I'm teaching my first class!

   

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ON INTUITION + GROWTH: For the better part of a year, my intuition has been telling me I need to expand into teaching. Easy, right? People teach all the time. Unfortunately, speaking up & sharing what I know in a group setting is particularly terrifying to me. I'm very comfortable speaking one-on-one, but the few times I've stood in front of a large group I've actually left my body. I’ve known I need to try teaching but I wasn’t sure where to begin, so I felt stuck.

About a month ago I got an email invitation to join one of five Field Trips presented by our local chapter of Creative Mornings. These are small gatherings where you meet up to hear a creative leader speak about their expertise. When I read through the topics, I heard "Go to the architecture talk," which is the last one I would normally choose. But I followed my intuition & signed up for it.

On the morning of the Field Trip I arrived early & started saying hello to strangers. I met Nadine & we quickly realized we both sew. She mentioned the fabric store where she'd recently taken a class with just three other students. I told her I had offered alterations there for a short time a few months ago, & she said to me, "You should teach an alterations class at The Cloth Pocket." That sentence hung in the air for me as though it were written in bold type. Nadine had given me a key. Here was a chance to dip my toes in the waters of teaching, in a place I felt comfortable in, on a topic I love, for a handful of students.

Fast forward: my first alterations class is ‪March 25th‬! I'm ready with my agenda, my method, my message, & hell yes I am nervous. Should I have written a different more confident caption? Probably! But this is the truth. I’m not a seasoned teacher but I’m pretty damn good at alterations so here I go. 

I share this story for many reasons, but here are two truths that always serve me: (1) When your soul calls you to grow, accept the call in spite of the fear you feel. (2) Tune to the quiet voice of your intuition. "Go to the architecture talk," was something I could have easily blown off or rationalized away, but look at what it led to so quickly! 

Registration is open now TheClothPocket.com.

Creating Custom Rocknroll Capes for The DRAMASTICS

Last month marked the third installment of my creative collaboration with multimedia artist Nathan Carter.

This time Nathan brought his multimedia exhibition of The DRAMASTICS: A Punk Rock Victory Twister in Texas to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. If you've been following along, you'll remember we first collaborated on a T-shirt and tote bag for his exhibition at the MOCA in Denver, then we made more tees & totes for the Casey Kaplan Gallery in NYC. 

For the tees & totes, Nathan sent me scans and cutouts of his individual motifs and figures, and I laid them out into designs and oversaw the production and printing.  It was a true design collaboration, a lot of fun, and they resulted in successful sales for the museum shops! 

For the exhibition at the Nasher, we printed up more tees & totes like before, but Nathan had a more ambitious idea for The DRAMASTICS' live performance.  Since the band would be playing live at the opening, he had a vision for making custom rocknroll capes for each member. And he wanted them in pink satin.

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I started brainstorming what kind of pink satin cape silhouette could look cool and still function while people were singing and playing instruments. I wanted the capes to be lined, so that they looked punk but polished. I have a giant full length wool cape from the 1960s that has a front panel and two long slits for arms to come through. I sketched a shortened version of that and Nathan approved it. I traced off a pattern based on the wool cape and quickly stitched up a sample out of cheap satin that I could take on a trip to New York with me. I also created a little sampler to show how the applique and paint would look.  

Cape plans. We ended up nixing the collar.

Cape plans. We ended up nixing the collar.

Since Nathan's studio is in Brooklyn, we set aside a few hours to hash out the final cape design together in person.  Again, he had a collection of shapes, words & motifs that we could choose from, so I guided him through what was possible via paint and applique with satin, and together we chose what should go where. We worked quickly and decisively, and he had the resized and recut stencils ready for me before I left town. Easy & fun!

Figuring out yardage & yield

Figuring out yardage & yield

Once I got back to my studio, I needed to make 3 smaller capes and 3 larger capes. I revised the original cape pattern into a larger version based on measurements I took from Nathan's shoulders. I don't have any formal patternmaking education, so I was really winging it. Then I had to figure out how much yardage of pink and black satin I needed. You have to place pattern pieces in order to get the best yield, which basically means you're wasting the least amount of fabric. I gave it a good guess and when it was all done I only had a little left over.

