Nancy Crow Over My Shoulder

It's a funny thing,

art making. Just when we release our inhibitions about our work not being good enough, we can develop a desire to make it better. Such was the case when working on a new project.

Recently, I needed to develop something fairly simple to demonstrate a workbook format. Typical to my way of working, I needed to struggle with color and theme for a while until I could head out on my merry stitching way. My typical way of building a Passport workbook is to create the inner pages first (as in the sample above), followed by the cover. Much like most novel jackets, the cover somehow reflects the story told within and it doesn’t make sense to me to build a cover pre-maturely, before the scope of the story is realised. But, being the self-contradictory bird that I am, this time around, I made a cover early on. Something struck me as being appropriate, so I kept noodling this idea off on the sidelines while I worked through more of the inner pages. This cover wanna-be became a distraction. When the time came to bind the book, this cover was still in progress. I tried to follow my own lead, believing that it would somehow magically make sense when all was joined together. I was less than happy with the results.

I tried to add hand stitching. I tried to embellish my way out of the ill-conceived cover, but it was not clicking. And then I heard Nancy…

“You have to work incredibly hard.”  “I’m trying to make inroads into understanding about where I can go with the work.
And part of that is by doing the work, seeing results, analyzing the results, and part is just simply saying,
“You know, you can do better than this.” – Nancy Crow

I love this quote in part for its message, but more for its slight of phrase. When I read it aloud in class, it would seem that I am about to express a feeling of  working hard, seeing results and simply saying “this is good enough – this is me – this is my art, and who is to judge it.” But Nancy expects more of herself and by extension, of us. By not harshly judging our work, we can pass though a gateway to releasing creativity. We can learn to love creating and cultivate an addiction to it. This is a worthy initial milestone and an attitude that fosters courage. What we have to be careful of is complacency. When is good enough no longer good enough? We all have to set our own pace. This cover was definitely one of those “not good enough” moments.  So I set about tearing apart my front page, and with every ripped stitch, I felt better. I was happy to embrace my flop for what it was and kiss it goodbye. Of course, I was also short on time, so I compromised. I laid a foundation for a better cover. It is not complete and I have plans for more hand beading and stitching, but this version feels so much better.

There’s nothing wrong with chasing down an idea. There’s nothing wrong with working different and changing up methods and routines. What is wrong is to deny that sometimes you can do better. Self-criticism is not always a bad thing. If you can live through the very short-term  sting of failing, the pay off is sweet. I was a happy idiot when I packaged this project off to its destination. It was unfinished, but headed in the right direction. I can live with that



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