Sailing The H.M.S. Process

Creation involves a little bit of destruction.

Or a lot, depending on how you work. 😉

Sometimes it feels like I spend more time tearing objects down than I do building them up. And I’m OK with that, because it’s all part of my creative process.

I’m finding more and more that I chose to repurpose a material I have rather than go out and buy something new and fresh to work with. Inevitably this means that my pieces involve some form of reverse engineering: ripping apart, cutting down, unraveling and rejigging.

This way of working has many pros…

  1. It saves me money.
  2. It encourages me to be more creative with resources.
  3. It soothes the residual guilt I have over being an object maker in a world that maybe doesn’t need any more objects.

The bonus to repurposing a material is that it has been “worn in”. It possesses a patina – a shorthand, surface history of its life story that makes the material inherently more interesting than a brand new piece of fabric, paper, or what have you.

Feather maribou trim salvaged off a vintage evening dress. Originally a bright, pale yellow I considered washing it to rinse away the decades of dirt, but for the piece I have in mind it is perfect in its sullied state.

Feather maribou trim recouped from a vintage evening dress. Originally a bright, pale yellow I considered washing it to rinse away the decades of dirt, but for the piece I have in mind it is perfect in its sullied state.

That’s not to say there aren’t downsides of working this way…

  1. You become obsessive about not throwing anything away. EVER.
  2. You have to have space to store all those potentially useful things.
  3. You need to develop a system to organize your salvaged materials or you’ll never know what you’ve got/be able to find it and then what’s the point of keeping it? (This is technically only a downside if you AREN’T a control freak who actually enjoys organizing and classifying your re-purposables. I’m a Virgo. I seriously live for this organizational shit. Yeah, I probably should have listed this as a “pro”).

I’ve always been a hoarder resourceful, squirreling away anything that might be remotely useful. You never know when those braided nylon handles from every single gift bag you’ve ever come in contact with might come in handy.

This sleek, braided handle may have a second, arty life as beautiful, blonde tresses once it is gently unraveled.

This braided handle may have a second, arty life as beautiful, blonde tresses once it is gently unraveled.

Sometimes you’d never be able to guess the materials’ or objects’ original use.

A paperclip is transformed into adjustable belt and buckle hardware.

A paperclip is transformed into adjustable suspender hardware.

The warts on rubber witch noses become uncanny nipples.

The warts on rubber witch noses become uncanny nipples.

The trim of an old wool blanket is untwisted to become fur.

The corded trim of an old wool blanket is untwisted to become fur.

Sometimes the transformation is merely in scale.

A blown out pair of jeans becomes a tinier pair of jeans (or plural - tinier pairs of jeans).

A blown out pair of jeans becomes a tinier pair of jeans (or plural – tinier pairs of jeans).

A shirt that doesn’t fit anymore or has become too worn out becomes a miniature version of itself.

A shirt that doesn’t fit anymore or has become too worn out becomes a miniature version of itself.

Scrapbooking fasteners that resemble cute, wee buttons are modified, and suddenly they are fulfilling the function they previously only promised.

Scrapbooking fasteners that resemble cute, wee buttons are modified, and suddenly they are fulfilling the function they previously only promised.

When I’m navigating uncharted waters – as I do when I start a new series – I like to have Experimentation and Play at the helm of my studio ship.

Nothing gives me more joy than starting the journey with a vague idea of what I’m hoping to create and then sifting through my (mostly) organized booty (aka chests of treasure, aka bins of stuff).

Pirate1

Can I point out that the allusion here is that I’m a pirate – an Art Pirate? I always wanted to be a pirate…

It’s the search to find The Thing that could be the solution to my creative quest that makes the voyage fun, my friends. Looking at a material and imagining its potential – the many ways in which it might be used and transformed – is my studio turn-on.

It’s THE number one reason I relish what I do.

What part of YOUR work process floats your boat? Please share in the comments!

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2 Responses to “Sailing The H.M.S. Process”

  1. I so hear you about that residual guilt for being an object maker, Jody. I love how you’re able to repurpose so many things! Like gift bag handles… I’ve always wondered what I could do with those.

    The part of my work process I enjoy most is the patient exploration with paint, never knowing until it’s finished how the painting is going to turn out. I always start a new canvas with any leftover paint so it doesn’t get wasted, and sometimes those turn into something pretty cool. (And sometimes they suck and just have to be painted over. 🙂 )

    • Thanks for your comment, Alison! I like hearing that your exploration is patient. Sometimes mine is impatient – that’s when I get caught up in the product and forget that really it’s all about the process.

      Great idea to start a new canvas with your leftover paint after a session. I like knowing that about your process, each piece is connected to the others in this way.

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