. I got to thinking about how so many of us makers create beautiful, often functional artwork which gets lumped under the heading of “craft” (I have no problem being considered a crafter but I think we should also consider getting comfortable also naming ourselves as artists), and how so many of us live in homes with walls adorned with all kinds of lovely artwork and photographs and paintings that depict our aesthetic, but don’t necessarily depict us, the work we do, the art we create.

“Stockinette” illustration available at the LA yarn store The Little Knittery

With this jolt of inspiration I have been focused on creating an ongoing series of maker-inspired artwork, which I have printed on 11×17 poster paper and started selling in my etsy shop. Initially I only had two prints available and they sold out in about 3 days, which was a wonderful surprise!

I have since been selling these prints to fabric and yarn shops across north america and I even have a couple shops in the UK carrying them! Thanks to the following shops for supporting this black indie artist!

If you’re interested in purchasing now, the stores above are carrying “Stockinette”, “Machine Dream”, “Sew Good” and “Sew Close” (some of the shops are offering the illustrations for purchase online). I am carrying a selection of these prints in addition “Patron Saint” in my own etsy shop which you can find here! You can have a look at the Maker Illustrations below:

Stockinette

Machine Dream

 

Sew Close

Sew Good

and the most recent addition, a personal fav…

Patron Saint

This last one was inspired by an instagram post I made recently where Claire called me the “Patron Saint of Pants Down”, to which I was tickled and honored to no end. Most of us who have sewn dresses or skirts for ourselves know the habit of dropping trou and shuffling to the mirror to assess how the fit of something is coming along, so it feels like an almost universal experience for a particular kind of sewist. I wish I had this on a candle!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDIHjfOnNip/

You can find my etsy shop here, and since I have a tendency to sell out quickly I would suggest favoriting the shop so you’ll know when there are more items available. You can also follow me on instagram if you don’t already- I keep it updated regularly and always share when new items come into the shop!

As you can see from my last several posts, I’m still enjoying sewing, but I’ve decreased my output a lot during the last couple months of quarantine. I started having little glimpses of an existential crisis when I spent as much time on sewing projects as I normally did. Namely I just kept thinking “why? what is it all for?” It feels a bit more difficult to get lost in a sewing project these days when I start wondering when I will actually ever have an opportunity to wear the garments I’ve made (if the projected advice from medical professionals is any indication, it won’t be ’til several months into 2021). I’ve definitely been more interested in making casual and comfortable clothing that I can wear around the house and feel cute in as I am not a ‘PJs all day’ kind of person, but I also don’t have a lot of wardrobe needs to meet, so the sewing is just…slower. I’m excited to make a couple of those Elizabeth Suzann patterns that were made available recently to the sewing community, and I also promised my dad some masks that say “Good Trouble” on them (I finally broke down and got a used Cricut Joy to cut out the letters, lol), so although I’m not as busy with sewing as I normally am, I’m still inspired! I am actually not mad about the decrease in sewing at at all, because it’s given me so much room for my newfound obsession…CERAMICS!!!!

tiny cup with wax resist and speckled glaze

Anyone following this blog for several years might remember the post I made when I took my first pottery classes with Claire a few years ago and joined a local pottery studio. My time there was spent pretty much exclusively throwing on the wheel, which I took to fairly quickly. I loved the teacher at the studio and had a really great time familiarizing myself with the process- every single one of my christmas gifts that year was a not-always-functional but made-with-lots-of-love piece of pottery that I made, hahaha. But eventually I started working again and ended my time at that studio. Some days I missed it, but I always had sewing to fill in the gaps so I didn’t spend much time reminiscing about it. Then at the beginning of quarantine in March of this year, my sweet and extremely generous friend Stephanie asked me if I wanted to take her potter’s wheel off her hands. She had gotten into pottery for a while but had moved on to other hobbies and didn’t want the equipment taking up space in her storage area. I hadn’t really considered getting back into pottery, but I was happy to take the wheel- I figured that quarantine would give me plenty of time to get back into the groove if and when I felt inspired to dive back in.

When I went to Stephanie’s house to pick it up (all of us donning masks, even at that early stage!), I was thrilled to see that not only was she gifting me her wheel, but also a chair designed especially for wheel-throwing, a bunch of plastic bats, bags of clay, trimming and modeling tools, small ware boards, banding wheels- literally everything you would need to get started in building up a tiny but efficient home ceramics studio. I suddenly felt super excited to get back into this hobby, and I set everything up in the storage room beneath our garage, which has actually been a usable space the entire time we’ve lived here but we haven’t really known what to do with it.

perfect sized cup for a margarita, turns out. Wax resist and speckled glazes.

In the months since receiving all of Stephanie’s old pottery equipment and tools, I have carved out yet another making space in our home that brings me more delight than I ever imagined (much like my craft room where I do all of my sewing and shoemaking). And I have discovered something so important about my making process- turns out, I FLOURISH in an environment created and curated for my own needs! I’m always excited to take a class and learn from an experienced and knowledgeable teacher, and I think there is a lot of good that comes from sharing a space with other students who are also learning a process at the same pace that you are…but I see now that I am able to tap into my most inspired, most imaginative, most productive self when I am alone in my own space. Spoken like the true introvert that I am, hahaha!

After a few months of learning and experimenting and reacquainting myself with the craft of pottery, I have noticed such a marked difference between my experiences making ceramics at my local pottery studio and making them in the quiet safety of my own home. I was proud of the pieces that I created while a member of the studio, because learning something puts you in a state of vulnerability; to effectively create anything when you feel exposed to the opinions and criticisms of others is an absolute feat. But looking back, I did feel a bit disconnected from the pieces I made. I was pleased with the technical aspects of what I had done but…they just didn’t feel like me. They weren’t pieces that I would have been drawn to if I saw them on a shelf in a gift shop. They weren’t pieces that looked like I had made them. After years of making clothes and drawing illustrations and cooking meals and writing stories, I can easily recognize my own style, and I get so much joy when others recognize it, too. But the pottery I made in the studio didn’t seem to be imbued with my style at all, and maybe that’s why I never kept up the practice- I was struggling to find myself in it.

Part of that comes from the fact that I hate unsolicited advice and criticism, whether online or in person. A lot of people assume it’s because I am uncomfortable with criticism and just get defensive. But I have been acting professionally since my late teens. I went to college for theatre, art, music and dance. My career requires that I regularly perform in front of strangers and then wait for them to tell me whether they think I am good enough to get paid for it; I am all too familiar with the criticism and evaluation that comes from others weighing in on my work. And that’s why making has become such a nurturing, safe space for me! Creating art, the kind of art that is for ourselves, for our own self care, for our own enjoyment– that should never be tainted by the opinions of others (unless of course you are asking for it, which is the difference between solicited and unsolicited advice).

an attempt at creating a watercolor effect with glaze on a small tumblr

The advent of social media has only perpetuated the tendency for strangers to weigh in on the work of others, and it happens ALL THE TIME with sewing- someone shares a beautiful garment that they have worked hard on in an instagram post and comments pour in from virtual strangers along the lines of “are you gonna fix the hem?” or “this looks so much better than the last thing you made!” or “you should work on getting a better fit in the shoulders” or “I think this would have looked better in linen”, and so on and so on. Are these strangers’ opinions valid? Absolutely! But do they need to be shared with anyone else? HELL. TO. THE. NO. I have gotten pretty good at setting boundaries on my instagram- anyone leaving a comment or sending me a DM that criticizes, offers advice I never asked for, or otherwise projects their negative personal perspectives into my space (this includes anti-fat or sexually objectifying comments) gets an immediate “you don’t get to say this to me, and this is why…” response. Most people are receptive to it, but every once in a while people get defensive, and then I just block them. The joys of social media are few and far between some days, but being able to block assholes is one of the most pleasurable things it has brought me. I only wish I could block people like that in real life!

unglazed pieces ready to be fired

Unfortunately we live in a white supremacist world ruled by patriarchy norms, so I get mansplained and whitesplained all the time. I am not always able to defend myself against it in everyday situations, like at work, so I will be damned if I let it fly in my curated spaces on social media. I remember once when I was at the pottery studio working on something, a man who was a member of the studio came to up to me (we had never spoken before) and told me that I was “doing it wrong”. I was enraged but didn’t say anything because I don’t like trying to have conversations with men who so boldly interfere with other’s personal space (and yes, I consider art that I am creating my “personal space”). I don’t remember specifically what I was working on, but I know I was experimenting with a new technique and trying out something weird and interesting. I was attempting to see if the technique would work, which is generally how I learn best- I don’t like to be told a million rules that might reflect on the teacher’s preferences and process rather than the craft itself. I prefer to learn by trial and error. I get a better understanding of why something won’t work by doing it myself and understanding the consequences rather than someone just telling me “don’t do it this way” and offering no context. I am able to find so much more nuance and space for experimentation by understanding firsthand the why’s of a situation rather just having them told to me, but unfortunately classroom settings are not always the most inclusive, supportive spaces for experimentation, especially if you are sensitive to the prying eyes of others (raises hand).

To be clear, I love talking about process and method and approach with others whose work I admire- it’s just another way for me to learn! But telling someone they are “doing it wrong” does not leave space for conversation or even education. It does not invite a dialogue. It does not create a safe space for people to explore in their making process. You know what does invite dialogue? Curiosity. Questions. Inquisitiveness. “Oh, what do you plan to make with that?” or “How are you gonna do this part?” or simply “what are you working on?” are all ways to start a conversation and share information that are much more preferable to a statement like “you shouldn’t do it that way”.

progress of an inauthentic mishima-type process, where you cover a leather hard project in wax, carve out a design in the piece, then cover the lines in underglaze. The wax keeps the underglaze from adhering to anything but the raw clay, and then, once it is bisque-fired, the wax will burn off, leaving colored indented lines. You can then glaze the piece like normal and give it a final fire.

