The Evolution of “Right”

An artist makes a lot of mistakes in the process of creating a piece.  You try something, it doesn’t work, so you try something else.  So it goes until you feel you’ve accomplished what you were trying to achieve (or you reach a fairly close approximation of what you were trying to achieve).

As viewers, when we see the final product of someone’s creative labours, we don’t often think about the process:  How many drafts did it take to get that outstanding chapter in that novel?  How many canvases were painted and discarded before that stunning art exhibit was hung?  How many times were stitches unraveled to design that amazing knitted sweater?

In some artistic processes, the evolution is invisible; when you repaint over parts of a canvas, the history of the piece is forever hidden, embedded in the work.  In the type of 3-D work I make, the evolution of a piece produces evidence.

For every finished sculpture I create there are often numerous elements that I make multiple times, finely tuning one aspect or another until it’s “right”.  For some reason, I never have the heart to physically throw away these misfit elements as soon as I discard them.  Even though I know I’ll never use them I keep them for a while, a collection of temporary reliquaries, in their own dedicated container.  I thought it might be fun to take you on a tour of gems from the current discard bin.

Let’s begin with the evolution of the grey wool suit pants I was crafting for the wolf figure in Chestnut Complex.


(L) The first pair of pants: too short, the fabric didn’t translate well to a small scale (came off as too pajama-y), and after I saw how the front pleats looked I hated it and decided to never do that again. (M) This pair got the axe not because they were flawed in any way, but because I didn’t like the tone once it was viewed in combination with the other elements of the piece – it was a shade too dark. (R) The third pair didn’t even have the courtesy of being finished before I was back at the fabric store, buying more summer weight wool in a delicate plaid that would finally translate into what I wanted.











[CONFESSION: In the end, to make sure I got the perfect match for Chestnut Complex, I bought 10 separate metres of grey Italian wool suiting in various tones and weaves.  Not to worry though, nothing goes to waste in this studio…I feel a piece featuring multiple grey suits percolating 😉]

Also belonging to the process of Chestnut Complex are these mostly unfinished tuxedo t-shirts.


I wanted a distinctive look, not just white printed on black, so I hand drew and painted India ink onto inkjet printer iron-on transfer sheets and transferred them onto white knit. For the most part, the differences between the versions are painfully subtle: details on the shirt buttons and the neckline. The finished t-shirt has a smaller image, and the ribbed collar and cuffs are white, not black.

At the bottom of the bin were a couple of rejects from Favourite Ways With Pheasant – Lilliputian lingerie that didn’t make the cut.  These lovelies managed to escape the last couple of purges, and actually date back to 2005.


(L) A mini pair of pantyhose, the legs as big around as my index finger, all hand sewn. Too much work to trash, these will feature – I’m sure – in some imminent piece. (M) A little coral negligee…the very first piece of attire for the pheasants and wrought with issues. My dissatisfaction with this piece resulted in my consultation of the finishing of person-sized lingerie, which made a big difference in the construction of future outfits. (R) The original red dress for Monday. What can I say…I thought I wanted a wee bit more leg to show so I made an identical slip, slightly shorter. Why not just cut this one shorter, you ask? I wasn’t positive that I wanted it shorter and was keeping my options open.

So, there you have it, a little behind-the-scenes collection of errors on the evolutionary journey to “right”.  I’m sure my sharing these with you IN NO WAY makes you think I’m obsessive.

And you?  Do you obsessively keep your creative rejects?  Or do you discard them immediately?  No judgment if you’re the type of person who hordes the “fails”!  Please share your temporary reliquaries in the comments below.

2 Responses to “The Evolution of “Right””

  1. Tzaddi says:

    I love, love, love these items all on their own. So fun to see their evolution.

    You could decide never to throw any of them away and then reconfigure them into something new (e.g. Ten Years of Rejected Works Reconfigured as a One Metre Cube 2010/2012: )

    • Ha ha! Yes, except I work so small and so slowly that my ten years of rejected work would only make a foot square cube 😉
      I enjoyed that, Tzaddi, thanks for sharing.