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!
- The Little Knittery, Los Angeles, CA
- Freeman’s Creative, Durham, NC
- Brooklyn General, Brooklyn, NY
- Fabrications, Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
- Josephine’s Dry Goods, Portland, OR
- Knit & Bolt, Minneapolis, MN
- Three Little Birds Sewing Co., Hyattsville, MD
- Fancy Tiger Crafts, Denver, CO
- Domesticity Fabric & Studio, Baltimore, MD
- Knit1Chicago Chicago, IL
- Lovely Jubbly Designs & Fabrics Wimborne, UK
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:
and the most recent addition, a personal fav…
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!
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!