All this is to say that being able to create in my own time has allowed my imagination to prosper! The things I am creating are strange and beautiful, but most importantly, they feel like me! I’m still in a process of learning the do’s and don’t of ceramics (because there are a lot of technical elements to account for after a piece of clay has been manipulated, as well as safety precautions, which I take very seriously). But the growth of my own ability, style, and methodology seems to be keeping pace with my learning curve, and I am having so much fun! I want to be clear that I don’t think there is one specific way that everyone will thrive in. We all have different preferences and tastes and all our brains work and respond to things differently- there is no such thing as a “right way”. But I do think that figuring out your own ideal set up is important in the life of a maker. Maybe you are the most inspired when it’s noisy and busy and music is playing and people are all around you working on the same thing. Maybe you like to be in a quiet room at the end of the day with a little fan whirring and a work lamp lighting your space. Maybe you like to have an on-going stream of true crime shows squeaking out of your laptop with a glass of wine close by and a baby napping in the corner. You might not be able to replicate this ideal space every time you are able to make. But knowing what to strive for makes a big difference, and allows you to anticipate what you might be able to accomplish when you have all or none of your preferred parameters in place.

As for my own ceramics practice, I’ve effectively created an ideal space to work in (although Claire is growing plants on the other side of the room, which is a visual distraction for me whenever I walk in- thankfully my work spaces are turned away from that area, haha). I’m bordering on obsessed, where I’m devouring books about handbuilding and wheel throwing and going to sleep dreaming about projects I want to try and waking up excited to put my visions into practice. I felt like this when I came back to sewing 7 years ago, thinking about it all the time, consumed by everything I wanted to learn and do and try; it feels a little like falling in love. I don’t have this same relationship to sewing any more, which isn’t a complaint. Falling in love isn’t a sustainable place for my creative mind to exist in long term, and after years of learning about sewing and fit adjustments and fabric and patterns and color palettes and curating my closet, I’m experienced enough that I don’t consider myself to be falling anymore- I’ve landed! And I LOVE being on solid ground with my sewing practice! I’m still inspired and motivated and I still find challenges in the craft, but I feel secure, encouraged, confident with it all these years later.

small thrown dish with handbuilt flower

I would love to get to that place with my ceramics, but I have to say, I am truly thrilled by the journey of falling. I’m sure there are lots of factors involved that have set the stage for this inspired time in my life (can’t work professionally, can’t socialize in the ways I’m used to, can’t safely leave the house, can’t go on trips- I feel like I’m on sabbatical in my own home) but so far I have been able to utilize the parameters I have been given to my own benefit, and I feel EXTREMELY GRATEFUL. Everyone’s experience of this pandemic is different, and there are lots of people out there who aren’t finding any “joy” in our current circumstances, which is completely understandable. My own moods and motivation have a tendency to swing all over the place, so I just try and meet myself wherever I’m at with patience and compassion. Sometimes it’s really hard, and other times it’s easy. Life in a nutshell.

I’m thinking of doing a more detailed series here about my ceramics journey because, even though I do love wheel throwing, I have found so much delight in handbuilding, which I have been learning about from books and online classes that I have been taking from a local pottery studio called POT LA. This is not the studio I belonged to before, and I wonder how different my experiences would have been learning in an environment curated by the WOC owners of POT LA, a studio that is working to educate, support and amplify the queer and POC community, but I digress. One of the many great things about POT LA is that, with their doors closed for the pandemic, they have been offering paid online courses that anyone anywhere can take. So even if you don’t live in LA, if you can supply your own clay tools (which are fairly easy to find or repurpose), you can learn and create from the comfort of your own home. Lots of local studios will allow you to fire and glaze pieces in their kiln for a small fee, so you can probably do a little research and learn more about what’s available to you in your own city.

I that feel that handbuilding is more accessible to more people, and I think the stunning pieces that you can create just with your hands often get overlooked by the glamour of working on a wheel. In the handbuilding book I am reading right now, each section is divided into projects that build upon the previous techniques shared, so I think I might go through and work on making all of them, to both build up my own skillset and share how vast the world of handbuilding can be, and how your hands can create something that looks just as professional and elegant as what you can make on a wheel.

And piggy-backing on my earlier mention of kilns- as you can probably tell by this post, I have two! My first one, I called it Baby Kiln  because it’s so small, is maybe 6 inches across and 6 inches deep. It’s a used dental kiln, meant for making dentures and veneers out of porcelain, and Claire surprised me with it for my birthday in April because I was getting so deep into pottery and feeling frustrated by the prospect of having to rely on someone else’s kiln to finish my pieces. It took me like, almost two months to finally use it because I wanted to educate myself and learn as much as I could about the process. Once I finally got comfortable with it and had success with firing , I realized quickly that if I ever wanted to try and do some small batch productions of ceramic pieces, the tiny kiln would be far too limiting for my needs. It could hold one mug or one medium sized bowl at a time- anything larger than that was a no-go. So I scoured online classified for weeks and finally found an affordable used CRESS kiln on craigslist that has about triple the space of Baby Kiln. I call this one Mother Kiln and I have had two successful firings in her so far! Thanks to my instagram friend Bob who generously donated his knowledge from his experience as a ceramicist and gave me loads of information to help me be successful in my first firings!

This post has been more musing than anything else, but it felt overdue. I love talking about making here! Thanks for reading, and following along on all the different paths our maker journeys can take us down!

 

 

Grace

Hi all! I meant to publish this on my birthday last week but I totally forgot, lol! This essay was originally published on the Welcome To What We Are blog and now I’m sharing here for my own followers. Thanks so much for reading!

Grace

I was 9 years old when *Anna Finch, arguably the most popular girl in my grade who occasionally gave me the opportunity to be friends with her, told me I didn’t “look black”. As the child of a white mother and black father growing up in Alabama, I immediately knew she intended this to be a compliment, which made me feel sick, but my 4th grade brain wasn’t quite capable of articulating the offense. I knew I couldn’t take it as flattery, but Anna’s saccharine smile let me know that she didn’t particularly care. I bit my lip. I think I probably responded with uneasy silence, a staple of our relationship by that point, and we continued playing on our school’s playground. When I was a kid and I didn’t have the right words to stand up for myself, or if I got overwhelmed by my own emotions, I just shut down. I told no one, kept it packed deep inside some space underneath my muscles, buried in the blood, and I carried on.

Years later, I found myself navigating these same brackish waters when I came out to my friends and began to hear “wow, really?? You don’t look queer!”, sung from the mouth’s of smiling faces, eyes bright and proud at the “praise” they were bestowing upon me. I was old enough now to know that there was a good reason I felt stung, a good reason I was never sure exactly how to respond; I grew up in the south, so I was used to people cradling me softly with one hand while pinching me with the other. But I had moved to NYC by this point and had started to find my community as I was finding myself, started to feel the real power of that blood splashing over my bones. I smiled tightly, changed the subject.

Now as a professional working actor in television, film, and stage with decades of work under my belt, I am more and more frequently confronted with the newest version of “Let Me Tell You Why Your Shame Doesn’t Make Me Uncomfortable”. It initially manifested itself as “You still look like you’re in college!”, followed in quick succession by “You don’t look 34 at all!”, “38?! You’re kidding!” and “OMG YOU’RE 39?!? THERE IS NO WAY YOU’RE 39!” Of course, they mean it as a compliment, every single time. They always have. But I stopped taking these unsolicited remarks at face value long ago.

These days when I share my stories with other people, describe the pain of all the tiny invisible nicks that cover the surface of my skin (which I now know to call microaggressions), their faces fall into the expected folds of disgust about Anna’s blatant racism, about my friends’ unacknowledged homophobia. But they get stuck when I talk about the damage it does to listen to people tell me I don’t “look” my age. They wrinkle their eyebrows in forced sympathy, but most of them don’t truly recognize how harmful it is- they still consider it a compliment. Yes, looking younger than you actually are is considered a privilege across many cultures; it’s called ageism, and I call bullshit.

What I understand now at almost 40 that I couldn’t vocalize in the 4th grade is that when Anna told me I didn’t look black, she wasn’t insulting me, she was exposing herself for the racist her parents and community had raised her to be (she eventually confessed that she didn’t want to invite our classmate Shauntay to her birthday party because Shauntay was black and actually looked it”. I paused, and stared at her, confused, until she explained that “black people steal” so she “didn’t want one” in her house). I also understand now that when my friends looked at me with pride in their eyes while congratulating me on the fact that I didn’t look queer, what they were actually saying is that queerness is something that clings to you, shameful, dark, and heavy, and that no one should purposefully want to be associated with that kind of indignity. They were telling me it was okay that I was queer, as long as it wasn’t an identity that was obvious enough for unassuming straight people to recognize.

I’m sure you are reading this and thinking how awful, how horrible, how obviously devastating it would have been to have someone tell you that the parts of yourself you had learned to take pride in held no value, that these cornerstones of your identity were shameful. Clearly blackness is nothing to be pitied, clearly queerness is something to celebrate! Yet here I am, trying to understand how age is any different. What is so despicable about looking 37? 38? 39? Why wouldn’t I want to look 50 if that’s how old I am? We spend so much of our lives eating foods to nourish our bodies and working out to keep ourselves strong and reading books to keep our minds agile and going to therapy to make sure we have long, mutually beneficial relationships so that we can enjoy living on this earth for as long as we can, yet as our age climbs higher, we feel more and more embarrassed about it. Who started this? Who told us we could have both? We can’t. We don’t get to work towards living our healthiest, most sustainable lives while also condemning the fact that we are getting older; one begets the other. So why do we waste so much of our energy fighting against and hiding from and disparaging the fact that we are aging?

Oh right, the patriarchy.

Our obsession with youth is a direct result of the patriarchal standards that have defined our culture for centuries, and aside from the fact that it inequitably impacts women and femmes, the standards are also patently false and impossible to live up to. When we comment on an older woman’s beauty, we often say that she is “aging gracefully”, but this, too is an untruth, because what we usually mean is that she looks young. We mean that she doesn’t seem like she is aging much at all. We mean that she makes us feel more comfortable about how many years she has been on earth. We mean, ‘maybe there is a chance that we can get older and not feel bad about it’. But we will. We will always be fed the false narrative that perfection is just within arm’s reach, that once we buy that serum or take that class or read that book or hire that life coach, we can elevate ourselves to our most youthful, attractive, energetic selves. But understand that there is no end to that reach. Behind that bottle of serum is another, more expensive bottle. The class never actually ends. The book is just one in a long series.

