Creative Project : Mark-Making & Stitch work on fabric

Sometimes the only available transportation is a leap of faith
— Margaret Shepard

Sometimes with creative projects that I share, I like to not put finished pictures or photos up to share, because I like to leave the idea open for your own interpretation rather than having pre-conceived notion of what it might look like. But... being that I like sharing photos, and this page might look a little bare with just words - well I'm sharing some ideas of progress shots, and perhaps after you've spent some time making your own works then I'll share some of mine. How does that sound? 

Today's project is a lovely one that leaves things open for nature to interpret herself onto your work, for the unplanned, the instinctual, the messy, the mistakes to shine and show off. This is not about being perfect or knowing the final outcome, it's about letting go.... evolving with the process, enjoying the experience rather than thinking about the outcome. 

You'll Need:

  • Paint or ink - if you have fabric paint fabulous, if not don't worry too much*
  • Nature Brushes - Sticks, leaves, twigs, seedpods, dried flower heads, strange and unusual collections from nature
  • Fabric - plain is best, but anything you can find. Even an old tea towel
  • Needle & thread. I like to use a long needle, like a sashiko needle and thicker thread such as embroidery thread / floss, but please use what you have access to, no need to rush out and buy something new. Double your thread if you're using regular cotton.

*I'm going to suggest / recommend use only black or white paint, and threads. I feel like this limitation in colour choices means you don't focus on the pictorial aspects or the outcome, but rather simply immerse in the process. It's a bit like taking photos in black & white... you see and experience a different way of looking.

Here's what you'll do:

Depending on how you like to work, turn the music up loud, or turn it off altogether. Try doing the opposite of what you usually do. Lay your fabric down on the floor (use a dropcloth under you if necessary), and standing up use the nature brushes dip it into the paint / ink and move freely. Close your eyes, move to the music, listen to what you hear outside. Respond to these external forces. Allow the unusual-ness of the 'paintbrush' to work in your favour of making marks, rather than painting a picture. 

Don't try to be too pictorial, but let shapes and patterns and 'marks' just happen and evolve. Fling the paint from a long leaf, or a flower head, roll it across the fabric, use more or less pressure to get different texture. 

Stop before you over-think the process. Leave blank space, for breathing and thinking and looking... and stitching. 

Have extra fabric and keep going. Don't edit yourself, or curate what you make. Have fun, enjoy. This is about the experience more than the outcome - though I promise you'll love the outcome.

Once your fabric dries (in a few days) I'd love you to take some thread and work stitches back into the marks. Again without being pictorial. Stab-stitching, long rough running stitch, small delicate scattered stitches. 

Why:

The reason why I find this project so powerful is that letting go of the outcome allows you to tap into your creative self in an innate manner, rather than a forced "making artwork" manner. I'm not saying that's the way you work, I'm simply offering some new ways of expanding your approach to the process of creativity. Immersing yourself in making simply for the sake of making is a beautiful thing, and allows you to spend time conversing with yourself, which to be honest I find interesting, exciting, inspiring and at time eye-opening. Often in our busy days we don't make the time to truly converse with ourselves. This project allows that in a few different ways because of the different techniques. 

*most of these photos are from a workshop I ran recently, alongside my friend Jo Olive, who herself has come back to her artwork after years of disappointment. Embracing her fear of not being good enough. We had our workshop participants do this project and they loved it. Two of students were actually high school art teachers, so this allowed them to re-develop their own voice and making space for that voice.