Okay, so the day finally came when I left home. And what was one of the first things I thought necessary to purchase out of all the necessities you would think to be a priority when first setting up your own place? Why, a sewing machine of course! At this point, you are probably wondering why just as much as I am. Well, the sewing machine was always a staple at Mum's house and she sewed a LOT, so I guess I thought that everyone owned one. Besides, when I left the nest it was as the wife of a Canadian navy man. Maybe the sewing machine was just one little reminder of home since I've never lived close to home since.
So I continued along my path of sewing clothes for myself for quite some time. And when I had my own daughter, well, I was determined to be just like my Mum and sew the majority of her clothing. I have to admit I made a lot of pretty dresses. But being at home with a small child as a navy wife meant that I was alone a lot of the time. Once I ran through the making of clothes for us you'll not believe it but I made clothes for an older sister who lived in the same area. And then came the Christmas presents. Yes, I went through the making of cute little nightgowns for all my little nieces and other crafty things for the nephews. And the crafty things for the relatives.
Then one day my sister and I went for tea at a local tea/craft shop. There we saw cute little dresses for sale, pretty much like the ones I had been making for my own daughter. We looked at each other and my sister said to me, "You could do that." Yes, I could do that. So I did. And this was the beginning of my foray into making crafts to sell. It started with consignment and progressed to craft fairs. I made cute crafty things to sell. Lots of cute crafty things. And during that time I realized that I enjoyed creating my own stuff. And I came to hate working with clothing patterns because they were too limiting. And I certainly came to hate making clothes for other people as a favour. To this day if my poor daughter or husband need something hemmed that item of clothing may sit on my sewing table for a VERY long time. And don't even TALK to me about buttons!
Here's a photo of me at one of my craft fairs during my "cute" period:
After years of making clothes and cute crafts you can imagine what my fabric scrap bag might look like. Well, it was more of a closet. I suppose I have to thank myself for all those years because these scraps of fabric became my very first item of what I would consider fabric art. I took these scraps and I went at them with a pair of pinking shears. And the result?
Yes, my first piece of fabric art using my most beloved image was a mermaid wall hanging. Those fabric scraps turned into the scales of the mermaid, each scale cut individually using pinking shears and then sewn in row upon row of scales to make the tail of the mermaid. I sold this mermaid on e-bay. I kind of wish now that I had kept her but oh well...I've made lots since. In fact, I'd love to have my own art show of just mermaids of different themes. I even have a few ready in the closet just in case. There is "Margarita Mermaid"...a flamboyant looking thing on a tropical beach somewhere holding a margarita with a huge smile on her face. There is "Flamenco Mermaid" with red taffeta and black lace for her scales. There is even "Wonder Mermaid"...with big gold stars for her breasts. I love her. She gives me strength. And there have been others. I have made quite a few "Breast Cancer Survivor Mermaid" wall hangings...and there's a long convoluted and beautiful story that goes along with one of them. Maybe I'll tell you about it some day soon.
Here is a photo of one of my "Breast Cancer Survivor Mermaid" wall hangings:
So this was the beginning of me becoming a fabric artist. A fibre artist. A textile artist. Whatever you call it. A lot of people would call me a quilter because my pieces of art are considered "wall quilts". And I actually do belong to a quilting group...mainly because they have quilt shows every year and I thought it would be a great way to show my art to people who would really appreciate the work. But I don't quilt. If you ask me to make a "log cabin" quilt for you I would look at you like you have two heads. I don't quilt. I experiment. And creating wall hanging art has been the ultimate in experimentation for me. Absolutely NO rules whatsoever!
So, once I decided I was a fibre artist the items I made for my regular craft fairs changed. I just knew everyone would love them. But I would be sorely disappointed. I never really sold enough of it to make it work. The items I DID sell were, well, cute. CUTE! I hate that word!!!! And I finally realized one day a couple of years ago that this is what people who attended craft fairs wanted. They wanted cute (and cheap). Now don't get me wrong, everyone marvelled over my work. They thought it was beautiful and original. I got a lot of "wows". However, the only things I could get people to buy were the cheaper reproduction cards with the pictures of my wall hangings on them and anything that looked cute. I was frustrated. And then one day, a couple of days before the debut of the largest craft fair I had ever attended, I was sitting at my sewing machine, making the umpteenth potholder of my sewing career. It suddenly dawned on me. I was hating it. I was hating doing something that I had come to love. I stopped. I turned off the sewing machine and stomped into the livng room and announced to my husband that this was it. I was done. No more. I would not make one more potholder to sell at a craft fair. I would not finish the potholder in the machine. In fact, this craft fair would be my last.
A photo of me during an open house at my home during my last craft fair season:
And I was true to my word. I think I was lucky. I could have gone on with this for many more years, beating my head against the sewing machine. Making only enough money to buy supplies to make even more assembly line cute things for people who thought my art was beautiful but liked the potholders instead. But I finally realized that what was important to me was the enjoyment I recieved from sewing and making art. I did not have to make money while doing it to validate that.
...to be continued.