Most of us know that traditional standards of beauty are directly related to their proximity to European whiteness, but I am realizing more and more that they are also directly related to youth, and the further women get away from looking like 20 year olds, the less attractive most of society deems them. We are told that as we get older, our “grace” has nothing to do with the impact we have had on our communities, our art, our families, our relationships, our contributions to the world at large or our worlds at small. As a man gets older we treat the shiny salt in his beard as if he earned it steering ships through thunderous seas, the deepening furrow of his brow as if it made its’ appearance after years of battling international spies. Sometimes it seems like all a man has to do to “age gracefully” in our society is keep his hair trimmed and not wear velcro sandals. But women, on the other hand? Our gray hair and crow’s feet are proof that we have “let ourselves go”, our age spots remind everyone that yes, we will all die someday, our plump bodies serve as a manifestation of how asexual the world insists we have become.

Does it matter if we started writing poetry in our 60’s and found out we were actually good at it? If we helped save someone’s life, quietly and humbly? If we continued to show up for ourselves after years of timidity and finally achieved a level of peace that we had only dreamed of? Unfortunately, none of these accomplishments is more powerful in the eyes of the patriarchy than our breasts continuing to sit as pert as possible, even after bringing children into the world. I’m not a mom, but I imagine “can you believe they had 5 kids?! They look so good!” is another backhanded compliment that makes the rounds pretty frequently. Why have we internalized the idea that being an actual vessel for life is something to be embarrassed about? Why can’t we celebrate the map of our lives painted across our bodies for all to see?

I am still struggling with how to respond to these comments that frame being 40 as some dreadful, secreted fact that shouldn’t be spoken about in more than a whisper. In my industry, youth is currency, and I acknowledge it as a privilege, just like my light skin, my able body, my cisgender, my neurotypical brain. But it’s not lost on me that so much of what is considered valuable in our culture are things we are completely powerless over. No one can help how they are born, what their genes look like, who their parents are. And we shouldn’t. Our ability to age gracefully should rely less on our closeness to conventional attractiveness, less on our closeness to youth, and more on what we have done with all the years we were lucky enough to accumulate on this earth.

Anna Finch wrote me on facebook several years ago, before I deleted my account. She started with something along the lines of “You probably don’t remember me, but we went to elementary school together…”. Amazing how one person’s forgotten memories can be another person’s linchpin. Anna was the first person to express to me in words her disdain for my identity, a contempt I had felt from strangers often, my skin burning from the stares that disgusted white people beamed at me and my family as we walked down the streets of Birmingham. But I had never heard it articulated to my face by someone I knew, someone I wanted to be close to, someone I was so desperate to be seen by. Anna had written to tell me how proud she was of me and my career. I promptly replied with the most scathing, angry words I could form into complete sentences, years of fury and hurt and bitterness raining out of my fingertips and onto my keyboard. And then I deleted it and closed my computer. I know that people, especially children, have the capacity to change for the better, and my hope is that Anna found her way down a path that brought her to a place of less hate and more peace, more compassion, more love. But it’s not my job to be her welcoming committee.

I am black, I am queer, and I am turning 40 on April 10th. I am proud of all of these parts of my identity, and I will be celebrating not how I look, nor how other people think I look, but how I feel. I met my partner 13 years ago and in our time together we have created the type of healthy, loving relationship that was never demonstrated for me as a kid. That is grace. I turned a childhood rooted in anxiety and fear into an adulthood where I learned to channel my energy into making, creating art that has inspired and empowered me to no end. That is grace. I have always been guarded, suspicious, apprehensive of opening my personal world to more than a few people at a time, but I am consciously working to change that, to fight against the fear of being vulnerable to the most important people in my life. That is grace.

Aging gracefully doesn’t look like anything, it’s not young or old or ugly or pretty, male or female; it’s not on any binary. It’s just a sense, an awareness that we are striving to be better than we were yesterday and the yesterday before that. An acknowledgement that we can’t be where we are right now without all the years that came before it. A connection with the blood that has been racing through us from the moment we took our first breath up to this very day. A promise that we won’t ever disparage ourselves for being exactly who we are, where we are, when we are. Because we deserve nothing less. Happy birthday, y’all.

*name has been changed to protect this girl from my mom

More Color, More Curation! Part 2

That last post started so many conversations, both here and on IG, which I wasn’t expecting at all! Thanks for sharing your own experiences and enthusiastic responses- it’s been fun reading about your own forays into playing around with a color palette and being more thoughtful about your wardrobe planning- it feels like there is plenty of inspiration to go around!

In this post, I am sharing some of the exercises I completed from The Curated Closet! It’s kind of work-booky which is great if you’re into that sort of thing. Normally I just make mental notes for myself when I read books like this, but I figured why not just dive in deep and write all the important stuff down so I can have it to reference later on.

Once you have created a visual style profile out of images that you have collected, the author wants you to start articulating the specifics of your taste with words, which will not only make your style easy to describe to yourself and others, but it will also be helpful when you’re finally out shopping for clothes and accessories (or planning your makes). Knowing how to describe your style helps you know what to look for.

Here are some of the trends I noticed on my pinterest style inspo board:

  • clean lines
  • clashing patterns
  • simple silhouettes
  • rich fabrics
  • monochromatic looks
  • layers
  • interesting textures
  • unique features on simple foundations (cool straps, piping, bows)
  • tailored pieces

the design of this dress is pretty simple with it’s clean lines, and it has some really interesting details like the clashing fabric prints and the little buttons that go down the side. hubba hubba!

The individual items I need in my closet to pull off this look are as follows (and FYI I own many items already!):

  • classic structured brimmed hat
  • shawls and scarves with which to layer
  • simple gold jewelry
  • tailored/long line jackets, lightweight coats and oversized/long cardigans
  • skinny belts
  • sweat guards for all the silk I want to wear lol (more on this later!)
  • turtlenecks
  • a variety of blouses in different textures, solids, and prints
  • high waist pants
  • cropped trousers
  • high waist knee and midi length skirts
  • fitted, tailored dresses

honestly this whole look speaks for itself- love the tailored jacket worn so casually over the shoulders and the simple, feminine romper underneath. AND THAT HAT, OBVIOUSLY.

I was able to hone in on the colors I liked both by noticing trends on my Pinterest board (it was pretty obvious that I leaned toward earth tones) and working with my newly acquired seasonal palette. Here’s where I landed with the three primary color fields that the book suggests you create (there are some soft restrictions placed on how many of each color you can include, but I took liberties with mine because I do what I want):

Main Colors:

  • pumpkin
  • golden yellow
  • brick red
  • a variety of greens (moss, forest, grayed and honestly anything else I find that I love)

Neutrals:

  • tan/camel
  • deep chocolate brown
  • graphic prints in black and white  (totally outside of my color palette but it’s the only black or white I generally ever wear and I think it works as a neutral in my closet the same way that denim does for others)

Accents:

  • gold
  • coral
  • brick red (didnt mean to include it twice but whatever!)
  • chartreuse

ignore the white block of color here- I couldnt make a palette with less than 5 colors and I was hoping the white would blend into the background of my blog lol

In between landing in LA from our east coast Christmas vacation and heading back out to Vancouver just a few days later, I found enough time to pull out every workable piece of fabric I had in my craft room (no remnants or pieces less than a yard) and divide them into cool and warm colors.  I just wanted to see what my stash, which is practically hidden in bins and drawers, actually looked like. It was a remarkable experience to see everything laid out on my sewing table in piles- shocking no one, my cool color pile (or rather piles, PLURAL) dwarfed my collection of warm fabrics by at least 50%, probably more. The photos here don’t even show the full accumulation of my cool colored fabrics-when these photos were taken I had already pulled out everything that I knew would look good on Claire and stuck it in a bin for her, seeing as how I have labeled her a firm summer. So this fabric is all of what’s leftover, which I plan to donate.

I felt so validated looking at everything all laid out- I suddenly understood why I had such a hefty sized stash that I rarely sewed from, even though I deeply loved so many of the pieces in it. I think it’s because, on some unconscious level, I knew those weren’t the most harmonious colors for me- all the blue, gray and light pink garments in my closet sadly get very little use! But gosh I learned so much from this exercise! It was easy to figure out which pieces were cool versus warm but a little tough to figure out which pieces looked nice on me; some pieces were obviously good, but others I just wasn’t sure about- and then I had another realization: I’m really pale right now so some lighter hues in my palette don’t wake me up at all. But I can get away with lots more colors when I have a tan! Bright white, which is not in my color palette, looks good on me when I am in Hawaii or Mexico (and it obviously looks great on Kelly, too!).

Peaches and corals are the same- the lighter, more subdued the color, the less harmonious it looks on my winter skin (and let’s be honest, even though I live in LA I have winter skin a lot because I wear sunscreen like nobody’s business)…but the better it looks on my browned skin. This was so key to understand because holding up a lot of the lighter colored hues in my palette against my arm had me very confused- I wasn’t looking very lively or glowy at all next to some of them, but I think that’s because my shade changes with the seasons, and therefore so should my palette. If we are being honest I think that deep brown skin looks good in virtually every color on the planet, so the browner I get in summer, the more I will probably play around with colors outside of my palette.

Another source of validation I got from pulling out all my fabric and deciding what to get rid of came in the form of relief– relief to have such a (comparatively) small stash, which made me feel so excited about my future sewing projects! My stash had gotten so big over the years because I have been an ambassador to a few different fabric stores over the years which started piling up in my bins, but also (and maybe mostly) because people LOVE to give me their old fabric…and I LOVE to say yes to it! I had essentially just become a storage place for someone else’s unwanted junk though, and, more often than not, it became MY unwanted junk. I kept it thinking that I would use the fabric that I didn’t quite work on me for muslins, or that my sewing friends would come over and rifle through it and choose what they liked and take it home with them, but it just never ever worked out that way. It accumulated and accumulated until I got so overwhelmed by my stash that I barely made anything from it because I forgot what was even there. SO! Paring down significantly didn’t make me feel sad at all! And there were a few pieces in the cool colors pile that I kept, even though they aren’t in my palette, because I just like them a lot and imagine that I will still get joy out of wearing them.

Now instead of SEVEN bins of fabric, my entire stash can fit into my fabric bureau, with room left over! Here is what my new selection of fabrics that fit into my color palette looks like:

As you can see I kept a couple pieces outside of my palette: on the far right, a navy and white polka dotted gauze and a bright royal blue silk – these are pieces I couldn’t bear to part with, so it seemed reasonable to keep them around. Now that I have a smaller stash, I might actually make something with them, color palette be damned!

the light pink, black, and purple modal jerseys are not in my color palette but these were intended for undergarments so I kept them!