After buying the fabrics, my next step was to determine which shapes got painted, and which got cut out and sewn down. Here are all the pieces I had to cut out:

  • 24 cape pieces out of pink satin
  • 24 cape pieces out of black satin
  • 36 silver glitter lightning bolts
  • 24 hearts
  • 6 guitars
  • 6 giant lips
  • 12 glitter eyeballs
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Each cape was a little different (with custom names & guitar shapes on each "sleeve") so keeping track of all the pattern pieces was a huge challenge. I embellished each individual pattern piece first, whether it was appliqueing the motifs with my sewing machine, or painting letters or designs using the stencils Nathan gave me. I used an assembly line technique, and had to time everything correctly so that the paint could dry before I started constructing the capes. It was about 5 straight days of being immersed in capes. But it all came together!  For the cape closure, I decided buttons or snaps wouldn't hold up to a punk rock performance, so I used giant silver safety pins. Appropriate for the overall look and function.

I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to see our capes in action, so we took a road trip from Austin to Dallas for the opening event. This was the most fun I've had on a design collaboration yet. I'm still high from the experience and I can't wait for an excuse to make some more capes.

Here's a great video montage of the capes and the opening event by Native Process Films:

Manifesting Murals | PART 3: You're Gonna Need Help

This week marks the one year anniversary of painting my first murals. Two murals in 10 days, in fact. Prior to painting these murals in Austin, I had zero mural experience & no reason to believe I could pull it off.  Following is the 6-part story of how I did it. [Read from the beginning.]


The next day, Sunday July 10th, Dana and I met Fabian at the auto garage to see the wall.  The wall was white so I knew I wanted to paint black arrows on it.  It was not unlike the very first mockup I had made.

Blank canvas

Blank canvas

I considered placement and proportion. It was a tall, wide expanse of blank wall so it needed to be pretty big in order to look good.  Fabian had ladders at the shop so that wasn't a problem. We decided the best bet would be to project the design on to the wall and "trace" over it. My friend Jeff said he had a projector at his house, it just needed an adapter to hook up to my computer. We all made a plan to meet the next night at sundown.

Dana and I headed to Home Depot for supplies. I bought one can of black paint and since I was so strapped for spending money, I bought maybe two or three of the cheapest brushes. Dana convinced me to buy a small plastic paint holder with a handle. I had to drive to Radio Shack to hunt down an adapter for the projector so I could plug it into my laptop. Each time I made a purchase, I had to ignore the doubtful voice that said You're wasting your time. You're wasting your money. Twenty-five dollars for an adaptor you'll use once??

The evening of Monday, July 11th, I gathered some pencils for tracing, grabbed some cold Topo Chicos and put on some clothes I didn't mind getting paint on. I picked up Jeff and his projector and drove to Fabian's garage. Dana met us there. We put my laptop on a ladder, rigged up extension cords out to it and the projector and adjusted it til the arrows were just right.  Jeff had to help me with a setting that stopped my laptop from going to "sleep" every 5 minutes. We used the pencils to do a light trace around the entire design, just in case we didn't get finished that night.  Then it was time to lay down the paint.

I had to ignore the fear that I was about to ruin Fabian's building.

One thing I hadn't thought about was the fact that the wall was corrugated metal. That means it's wavy, and varies in depth. We were painting straight arrows on a wavy wall. If I'd really thought about this beforehand, I wouldn't have gone through with it. But I literally didn't think about it until I started laying the paint on. I had a flash of panic, envisioning wavy, unintelligible arrows that looked like wiggly mush from far away. But again, here we all were and I had committed to not doubting.  I reminded myself an important lesson I'd learned when I used to do clothing alterations for people: trust what the materials are telling you, even if it doesn't make sense to your logical mind. As long as we painted what the projector was showing us, it should look right.

I took a deep breath and smeared some black paint on the white wall.  

We were going to make this work.  We had to.

I told Dana that I would do all of the tracing and outlining, and asked her to fill in my outlines with black paint.  We stepped up and down the ladders, dragged them as we made progress, reached around each other and checked each other's progress.  Fabian stayed with us and helped with moving the two A-frame ladders and reassuring us that it in fact looked right from far away. I'm no fan of ladders but once I started painting, the concentration took over and I didn't really think about how high up I was. 

To my surprise, Jeff also stayed with us and Dana's friend Candice stopped by for a little while.  I hadn't met her before, but she arrived with a smile and even helped out with painting inside my lines. I stepped back and took a breath, and couldn't believe that here I was, PAINTING A MURAL. And four other people chose to hang around and help. They were all participating in this mad idea that had popped in to my head. It was real. It was happening. 

Around midnight, we were finished. We turned off the projector and looked at it from five feet away, ten feet away, a little ways down the street. Straight arrows on a wavy wall. It looked right. I painted a little signature, then we folded ladders, wrapped extension cords, closed paint cans and everyone went home.

That night I lay in the bed where I was housesitting.  My body was exhausted from climbing up and down ladders, reaching, stretching and concentrating for five hours straight. But I was high. Totally high on having made something out of nothing, totally high because my experiment worked.