I look at the students in my classes and the classes I critique and whether they’re 13, 23 or 43, I see this panic and doubt in their eyes when I dare them to design. Whether I ask them to draw sketches for a portfolio, tell them to sew something time consuming or difficult, or suggest they seemingly “destroy” their precious garment, I get a face that says they can’t possibly do that, they don’t know how, they aren’t good at it, and/or it’s going to come out ugly.
And I totally know where they’re coming from.
I know what this panic and doubt looks like because I did the same thing. I DO the same thing. It’s overwhelming to think the work never stops, that you’ve done so much but you may just have to start again and who knows how it’s going to turn out because you’re new at this and inconsistent and it takes so many years to really master it.
But now, I’ve figured out a way to trick myself, psyche myself out, into designing.
The mental psyching out usually starts with me telling myself, “You’re the most AMAZING designer.” And then I’m good for about a minute. At which point I have to tell myself, “No, you’re really amazing. People want to work with you.” And then I’m good for bit more and then, when the dark side creeps back in I say, “You’ll win an award for this….what you’re doing here, right now.” It really does work.
But the physical part, I have to admit it, is more fun. I began by pretending that I wasn’t going to design clothing at all. My job was to paint some doodles and not really care how they came out. So I got a roll of paper they sell at IKEA (but it could even be better if it was paper that didn’t suggest creativity, like newspaper, or cardboard) and laid out a long strip of it. I grabbed really long paint brushes, a chunky pencil and watercolors and stood over the paper and drew some stupid curvy lines. I had some challenges. The long brushes put some distance between me and the work and stopped me from controlling it. It was awkward to paint and walk at the same time. I got dirt on it. It didn’t make any sense so I didn’t care. And the kitties got in the way too.
And this is the 8 ft. monstrosity that I made:
It’s not much to look at. Kind of feathery, organic, brown. I like all those things. But wait! It’s not done! I have SOMEthing all of a sudden. I have a thing, an element with which to design! I can take this and scale it, flip it, turn it on it’s head, repeat it. MAKE GARMENTS FROM IT. Who knows what’s going on or what it is, how it’s made…YET. I’m just seeing how this could be worn. And here are some options. Tell me what you think. :
Maybe it actually is a bunch of feathers. Maybe it’s strips of torn organza, chiffon, and leather. Maybe it’s softly draped cotton voile that’s been painted and dyed.
If I can trick myself, I should be able to trick my students. They’ll come in to class one day and think we’re just goofing around and then all of a sudden they’ve designed a collection.