Another drawer of things that don’t quite work for my palette, but that I might be inspired at some point in the future to work with anyways…on the far right is Claire’s special NO GLUTEN fabric we designed lolololol- I mostly use it for linings for her pants. It has an image of a butt farting with a big red STOP symbol around it.

a few more pieces outside of my palette that I can use for linings, plus a mint green silk brocade that I refuse to get rid of cause its so pretty.

Okay! So next in the book you have to figure out silhouettes that best define your style. This is a list of what I found on my style boards and that I know I like to wear:

  • nipped-in waists
  • high waisted pants
  • cropped pants
  • blousy/full tops paired with fitted pants
  • shoes with a heel, slight wedge, or platform
  • midi-length figure skimming dresses
  • skirts with body and/or flare

Fabrics I want to wear:

  • linen
  • silk
  • cotton
  • denim
  • tweed
  • high quality velvets (although who am I kidding I HATE sewing velvet!!!)
  • soft blended merino wools and cashmere
  • solids with simple graphic prints like stripes, grids, plaids and polka dots

The significant ways in which I will style these pieces?

  • minimal jewelry
  • thin belts
  • layers
  • monochromatic color schemes
  • my kick ass hat from New Mexico (I’ve gotten more compliments on this damn hat than anything else in recent memory!)

After accumulating inspirational fashion images and culling my style list, I was surprised to find that I am not that drawn to clothes with bright, bold prints on them, even though I might be drawn specifically to the image on the fabric itself. I prefer outfits made of solids to most everything else, and the prints I do like tend to be graphic as opposed to floral or novelty, with a more subtle color palette. I guess I’m nowhere near as funky a dresser in real life as I am in my head, hahaha!

here’s an exception to the statement above: a bold fabric I’m in love with, but surprise, surprise- it’s all in my color palette!

Another surprise about my style boards was the lack of vintage looks I was drawn to. I’ve always thought of myself as being a huge fan of vintage, and while I still drool over those looks, it’s not exclusively the way I want to dress anymore. As I get older, my style seems to be transitioning to slightly more modern looks. I still love the cinched waist + full skirt silhouettes of 50s vintage styles and all the interesting detailing, but I have often struggled with wearing vintage in my everyday life that doesn’t make me feel like I’m wearing a costume (the people who do commit to a decidedly retro style profile are endlessly inspiring to me, and I love the way they successfully pull off such ambitious looks, it’s just not my right fit). I will definitely still play around with vintage silhouettes and detailing in my dressed up/red carpet looks, though!

The overall feeling of the style I want to present is a twist on the traditional lux, feminine, preppy, minimalist look-  I love that style but I also want to feel fun, unfussy, and comfortable. I want my outfits to look chic and tailored but be easy to wear, at least for my casual, everyday life- I LOVE going all out for a big event!

The styling tricks that I need to tackle for this style are finding different textures of fabrics in similar colored hues which will be a priority in making the monochromatic look work. I’m also not yet sure how to translate some of these ideas to the hot LA summers where less clothing is best for comfort, so I might just have separate seasonal styles where in warmer months I focus on simple sundresses in my color palette with interesting details.

My biggest fear with this new style focus is keeping the simple, chic ensembles from looking too bland and boring. I generally think of myself as someone who stands out, and I have often used my clothing to feel emboldened and empowered- I worry that subduing my palette and print choices will make me fade into the background, but maybe that’s just because everything I’m doing is a bit out of my comfort zone. I went into a store the other day where a friendly woman came up to me to say that she followed me on instagram because of my making exploits. The person behind the counter overheard our convo and chimed in to say something along the lines of “Sorry, I don’t know who you are on instagram, but as soon as you walked in I was paying attention!” That’s the kind of style I want to walk through the world with, the kind that makes you want to know more about the person wearing it.

Lastly, this is what I want to say with my style: that I love clothes and somehow manage to make putting them together look effortless. That I feel at home both in my body and in my garments, and can wear pretty much anything and still feel great…because the clothing isn’t defining me, it’s just enhancing all my favorite parts of me. I want to convey ease! confidence! beauty! I want my style to look and feel luxurious and refined without using any of the traditional methods of achieving such a look- I have never been very brand-conscious and I kind of abhor garments and accessories adorned with designers’ monikers. I want my clothing to look expensive because the fabrics are high quality, the pieces are well sewn, and the outfits are thoughtfully put together, not because the emblem splattered across the front tells you exactly how much it cost (now watch me get gifted a Gucci bag or something lol!)

I’m stumped on what to call this look: “Grandma Chic” has been defining my style for decades but I feel like I owe this new, more updated look a better name. Rich Bitch With Personality? Naahhh…but funny! Carefree Preppy Black Girl? Earthy Hipster With Class? Please. Help me.

Here’s what’s next, the most exciting part for me, the equivalent of going out and shopping for all the things needed to fill up those clothes in your closet once you’ve been honest with yourself and expunged it of all the things you don’t actually wear anymore because of fit or style or color or all of the above…MAKING SEWING PLANS!

Oh, and a word about those items I am getting rid of from my closet. So many people, and I mean SEW many, have “reminded” me that I can dye lighter colored items in shades from my palette instead of getting rid of them. I’m very well aware that this is an option, but I seriously dislike dyeing. Seriously. Dyeing has only been variably successful for me, it takes a LOT of water to complete from start to finish (something that is really hard for me living in SoCal where we are always in a drought) and, perhaps just as importantly, I don’t find dyeing to be all that fun. I don’t want to risk the chance of ruining perfectly good garments just to keep them in my closet- I would rather give them away or sell them for charity or something. If I’ve already gotten good wear out of it, I am mostly okay with sending it on to a new life. There are one or two items I’ve made in shades that definitely aren’t in my color palette, so I might work up the nerve to dye those items at some point? I dunno, it’s doubtful, LOL!

 

The third and final post in this series will be my sewing plans for the next year! I got myself an iPad Pro to replace my beat up old iPad mini so now I will be able to sketch and draw much more easily- hopefully I will be able to incorporate illustrations and drawings into lots more blog posts! And now I will leave you with this, a series of makes both in and outside of my color palette, since so many of you seemed to really resonate with that part of my last post!

this cream color is in the same family as the “oyster white” in my color palette, but it’s a bit too soft and I definitely think it looks better on tanned skin, so I might save this for just a summer wear if I can pull it off.

(oyster whit, btw)

this green is in my palette!

there are no blues in my palette but I think this looks great against tanned skin. But compare it to the green dress above…do you see a difference in the amount of harmony created in each one?

you would think that since the warm colors are based off of yellow there would be more of it in my palette, but there is only one: yellow-gold. Not sure if this buttery yellow with gold works but I think it looks amazing on me!

yes, yes, and more yes!

 

Sadly there are no purples in my palette, but this color does not look bad on me at all! Some might say it’s pretty on me! And here is the crux of working with a color palette: some colors outside my season look absolutely awful on me but more often they look totally fine! And I usually don’t mind looking “totally fine”! But right now, I’m interested in experimenting with a style that is more TOTALLY WOW than totally fine.

I don’t know if I ever blogged about this Burda jumpsuit because I was too overwhelmed by everything that was wrong with it to sit down and WRITE about it. The pattern for the jumpsuit is terrific but my fabric choice and the proportions of the garment were way off. BUt look at this color that is not in my palette! Its a greenish gray, more gray and definitely cool, and I think it looks just AWFUL on me lol. My purple-ish cool toned lipstick is not doing me any favors either but YOWSWERS no thanks.

 

I know I put this in the last post but just to reiterate: NO. This is a dress I would consider dyeing tho.

Jesus Lord NOOOOOOO

hard to tell in this photo because I am so washed out from the bright sun, but salmon is one of the only pink-ish colors I can wear and I love it on me.

Gold-yellow, yes, hello. I’m pretty pale in this pic but I think the yellow still looks good on me, which I cant say for most other colors.

This is a great example of wearing colors outside of your palette further away from your face- the skirt is white and gold which I can get away with, but the greenish gold of the bustier is def in my palette and I think it shows. I had no idea green looked great on me before I started delving into this color business, and it has been a sensational discovery.

Will obviously keep wearing this dress because I love the shark print so much, but c’mon! your eye gets drawn to the shoes cause they do more for me than the blue and white of the dress! what a shame!

 

oh god, no! BUT WHOA I LOVE MY HAIR, now I’m gonna be obsessed with getting it cut short for the next three months ugh.

 

This has a lot of navy in it but it’s predominantly a bright orange which is totally my color! Pops of non-palette colors work just fine on me as long as the main shade is my season.

 

god I love this dress. Again, not terrible! It’s such a gorgeous print and I will absolutely keep wearing it! But, you know…I’m not popping, especially with that pale pink lipstick.

 

 

This whole look is very, very weird. The hair looks like I’m trying to copy The Supremes. Don’t have much to say other than that the dress is what is popping here, not me at all.

 

 

Are we on the same page yet? Do you see what I see? Are you picking up what I’m putting down??

 

I can wear blues that are closer to green, like aqua and turquoise. I think this color really works on me.

 

 

sadly, no.

 

 

 

 

I didn’t make this dress but I’m posting it because it’s the only red I had in my closet for years and it totally works on me because it’s an orange red. The lipstick I think is something I already had on with something else because it obviously doesn’t go, but in general Im gonna steer clear of those Barbie and pale pinks- they make my mouth recede so much and just don’t GO.

You will have to rip this non-Deep Autumn dress from my cold, dead hands.

 

Not the best shot of my face and the lighting is atrocious, but hopefully you can already tell that this deep earth toned dress looks way better than say, that last silver dress.

 

Let’s end on a high note, shall we? This two piece yellow and blue works great on me, and the yellow is more lemony than gold, but I think it still works- my face looks clear and bright and harmonious with the colors radiating from the blouse!

The Curated Closet and Color Me Beautiful

I took a strong cue from my friend Renee of the Miss Celie’s Pants blog to read The Curated Closet, a lovely little book about how to cull your personal style and create a closet that works best for your tastes and lifestyle (full disclosure: I haven’t finished it yet because it was due back at the e-library before I was done with it, lol- consider this blog post part 1). Although I heard lots of good things about the book since it’s publication, I avoided reading it for a long time and I haven’t yet pinpointed exactly why. It might have something to do with protecting “freedom” in my making life, freedom to just make whatever I want to make when inspiration hits, freedom to create without boundaries, without plans, without expectations.

