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organizing is creative

December 27, 2012

After narrowly missing (by 20 minutes) my goal of 3.75 hours standing and walking on Christmas Day, I went all out yesterday, and surpassed my goal by almost 2 hours. The more time I spent standing and walking, the more energetic I felt. My creative energy also kicked into high gear, so that yesterday I was finally able to accomplish many tasks that had eluded me for quite some time.

I had an assortment of sketchbooks containing sketches of ideas for garments. But I also had a bunch of designs sketched out on scrap paper, in various piles of papers. These two groups needed to be integrated, but preferably organized first. That organization had been my stumbling block for several years.

With more-than-enough high-quality creative energy, I perceived what to do:

  • One book for conceptual ideas: rough sketches, sometimes with notes.
  • One book for designs: usually sketches or photographs, often with measurements and/or descriptions of various design elements or specifics of garment construction. Sometimes just notes, when I haven’t figured out how to implement my ideas, but I have very definite ideas.
  • One book for paper prototypes.

The spark that got me going was an idea for two modular pieces that could somehow be ‘interlocked’ at right angles to create a garment. Apparently many garment makers and/or pattern makers can think in three dimensions like engineers do, successfully rotating imaginary objects in their mind’s eye in any direction. I can’t do that. I get so far with an idea, and I have to try it out, somehow. That’s why I got a dress form. But before I start cutting into fabric, I want some idea of what I’m trying to do. Is it at all feasible? Or are there structural issues that I need to think about first? So I often try prototypes, at a smaller scale, in paper. Yesterday’s idea really needed to be draped on a form. I happen to have a curvy empty bottle that I’d kept because I liked the shape. It turned out to be just about the right size for my paper cutouts. I tried out a draft of my original idea, with ruled paper, as that’s what I had handy. But ruled paper doesn’t drape properly. Before now, I’ve always jumped straight from small-scale paper prototypes to full-scale fabric. Now that I have a bottle I can use as an improvised dress form, though, I think I should try a second small-scale draft in fabric before trying something full-scale in fabric.

I want pieces that are interchangeable, that don’t have to be worn in just 1 way. On a given day, with two prototype pieces in hand, I may only be able to come up with one viable idea for how they could fit together. But on a different day, I might come up with a different viable idea. But only if I can actually play with the pieces.

I generally use sketches to capture my elusive ideas because they’re quick and easy. However, since I can’t picture ideas three-dimensionally in my mind, the two-dimensional nature of sketches means they are incomplete at best. They can’t tell me what I really want to know, which is, how will this drape?

If I shoehorn my paper prototypes into either the Conceptual (2-d) notebook or the Designs (2-d) notebook, by permanently affixing them to pages, I lose the benefit to having them in the first place. I think with my hands, not with my eyes. So for a third (3-d) book, I need to come up with a way to nonpermanently affix my prototypes, while also leaving space for sketches (or something) to depict the variations I do come up with about how the individual pieces might work together.

That process, figuring out what I need, helped me sort out what I already had, and how to think about it. I tracked down all the sketches on scrap paper, and affixed them in their relevant notebooks.

I created design boards, which I populated with designs by other people that I find compelling for some reason. (Previously all of them were just tacked up on my closet door willy nilly.) Once I looked for commonalities, I quickly saw they fell into two natural groups: (a) voluminous drape, and (b) painstaking creative tailoring. (For balance, I’ll need to find a third group.) I have a natural affinity for the voluminous drape, although I’ve only created 2 garments that might be described that way. For several years now, I’ve been trying to figure out how I might convey certain design element effects that would normally require months of painstaking and laborious work, without actually working that hard.

Why don’t I just do the work required? There are several reasons:

  • I do not have a painstaking and detail-oriented mind. I am highly creative, but in short bursts, and I find it most satisfying and enjoyable when I have results in a short period of time. Something that requires a sustained effort for weeks or months before seeing results? Not only will I lose interest, I’ll be demoralized by the end.
  • Also, many of my initial ideas need some tweaking to work at all. If I first have to put in two weeks of effort before finding that my ideas need to be overhauled, I’m going to give up out of frustration. Life is short.
  • Sometimes those results are possible because there is a team of people working on the project. In my case, there’s just me. And I can’t physically work on things for hours at a time anymore. I have to take frequent breaks. And because I’m highly distractible, I will often go off and do something else during a break. If I have to take numerous breaks before finishing, I may decide it’s too time-consuming, and go do something else with quicker results.
  • A lot of things that require painstaking work do so because the effect desired is stitches that are perfectly straight, and/or evenly sized. In other words, something that looks like a machine could have done it. Philosophically, that’s antithetical to my approach. No one is ever going to mistake anything I make for something manufactured or mass-produced. That’s a feature not a bug.

Now that I have my ideas organized somewhat, I’ll be easier to keep track of which ideas are workable. Can any of the ideas be combined? Perhaps some are variations of a larger idea, or could be reconceptualized that way.

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