Sunday, April 14, 2013

Finding Your Creative Voice

In 2005 I began attending an Artist's Way seminar in hopes of "unblocking" my "inner creative". It was, for me... interesting. It's nothing against the program, facilitator or other members of the group. Far from it, actually. For me, it was an uncomfortable thing to do. I have ADD and SPD*, two conditions that make life interesting - to say the VERY least. Part of my discomfort stemmed from the fact that I didn't consider myself an artist. Artists painted, sculpted, drew, made masterworks. I saw things in my mind but couldn't get them out. The other discomfort came from the fact that "morning pages" are an integral part of the program. I don't journal. I never have. I can't. It is quite literally impossible. There's no amount of cajoling or prompting that can make me journal. Part of it is psychological, but the other part is physiological. You can give a pig a pencil, but you can't make him write. I did give the group my best shot, but it was very much a square peg/round hole situation.

Over the years, I had attempted (in no particular order) diaper making (fail), apron making (fail), scrapbooking (fail), papercrafting (fail) and more. I was searching for my creative voice with little success. The one bright spot in this series of unfortunte events was Stephanie. When I threw my hands up in disgust at getting frustrated with sewing aprons, I sent her the only one I finished. It was a vintage pattern done up in vintage fabric. With that gift of an apron, two things happened. The first was blessing someone and encouraging them to learn to sew. The second was relinquishing the need to find-my-creative-voice-right-now. I like to think I'm Stephanie's "apron godmother".

I hadn't found my voice yet. And I had pretty much given up trying. During my short stint with the Artist's Way group, I found out I was pregnant with my third child - a boy. Early pregnancy for me is never easy, so I used my "all day long sickness" to gracefully bow out of the group. That's not hard to do when you're not able to move without being terribly ill. Something I contemplated while I spent weeks laying perfectly still on the sofa, not daring to move, was clothing for this child. I had two girls already and to borrow from Prissy from Gone With The Wind, I don't know nothin' 'bout no baby boys. Once my health improved for me to be mobile, I began making baby clothes. I made a christening gown, shorts, tops, his outfit for going home from the hospital, you name it. I sewed like there was no tomorrow. While my fervor was high, my skills were not! But each piece saw improvement. I was learning to speak with my creative voice.

Hospital to Home Outfit
Christening Gown

As my son grew, I kept sewing. I didn't like what passed for most little boys' clothing back then and so I ventured into more complicated clothing territory. Eventually, I began making costumes in addition to clothes. They weren't great, but with each one, I learned. I learned about fabric quality. I learned to pay attention to the type of fabric a pattern calls for. I learned how to skip some steps to streamline the construction process. The next year, I was even more ambitious. I created costumes from self-drafted patterns based on reference photos. I was creating things that didn't yet exist - including costume footwear. One of the costumes even won an award. My vocabulary was growing. My creative voice was getting stronger.
Ariel Warrior Princess


In subsequent years, my daughters began participating in pageants. To keep costs low, I made their dresses. The first few looked like it too! There were a few missteps, but with each event, I learned something. The ore I sewed, my confidence grew. Costumes I designed, constructed and styled began to win awards. Especially at events with a "themewear" division. In fact, my daughters' themewear has consistently scored high enough to win at almost every event.

Angel On Top Of The Tree
A Very Special Gift

Throughout this journey, there were many times when I was discouraged. I thought I wasn't good enough because I wasn't a "real artist" and I doubted I ever would be. I can see now that it's like a child learing to talk. First with nonsense sounds and babbling, then words only parents can understand, then finally fluent speech. Don't get discouraged if it feels like you'll never find your own creative voice. I started really searching for mine in 2005. It's now 2013. I can finally say...

I AM! a costume and clothing designer.
I CAN! see it in my mind and then MAKE IT HAPPEN.
I WILL! continue to hone my skills at every opportunity.

I have also learned that creating and sewing - even the most tedious of tasks like hand beading or matching plaid(!) help to soothe me when I get overwhelmed by the world around me. Finding my creative voice was more than an expression of who I am. It became therapeutic. It made me be myself - only more complete.

*ADD: Attention Deficit Disorder; SPD: Sensory Processing Disorder.

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