I also tend to connect the terms “curated” and “minimalist” together, and the word “minimalist” is not one I am usually very comfortable with. Again, not exactly sure why, but if me and my therapist had to guess (HA!), it would have something to do with growing up poor and hating not having access to all the things that my peers did. When you’re poor, you’re often living a minimalist life out of necessity, and while I made it through intact, the important thing that was absent from my life was choice. It’s possible that I wouldn’t have changed much about my material life at all if I had the power, but I still would have loved the opportunity to choose; choice is a privilege. And now, all these years later, as a working adult with financial freedom, I still carry this strange burden with me.

I have a tough time figuring out whether certain colors are warm or not, blue being one of them. Not entirely sure if this is in my palette, but I think it looks great anyways.

Anyways, I’m deciding to try something new, even if it feels a little weird at first. What is drawing me to this idea, after so long, of curating my closet with my makes? Well, I started asking myself how pleased I was with my closet in its’ current state, and although I anticipated being perfectly happy with it, after really marinating on it for a while I realized that I wasn’t. My dissatisfaction had little to do with the specific items I had made over the years, but rather the lack of cohesiveness. There were some items I had sewn that only paired with one other garment in my closet, but I seemed to have sewn even more items that went with nothing in my closet! A button down in a funky print that matched no bottoms, pants I never wore because I had no blouses or shirts to match them with, and so on and so on. The most successful “outfits” I had in my closet were just jumpsuits and dresses, things I could wear on their own. I did have a couple of ensembles comprised of more than one item that looked really cute, but because they were so few and far between I ended up getting sick of those outfits because I wore them (and wore them out) to death.

the top color in my sweater looks to be close to an oyster white, which is in my pallet, but maybe because it’s paired with the greys and black, it’s just not doing me any favors.

So what was I doing wrong? Besides, you know, making every new sewing pattern I thought was cute in every inspiring fabric I fell in love with? Well, turns out…that’s pretty much it. I wasn’t putting any thought into how my clothing worked together, I was only waiting for inspiration to hit, and then sewing impulsively from there. Guess what. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this method of making! You do what works for you and what feels right! For some reason, this stopped working for me so I am excited about exploring a different approach- I’ve seen all kinds of sewing wizards on IG and in the blogosphere who dazzle on either end of the spectrum, and I’m sure I will continue to be inspired by them all!

I love this pale, snowy pink in the Camus blouse but it is nowhere in my color palette lol- I never end up wearing it because it makes me look so pale and boring.

I hadn’t gotten very far into the book before having a couple of big revelations: 1. curating my closet was going to require me to start paying attention to color, an area in which I am mediocre at best, and 2. I did not actually dress at all like my preferred style! Shocker!!! Because I love pretty much all the things I have been wearing! But when I took an honest look at my wardrobe and tried to define my style, I couldn’t do it no matter how hard I tried. And that is because my “style”, as disappointing as it is to admit, is all over the place.

holy shit I am so tan here! Thanks for the sun, hawaii!

I had always prided myself on not caving to fads and being thoughtful about the styles of clothes I wore when I shopped RTW, but I think that when I transitioned into sewing my own clothes, that intention got lost. As I moved out of sewing strictly vintage-inspired garments and started wearing more modern silhouettes, my focus broadened-  suddenly I was excited to make the shiniest, newest patterns, no matter if it fit in with a certain “look”. It was great in terms of learning new techniques and discovering new silhouettes that I never knew I liked on myself, but unfortunately it also led to lots of garments made over the years that weren’t sewn with much intention, and therefore didn’t get a lot of wear. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with following trends and fads of course, but this method of making made no sense for my closet because not all of the newest, coolest patterns actually worked for my tastes.

I am so in love with this dress but I have only worn it once…it is not in my color palette!

I figured all of this out after starting a Pinterest board (as recommended in the book) to gather all the outfit images and visual inspiration for the style that I envisioned for myself. Again, I was shocked to see how far off I was! My closet had several individual items from my board of inspo, but hardly ANY of the outfits, so my closet and my pinterest board were practically unrecognizable to each other. One big reason for this was because the color palette of my closet and the color palette of my dream style were waaaaaay off. I mean, I had never even thought about a color palette in my life til I read about it in the Curated Closet! But sitting down and looking at the dozens of images I had compiled onto this board, my color choices were pretty clear. I liked earth tones, oranges, peaches, tans and really soft pinks, with bursts of interesting colors. It was surprising how consistent the styles and colors were on my board (because that’s not what my closet looked like), and I started getting excited because this meant there was an actual direction that my curating could take.

Here are the main takeaways I got after examining the themes in my style board:

  • I preferred simple, graphic prints over florals, so there were lots of polka dots, plaids, stripes and grids. The florals that showed up were in medium to large prints and in a subdued palette.


  • I was drawn to a playful look that still felt sophisticated. Instead of relying solely on novelty prints or bold color combinations to get across my quirky tastes, I want to experiment with pairing different kinds of textures together and mixing and matching prints. This seems like a fun way for me to mix up simple silhouettes and classic garments while not looking boring (which is how my entire closet has started to feel the more I have honed in on my personal tastes!)


  • I LOVE MONOCHROMATIC LOOKS! But I don’t have one true monochromatic outfit comprised of separates in my entire closet! What gives?!? When Katie of What Katie Sews started the #dresslikeacrayon hashtag earlier this year, I would drool over every single photo she shared and make a weak promise to myself that I would try it out myself one day, but of course I never could because nothing in my closet matched! My board also had many versions of matching print top + bottom separates, or pieces paired together with fabrics within the same color family but with slight variations in texture or shade.


  • I love dresses in two silhouettes: a simple, fitted shape with delicate but interesting details in luminous fabrics…




    …and I like midi and maxi dresses that are well proportioned to my body with a close fitting bodice.



  • The other trends I noticed were ensembles with thoughtfully layered pieces,

    big blousey sweaters and tops paired with fitted trousers and jeans,

    playfully preppy looks,

    and pattern clashing.

Seeing all this together might seem like way too many variations in style to be cohesive at all, but trust me when I tell you that it absolutely is more focused than whatever is currently going on in my closet, lol.

In her book, Rees mentions color a few times and refers to a person’s specific palette and how some people have found a lot of power from only wearing “their” colors. I of course had heard the theory of people having “seasons” before but I didn’t know much about it, so I googled to learn more…and then I went down a whole color rabbithole! It just so happened that my mother in law heard me and Renee, who was over for a visit at my in-laws house over the holidays, discussing the theory of seasons of color. She then went on a hunt to find her copy of the original book that started this trend in the early 1970’s, Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson. It eventually fell out of fashion but at it’s height it was considered the “bible” for fashionable women.

I read the thing cover to cover within a couple days. It was jam packed with both a wealth of thoughtful and helpful information and some of the most antiquated, racist, sexist and fatphobic tropes that you could imagine. In short, the book shares a simplified theory about how skin tones can be categorized into 2 main groups, warms and cools, and 4 sub-groups, a.k.a. seasons: Winter and Summer (the cool side of the spectrum) and Autumn and Spring (the warm side). Cools have a blue undertone and therefore benefit from wearing cooler colors that make their skin and face brighten and look alive, while Warms have yellow undertones and look best in their own specific palette of colors. In addition to understanding how color works with hair and skin and eye color, there is a section about the kinds of styles women in the strictest binary sense of the word “should” wear and how certain clothes and shapes can “make you look fat” and how that should be avoided if at all possible. Sigh. It was appealing and appalling in the same breath, and I marveled at the mess of it! I’ve been told that the book has been updated for modern times and is less problematic now, which, if true, is great, but I can only comment on what I read in the version I recieved.

The biggest issue that I noticed right off the bat was that there were only 2 models of color out of maybe 19 or 20 images throughout the book, so determining the seasons for anybody not white or light skinned has proven to be pretty much impossible for me. There are several factors used in determining what your own undertone is, but the most common way seems to be looking at the veins on the inside of your wrist/hand/arm to see if they look greenish or bluish. If you have more pigment in your skin, the color of your veins might not show up that well or at all, and there are essentially no ways listed in (my version of) the book to apply any of the other the rules to brunettes with dark eyes and brown or black skin to figure out their season, a fact that the author essentially refuses to even recognize- I guess she doesn’t understand that black and brown people can be brunettes, too.

green is in my color palette but im not sure if this blush is

I knew what my color was before I even read the book because I found information online to figure it out (I’m a deep autumn!), but the book goes into detail about WHY your color palette exists, how it’s helpful and how to apply the use of your specific colors in your wardrobe, so that stuff was helpful to me. For folks interested in reading the book who have skin color that might not be accurately reflected in the pages, try figuring out your palette with some of the quizes available online first and then using the book to supplement that knowledge.

The most helpful part of the book for me was seeing “right” and “wrong” color photos with some of the models. Although not many of them looked downright bad in the “wrong” color (and obviously there should be a different descriptive word than “wrong”, but I digress), seeing them in a hue from their specific color palette really did have a positive effect on them, which could be hard to describe in words. Sometimes it was obvious that a color washed a model out or made her look sallow, but other times I couldn’t articulate why the other color looked better on her, she just suddenly seemed to pop and look alive in the “right” color.

Seeing my Color Me Beautiful color chart for the first time made me audibly gasp- although the variety of colors seemed limited in comparison to the other seasons, it was hands down my favorite group of colors. And again, big shocker, but I hardly have any of these colors in my wardrobe. Autumns don’t have pink in their chart, nor is there much gray, two colors that show up a LOT in my closet, but there are lots of oranges, golds and browns, and more shades of green that I could even imagine! I hardly ever make things in green! There was also a lot of red, but it was orange-red, not blue -ed, and now I realize that I don’t actually despise the color red at all, I’ve just always been envisioning the wrong shade of it. Cherry red is no good on me, but brick and rust and sunset reds, all reds with a yellow undertone, are terrific. These little epiphanies were so exciting once they were revealed! I was getting direction on how to hone in on my ideal style, and instead of feeling overwhelmed about how to tackle the next steps, I was feeling focused. I mentioned this years ago in a blog post here, but earth tones, which my mom always said looked so good on me, just made me feel boring when I was a teenager- I always gravitated towards sparkly turquoises and purples and fuschias (colors not in my palette). But today when I wear those jewel toned shades, I feel like the color is what pops, not me. Well, guess what- I’m officially ready to pop!

while purple is absent from my chart, it doesn’t mean I can’t wear it- every season can wear any color they want, it just has to be in the right shade and intensity. This purple is warm and I think it looks really pretty against my skin, but I definitely should have chosen a different lipstick lol

While on the east coast visiting family for the holidays, I took a trip down to Alexandria, VA to go to Fibre Space and Stitch Sew Shop, both well reviewed yarn and fabric stores, respectively. Neither one disappointed; the moment I stepped into Fibre Space I felt overloaded with all the beauty! I wanted to touch every single skein, brush every fibre against my neck to test it’s softness, shroud myself in each sample on display. The store was cozy, beautiful, and well-designed, but the yarn selection was outstanding. The colors were exceptionally vibrant in the well-lit space and I got dizzy whipping my head around to behold everything, but then I remembered that I’d brought my color palette chart with me.

I pulled out the book and started comparing the squares of pigment on the page to what I was most drawn to in the shop, within the parameters of my palette. The bright golden yellow on the page (surprisingly the only yellow listed for my season) matched perfectly with the chunky, soft yarn I was eyeing to make a hat for myself, but the pinkish-purple-y red I liked didn’t make the cut because it had blue undertones, not yellow. Instead, I opted for a variegated mossy green with flecks of gray and forrest throughout. Easy peasy! I still brushed my fingers over all the pale pinks and powdery blues and grays because I adore those colors, but I didn’t waste my time with them- I’ve made so many sweaters in these hues that never got much wear, and now I know why!

 

the brick red hat and golden yellow velvet dress are both in my palette!

One line in The Curated Closet book stuck out for me a lot- the author says that she has always been drawn to dramatic floral prints, but that they don’t really suit her personal style so much. So instead of forcing herself into a print that didn’t make her feel her best, she started incorporating florals into her home decor, which means she still gets to see and experience the beautiful prints she loves. I love this simple twist of perspective so much. I am always, always going to love pale pastel pinks and heather grays and aquas and lemon yellows, but not having them in my color palette doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them; if it’s in a color that it is too cool for me, I can simply try scooting them over to other places in my life, through accessories or garment linings or jewelry or home decor, and see how that feels.

My trip to Stitch Sew Shop, a curated fabric and patterns store with a space for sewing classes, was just as successful as my yarn store visit. Stitch Sew Shop store was so beautiful and upscale that it felt like an atelier! The selection was considered and alluring- instead of being bombarded with a giant selection of textiles of varying quality, I got to revel in each carefully selected bolt, which of course made me want to buy everything I saw. But I showed restraint because I had my color chart with me, and I already knew what holes from my closet needed to be filled! I bought a grayed green medium-weight corduroy (which will probably become a pair of Landers), a pumpkin colored ribbed knit that I will most likely turn into a fitted turtleneck, and one yard of an expensive and incredibly lux 3-ply silk in the deepest, most vibrant shade of rust I’ve ever seen. I plan to make a simple blouse with this one, possibly a cami or tank. Looking at my stack of yarn and fabric together was the first time I can remember making a purchase where everything actually looked like it belonged together, which I think can only bode well for getting my wardrobe into better shape.

Thanks for joining me on this very verbose journey about style and color and clothing- I have been sharing stories about the Color Me Beautiful book on my IG all week and so many people have been writing to ask for more details about it that it seemed smart to write a blog post- after all, this new method is changing the way I make and dress, and that’s what this blog is about! Once I am back home in LA, I plan to go through all my fabric and keep only the pieces that I know are in my color palette and the pieces that I am most fond of (if I don’t want to use it on myself it might still work for Claire or someone else I know).

this pink is so far away from my color palette, GOOD LORD- it’s just not doing me any favors at all.

In part 2 of this subject, I plan on actually finishing The Curated Closet and sharing some of the things I’ve learned about my style goals and what I need to do to my closet to implement them. I’m also starting a list of the key, basic, and complimentary wardrobe items that are missing from my closet that I want to make, plus any accessories I can buy to round things out and help complete certain outfits so that more of my items can work well together. Stay tuned if you want to know more about the next part of curating my closet with my color palette!

 

 

let’s close out on the positive note that is ME in this CHARTREUSE, a color that is luckily in my palette and one that I always feel terrific in!

Hacked and Wrapped Peppermint Jumpsuit Take 2

It’s Thanksgiving and I have a LOT to be grateful for, y’all! Thanksgiving has always been a tricky holiday for me, which I think I have discussed before on this blog at some point. It’s one of those cultural traditions that I just accepted when I was growing up without giving it much thought, but as I got older and started questioning so much of the history that I was taught in the Alabama school system I attended, I began to realize how complicated it is to uphold traditions that are dear to us while also being aware and even critical about where they come from and what they represent. On the whole, spending a day with family (chosen or otherwise) to break bread (gluten free or otherwise) and celebrate all you are thankful is an absolutely honorable and lovely thing to do. But it is so closely tied with excess and consumption (both of food and black friday deals), and so often separated from the horrors of all the indigenous life lost in the name of this holiday, that it can be really frustrating to know how to celebrate it appropriately. Of course I don’t have an answer for how to do it, and even if I did, that would assume there was a “right” way. All I can do on this day is try and make enough room for all the contradictions that exist within and around me- being thankful for my wonderful, supportive relationships with friends and family, for my loving, encouraging wife, for my health, for my body and all it is capable of, for therapy, for the roof over my head, for the food being cooked in the oven at this very moment, for my brother’s recovery from illness, while also saving space for the fact that so much of what I am thankful for is rooted in privilege- financial privilege, class privilege, able-bodied privilege, gender privilege, geographical privilege and more.

It’s interesting to imagine what all I would be thankful for if there weren’t so many inequities among us all.

Today I am also thankful for the firefighters (both incarcerated and not) for all the hard work they do to keep us safe. I am thankful for the sewing community- the support, encouragement and laughter generated from almost every interaction I have with some of you brightens my days and continues to inspire me. And I am thankful for being an ambassador to The Fabric Store, which keeps challenging my sewing practice, elevating my makes, and ensuring that my stash is stocked with so many divine textiles. Which leads us to our regularly scheduled blog post…

Normally I don’t put several versions of the same make on the blog, because I don’t often have all that much to say about a variation on a pattern, other than “I must really love this thing to keep making it” and “ooooh, look at this pretty fabric”! But the Peppermint jumpsuit that I hacked (thanks to inspo from some other amazing sewing bloggers) got so much attention that I figured it was smart to talk about it on the blog again, especially since I knew I wanted to make it in a slightly dressier fabric compared to my casual, summertime striped linen version.

I really do love seeing how much a pattern can be transformed when you pair it with different textiles and prints. Cotton and linen tend to have a crisper feel against the skin and a more relaxed vibe when sewn up in designs like pants and jumpsuits, but a softer, drapier, more luxurious fabric can make the same design look red carpet ready, and I was excited to see how elevated this fun (and free!) Peppermint/In the Folds jumpsuit hack would look in this gorgeous crepe rayon I got from The Fabric Store. The color I used for this make is lapis (french blue) but they have several stunning hues in this fabric and I have a couple other cuts in my stash that I have yet to dig into- I’ve just been waiting for inspiration to hit! The fabric is silky and flowy but the crepe gives it a nice surface texture that I love, which also makes it shimmer a bit in the light. It’s not transparent but it is lightweight, so I think it works best for a garment that has some ease or some pleating/gathering/folding which allows the fabric to move and dance and catch the light.

Since I had already made the hack once before, this garment was pretty straightforward to create, but I did adjust the legs a bit; the original drafting of the Peppermint Jumpsuit has a significant amount of ease in the legs (particularly around the thighs), which can be seen in all the folds created around the midsection of the garment, which is cinched in by the belt. I made the legs a bit narrower in my first hack with the striped linen fabric, but I brought the seams in even more (on the outer leg) for this crepe rayon version. They tend to bulge out a bit at the sides and look like clown pants, perhaps because of all the other adjusting I did to the top half of the pattern, so tapering them in on the sides gave a much cleaner, more classic silhouette. Everything else was pretty much the same- I created french seams on all the main seams since rayon tends to fray a lot and I prefer clean finished insides for this kind of fabric. Surprisingly I didn’t need to sew in bra strap tabs (I don’t know what the real name for this is, but it’s when you sew snaps onto a little cut of ribbon and place it inside the shoulder seam to keep your bra straps connected to the garment when either one of them likes to slide down) like I did on my striped linen version- I would think that a slinkier fabric like rayon would want to slide down much more than linen would, but the opposite turned out to be true!

One question I got asked a lot about this hack was whether or not you could create bias strips to enclose the raw edges of the neckline/wrap, and there is a way you can do it, but it will involve adjusting the way the front wrap gets attached to the crotch seam, and possibly a redrafting of that area- I think you would need to add seam allowance to the top of the crotch seam edge so that you can flip the bias-edged wrap under and connect it to the seam that way. But I haven’t tried it on this pattern and I’m only working it out in my head so that could be totally wrong, lol. I actually prefer creating a facing for the neckline that gets sewn to the jumpsuit and then under stitched because it provides a lot more stability to that area, which is cut on the bias and has a tendency to stretch out like mad. In fact, I learned after making this second version that it is essential to stay stitch the entire front and back necklines of your pattern pieces as soon as you cut them because they will want to morph out of shape as soon as you start moving the fabric around.

To create my facings, I just traced the edges of my front and back necklines on transparent pattern paper, and then I widened the shapes so that they were about 4-inches all the way around. I interfaced all the pieces, sewed the back halves together, then sewed the back piece to the front pieces at the shoulder seams. Next, I sewed the whole facing piece onto the jumpsuit, pausing at the area where the belt is attached so that I could sew it in the way I like (I prefer my wrap front to maintain it’s triangle shape at the edge, which means I can’t sew it to the belt like normal and just flip it to the right side- but if you don’t want to go through the trouble of all that, you could sew the edge flat instead of pointed).

And that’s all she wrote! I love the way this jumpsuit fits and feels (although this fabric gets a little wrinkly!) and I think I might add a little vintage romper slip (to match the fact that this is a jumpsuit) to my list of future makes because I wouldn’t mind having one more layer of fabric under this thing. I love the color, I love the effect, and I love how I look in it- I can’t wait to wear this for an #auditionlewk when I go in for Recently Divorced Mom In A Small Town Trying To Get Her Groove Back While Going Back to School to Become A Beautician 😉

Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate it, and Happy ThanksLiving if you don’t!

 

 

 

 

See ya, 2017!

My first completed make of 2017

 

I can’t lie, I did not enter 2017 with much hope at all. After the Cheeto won the election, I had a brief surge of unfettered optimism that we as American citizens would rally together and fight for the rights of disenfranchised communities, not just here on our soil but the world over- everywhere that our capitalist, greedy, short-sighted government could reach it’s murderous talons. And then I went to the Women’s March and had my first (and so far, only) panic attack. I felt overwhelmed and angry and confused. While I have never liked being in large crowds of people, I was more anxious than usual, paranoid and scared; the march just didn’t feel like a safe space for me. I felt simultaneously proud of all the people standing in the streets to make their voices heard and terrified that this movement looked and felt so white- I wondered where the outrage was on behalf of all the women and girls of color who have been forced into sex trafficking, for the disproportionate numbers of black men spending the better parts of their lives in our for-profit prison system for non-violent misdemeanor drug charges, for the shockingly high number of infant deaths in black communities, for all the trans POC who are murdered every year who never get justice, for the effects of police brutality destroying the lives of so many black families all around the country, for the victims of the Flint water crisis.

The election was certainly a cause for public outcry, but our system was broken long before he was elected. And I felt a deep, uncontrollable sadness standing in the middle of a crowd of thousands that I wasn’t convinced would have showed up for people that didn’t look like them. Of course, it’s more complicated than that. The election was a breaking point for many people who have constantly decried the effects that institutional racism has on POC in this country, and there were sooo many people on the frontlines of the marches that have dedicated their lives to inciting change in our government and in our collective hearts. And I am so thankful for them. But on that day, all I could do was feel what I was feeling. Marches aren’t for everyone, and there is no shame in that. Lesson learned.

I started an etsy account where 100% of the proceeds of my memade items went to charitable organizations- it’s popularity has since declined lol, but I raised over $500 in a month!

I got back into therapy. I worked. I made. My creative pursuits continued to be a source of healing for me in a world that felt increasingly chaotic. And then in June I got a call from my Mom that my brother was in the hospital for a common condition that had suddenly and unexpectedly turned life-threatening. My precious, funny, kind 29 year old brother who had only recently become a father, who had married his middle school sweetheart: Nick. I wrote all about that experience here, and if you have been keeping track at all, I am SO SO happy to tell you that, 6 months later, he is recuperating from his last and hopefully final surgery to permanently cover the hole in his stomach, and he is healthy, hopeful, and excited for his future. I am so proud of how beautifully and unselfishly my sister in law and my Mom and my Dad cared for him during those relentless days where every breath he took sounded like it would be the last one, where we sat quietly in his room in the ICU holding air in our own lungs, hour after hour, willing it to fit inside Nick’s body and bring him some peace.

When I think back on how traumatizing the whole experience was for us, each in different ways, how it changed our dynamics with each other, how it trudged up secrets and shame that none of us were ready to confront, I will never forget how one his doctors stood in the waiting room with us as we all sat in chairs, listening to him, grasping onto kernels of information that he was carefully doling out. “It’s a good thing you have those pictures of his family all around the room,” he said. Tori’s mom had printed out photographs of Nick and Tori and Levi, their two year old son, and taped them high on the walls so that when Nick came out of his coma, he would see the best parts of his life beaming light right back at his broken body. “That way,” he chuckled, “the nurses and staff who are taking care of him will know he isn’t just some thug off the street.” To this day I’m not sure how that doctors head didn’t explode on the spot because the venomous daggers that my Mom and I threw from our eyes were enough to rip through more hospital walls than I could count. How dare this white doctor insinuate that my brother, or ANY person in that hospital, be a thug, a descriptor that I am assuming has everything to do with my brother’s brown skin. I thought that the hippocratic oath specifically ensured that doctors would provide the best care that they were capable of, regardless of skin color, religion, gender, ability or class, but here we had proof that this wasn’t so at all, that it was apparently my family’s responsibility to convince the hospital staff that Nick was worthy of the best care they could give. I thought so much of Trayvon Martin’s family in that moment- how I had felt so lucky that Nick wasn’t the victim of some violent crime because of someone else’s racism, but how racism was still playing a part of his life while he lay unconscious in a hospital bed.

Mom, Nick (with his wound vac), me, Dad, Tori, and baby Levi a few weeks after Nick was released from the hospital.

My time with Nick in the hospital is the only occasion I can think of in my life where making didn’t serve as a therapeutic passtime. I packed some sock yarn and needles for the trip but I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing and my hands would shake whenever I pulled them out, either from the cold of the hospital or the fear of the unknown, I have no idea. I couldn’t manage to spread myself out, I felt best when I was a lump of focused energy aimed in Nick’s direction.

And now, here I am on the other side of what has easily been the scariest year I have ever experienced, and I feel so lucky. Bad things don’t happen to people who deserve them, they just happen, but things could have been much, much worse. As I write this blog post I think about Lladybird losing her father this past year, how sad I was for her family and how happy I was to see her keep on living her lovely life and working through the grief, how my introduction to Renee of Miss Celie’s Pants was a blog post she had written about her mother’s passing and how much I appreciated her sharing her sorrow with me, a random stranger on the internet. People like to talk a lot of shit about the narcissism of  blogging and social media and selfies, but for me, writing and reading and sharing on these platforms is way for me to connect to people, to find comfort and kindness in places that don’t always manifest in my regular life, to remind myself that yes, I was here, and by the way, my hair looked great.

These yellow overalls are definitely my most worn item of the year!

I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but, as I shared on IG recently, I am committing myself to making my living spaces more balanced and pleasant to be in. And I knocked a bunch of things off my list before the New Year even began: I got longer tables in my craft room so that I can have my 4 favorite/most used machines out at once, organized my button stash, logged in a bunch of patterns into my evernote app, and eventually I am going to get some cabinets installed on the other side of the craft room to get all my random craft materials and tools neatly stored away. I built a shelf for the guest closet, installed another shelf in our bathroom vanity, and transported all my #redcarpetDIYs to a portable closet unit in our storage area since they were just taking up space in the house. Hopefully 2018 will give me more opportunities to wear them!

And now, a bulleted year in review….

Best of 2017

  • SURVIVING IT
  • Seeing my two good friends Alex and Mary get married in Costa Rica. The wedding was scheduled just two weeks after my brother went into the ICU and I was so torn about whether or not I should go, but my Dad told me I should, and although it took a few days to get out of crisis mode, I am really glad that I got to share that special day with them. Remind me to tell you what happened when we heard a scary noise outside our airbnb in the middle of the forest….LOL
  • My friend Carly got accepted into the AFI program!
  • I got to go back to Vancouver to work on a really great show and make new memories in a city that I had once come to loathe
  • I got to hang out with Renee and Jordan in Vancouver (those hangouts are probably why I don’t loathe Van City anymore)!
  • AND Jenny of Cashmerette was there, too!
  • Claire continues to thrive in a job that she loves and it has been so exciting to watch her grow
  • My brother is ALIVE AND DOING AWESOME!
  • My Dad got really specific about what he wanted me to make him for his birthday/ Christmas and those gifts have been some of the most fun selfless makes that I have ever created
  • I taught some people how to sew/reupholster/make
  • MIMI G!!!! My new road dawg!
  • hanging with my nephew, Levi
  • getting my tarot cards read for the first time
  • sharing some political, feminist writing and feeling so supported and encouraged by most everyone who read it
  • the movie Get Out
  • finishing my Octopus sweater
  • learning ASL
  • being a guest on the Love to Sew podcast

Worst of 2017

  • the ban of trans people in the military
  • everything else the government did
  • Claire having to go vegan
  • not enough making/creating time for myself
  • fatphobia
  • so many mass shootings
  • the entire Saga of Nick’s Pancreatitis, obvi
  • my summer hair cut. I loved it for 3 days then I wanted every single inch back. I need to get a tattoo to remind me NOT to cut my hair off every time I want to cut my hair off
  • those goddamn orange corduroy pants

What’s Happening in 2018, Jasika?

  • more shoe making!
  • at least two bags!
  • so many vegetables. so. many. vegetables.
  • a possible secret project with Mimi G! #Mimi&J
  • positive and sustainable political change!
  • pants making!
  • cute workout clothes!
  • Renee said she is coming to visit! Let’s all hold her accountable to this!
  • my first screenplay!
  • reupholstering some vintage dining room chairs!
  • house upgrades/renos (??)
  • getting the backyard garden together!
  • meeting my shining light and inspiration Heather Lou in the flesh!
  • “work work work work work” -Rhianna
  • Camp Workroom Social (??)
  • A CONSISTENT AND CONTAGIOUS SENSE OF PEACE EMANATING FROM MY BODY AT ALL TIMES (??)

As always, I am grateful for your readership, your encouragement, your thoughtful comments and your ability to laugh with me. My wish is that, no matter how your year went, you are looking forward to what 2018 brings. Genuine hope for the future is at once both empowering and soothing; let it carry us into the new year, and beyond!

Essay for the Sewcialists Blog

After so much thoughtful and supportive feedback from my NOLA Skirt post, I was excited to have a chance to expand a little bit more on the concept of intersectional crafting. Thank you Gillian for giving me a platform to share with your readers over on the Sewcialist blog and for urging me to contribute something- these ideas have been rattling around in my head for a while now and this was the kick in the pants I needed to put pen to paper pixel to screen and fashion them into something cohesive and hopefully relatable. You can click here to head over to the Sewcialist’s blog and read my piece, My crafting, like my feminism, is intersectional. To all who have read it already, thanks so much for your support and for continuing the dialogue amongst your own crafting buddies!

Whitewashing NOLA

I made this skirt a while ago, and honestly there isn’t much to it. It’s a self drafted dirndle skirt, one long skinny rectangle sewed onto a longer and wider rectangle with gathering on one side- about the easiest garment you can make. What is significant about this make is the fact that it was made with fabric that I purchased from Fabric.com. It’s called “Stof France New Orleans Multi-color” which is incredibly ironic considering that once it arrived in the mail, I didn’t see any kind of “multi” in the identities that it represented. Sure, it’s decked out in purples and oranges and blues of the most dynamic shades- it’s one of the reasons I purchased the fabric in the first place, because the colors were singing to me through my computer screen, and also because I love a good print, and also because it’s neat when humans are slyly integrated into textile designs. But I assumed (incorrectly, it turns out), that the vibrance of color shown in the environment of the print would be reflected in the skin color of the ladies peppered throughout. On a whim I had bought one yard of this fabric that was supposed to represent the color and magic of New Orleans, but in actuality it was just a portrait of several white women painted onto a brilliant background. I mean, did the person making this fabric not even see Lemonade??

Honestly I didn’t think much about it at first. Yes, I assumed that the ladies printed on the NOLA fabric would be representative of the black cultural hub that is and has always existed in that part of the country, but I am wrong about these things all the time. It’s a side effect of growing up in a white supremacist society, to be a person of color constantly forced to recognize yourself in whiteness because that is all that has been available for so long. But the older I get and the more I surround myself with people who want to have these difficult conversations about what it feels like to be starving for yourself, the more validated and empowered I feel to call out the problematic stuff when I see it. There are bigger injustices happening in this world than a company printing a fabric illustrating the beautiful women of NOLA that doesn’t imagine any of them as being non-white, I get that. However, this little stuff is just a side effect of the big stuff, and it still impacts our community. With young brown kids not seeing themselves in the novelty firefighter sheets they want, not seeing their skin color in the people that play doctors on TV, not seeing their hair on Barbie Dolls. It starts to feel like they don’t matter, like they can’t achieve great things, like they will never be first in line for anything worthwhile. I know this is true because it’s what I felt growing up. Sometimes it makes these kids have to work harder to get to the same level that their white peers are at. But other times it makes them feel overwhelmed and tired and not motivated to try at all because the deck already feels so stacked against them. In a general sense, representation in the media has gotten better. But better doesn’t carry much weight when you were so far from good in the first place.

I stewed about this whitewashed fabric for a few hours and then I decided I would try to fix it. I pulled out some of my nicest, most vivid markers: a deep yellow, like the color of my skin in winter. A bright coffee colored brown, what I look like after a day at the beach. A dark cocoa colored marker that looks like my cousin Kaylan’s beautiful skin. A deep brownish red that matches the color of an old friend from high school. I took the markers and I slowly, very carefully, filled in the arms, the cheekbones, the hands, and the feet of some of the women on the fabric. I made them various shades of reds, yellows and browns, the way that my family looks, the way that my community looks. I had to be careful so that the colors wouldn’t bleed through to the other side, and I promised myself I would never launder this skirt so that the marker colors wouldn’t spread pigment everywhere in the wash. But after about 30 minutes of sitting on my living room floor, meticulously coloring inside the lines, it looked pretty good, and I was proud of it.

It is so rare to find regular novelty print merchandise like fabric and linens and coffee cups and pencil cases and lunchboxes that depict a whole range of nationalities; white is simply the default here in the US, and everyone outside of that community has to find a way to see themselves in that default whether it pertains to us or not. Recently on instagram I posted an in-process photo of a brightly hued chartreuse dress that I was making, and someone (innocently enough) commented that they had never thought that the super intense yellow color would look good on anyone, and they were surprised that it looked great on me. I found this very telling.

When you are white in America (and certainly other places, too), there is a tendency to see everything through the lens of your own experience. Since neon chartreuse doesn’t look good on your skin (and presumably the skin of most white people you know), you assume it’s just a terrible color, period. You neglect to recognize that there is a whole other community of other shades of people whose skin is absolutely radiant when you pair it with bright, bold colors; just because something doesn’t match your personal idea of what works certainly doesn’t mean it won’t match gloriously on other people that aren’t like you. And that is the crux of my issue with this “multi” New Orleans fabric; so many privileged people are unused to being challenged about their concept of the world because the world has historically operated to suit their needs, and the effect that this has on the people who don’t fit into their group is devastating. This goes beyond skin color obviously- gender, sexuality, ability, religion, all of these identities are affected when the dominant group in power does little to recognize other communities’ existence and importance. That said, it’s amazing how far a little compassion for people who experience the world differently than you can go.

I know that the aforementioned instagram commenter meant no harm when she made her statement about the chartreuse color, but that’s not the point; ignorance is hardly ever intentional. Like many people of color, I have grown up learning how to make room for my own preferences in addition to the preferences of people unlike me  (I still have a long way to go in recognizing the privileges I have as cisgender, able-bodied, etc). This is a skill that so many people who identify outside of white/heterosexual/binary + cisgender has honed: an ability to recognize the universal qualities of  love and relationships, even if they don’t identify with the people presenting them. And it’s a skill that many people who ARE white/heterosexual/binary + cisgender rarely have to use; they aren’t forced to see the similarities between themselves and people not like them because they are inundated with examples of love, loss and life that already match up with their identities and experiences in the world.

Here’s an example: I remember having a conversation a couple years ago with a famous comedic actor whose work I absolutely LOVE. We were at an audition when we met and we quickly realized that we were fans of each other’s work, which got us to talking and laughing and wiling away the time in the waiting room together. While in mid-conversation, I realized that Erika Alexander, a QUEEN and an amazing actor from a ton of hit tv shows was also in the room, and I was (quietly) squealing in delight to my new friend about how excited I was to see her in person.
“Can you believe she is HERE in this room with us?? I’m freaking out!” I said.
He looked at me quizzically and asked “wait, who is that again?”
“Huh?” I implored. “You don’t know who Erika Alexander is?? First known by fans as Cousin Pam from the Cosby Show but most notably as Max from the fantastic 90’s sitcom Living Single?
And he looked me right in the eyes, chuckled, and said “Oh, that was a black show right?  Yeah, I don’t think I was really the demographic for that one.”
Oh boy. OHHHHH BOY! If you could have seen how deflated I was, how absolutely gutted that this charming, funny guy had let such disappointing words come out of his mouth. It’s one thing if you had never heard of the show or didn’t like it, but to be familiar with Living Single (which, by the way, was a BIG hit in it’s day) and to have intentionally stayed away from it because you didn’t think it was for you? Now THAT is a shining example of privilege if I have ever seen one. I wanted to ask him ‘Do you think FRIENDS was meant for me? Do you think I was the show’s intended demographic? Or the demographic for Who’s The Boss? Or 90210? Or Melrose Place? Or the X Files? Or Step By Step? Or Growing Pains? Or Full House? Or virtually any other hit network TV show that I obsessed over when I was growing up? No! They weren’t made for me specifically, but I watched them anyways because I wanted to be entertained, and since diverse casts that DID represent me were so rare, I didn’t have much choice in the matter! But guess what, I STILL managed to find myself in the shows with all white casts because love and relationships are fucking universal and one of the most perfect depictions of this was the fact that Ross and Rachel’s tumultuous and hilarious relationship on FRIENDS was every bit as nuanced and relatable as Max and Kyle’s on Living Single, but guess which TV pairing gets praised and talked about more often in nostalgic articles about TV of yore? YEP, YOU GUESSED IT, THE WHITE ONE, and wonder why that is?! Because people like you insisted that shows with black casts simply were not meant for you to watch!”

Of course, I didn’t actually say this. I never do. Because, you know, angry black woman trope and all. It was probably just one of many microaggressions that I experienced that week, no use in raising a fuss. Instead I just pursed my lips, smiled, and said “that’s a shame, Living Single was a really terrific show, you might have liked it”. And then I went and introduced myself to Erika, trying to hold back tears from springing to my eyes because it’s hard not to get emotional when you’re in the presence of a legend.

I don’t know how to wrap this post up, and I barely know I got started, since this is clearly more of a “Musings” post than a “Sewing” one. But as I was thinking of how to share this skirt and what it was I REALLY wanted to say about it, I remembered this great quote that I recently came across. It went something like, you don’t stand up to ignorance in the hopes of changing anyone’s minds, you stand up to ignorance in the hopes that the others around who might be too scared or uncomfortable saying something will hear you, will feel empowered, validated and less lonely. That idea really resonated with me. I am absolutely uninterested in debating with people to try to get them to agree with me on such sensitive topics; more often than not, ignorant, racist, homo/transphobic people don’t want to get it, and me wasting my breath trying to educate them about their privilege and hoping to incite in them some sense of empathy and compassion is a losing, exhausting battle. But I do like the idea of being a conduit for  someone else who might not be comfortable using their voice yet. At the very least, hearing hateful rhetoric or seeing problematic behavior might not inspire you to speak up if you are alone and afraid, but if you hear someone else doing it, that might change over time, and perhaps even compel you to speak up when it happens again.

So. If you are reading this post and feeling unbearably offended, then clearly it wasn’t meant for you (and I would imagine nothing on my blog is, lol- what are you doing here??) This post is meant for any people out there who have felt invisible, ignored, misheard, interrupted, quieted because they don’t fit in with what is considered “normal”. It’s for the parents of brown kids who went shopping for firefighter sheets and who didn’t buy them because all the faces under the helmets were white. It’s for folks who understand the power of institutional racism but don’t always recognize the trickle down effects it has on communities and individuals. It’s for the print makers out there who might consider broadening their understanding of what they think their audience wants to see.

I’ve only worn this skirt once but I got several compliments on it, and I am making sure that when I wear it again, I let the person complimenting me know that this New Orleans fabric arrived with only white women depicted on it, and that I made it better by coloring in some of those faces with different shades of myself. Representation isn’t just for the marginalized, it’s for the betterment of all of humanity, and I am hoping that we all find the power to continually stand up for what is right and fair, in our lives and beyond, for ourselves and others, no matter how tiny the impact feels. Because it matters, I promise, even if it’s just to you.

An Interview with Claire!

Someone wrote a comment recently on my post about making Claire a bro/binder– they thought it would be a fun idea for me to interview Claire and post it to the blog. Claire and I had joked a bit about doing that very same thing, not thinking that we would actually do it, but after I read the commenter’s suggestion, I thought, WHY NOT? Initially I was just going to ask Claire some questions and then type out her answers, but it seemed like making a video would be quicker and more fun. Also, I can’t ignore the importance of queer visibility across any all platforms- these days, whether you’re taking a knee during the national anthem, correcting people on their use of your preferred pronouns, or calling your senators to demand that they provide smart and affordable healthcare options to ALL their constituents, making yourself seen and heard on your own terms feels revolutionary. So here we are! Talking about binders, bros, intimate apparel and the gender binary! Cause my sewing is just as intersectional as my feminism is!

I hope you enjoy!