Djcnor’s Weblog

Archive for the ‘arts and the economy’ Category

I’ve been viewing possible studio space over the last week in Unit 5 and STEW. The reasons I’m planning to move out of the St. Lawrence Textile Centre are (1) that I think I can get water and a toilet and a kitchen for the same amount and (2) the retail aspect is not working for me and I don’t really need it for the latest version of my business plans.

It amazes me that there is so little studio space available in a city with a university that offers degrees in several different arts that require such space. And that’s not the only school in the area offering such programs. Furthermore, Norwich has plenty of empty space, whole office buildings totally empty, lots of empty storefronts, whole strips of empty storefronts with office space over them.

After all, I have documented in this blog that regions “invaded” by numbers of artists soon develop other cultural amenities and attract other businesses. The whole neighborhood gets upgraded. Of course, by that time, the area has outpriced almost all of the artists, who then move on to another dilapidated area and upgrade that one. But still, it’s to any city’s advantage to invite the artists into such areas.

I’ve started collecting web stories of that strategy being used successfully in the UK. I’ll print these out and bring them along when I approach the correct council or tourist bureau person. If I managed that for Norwich, I would have left a considerable positive legacy.

A few days ago, I made my first machine-knitted garment since I began to get re-acquainted with the knitting machine. (Gotta thank Anne Lavene for the loan of her machine in doing that.)

It’s a very simple garment, basically a sleeveless tunic, meant to be relatively tight to the body from the arm-holes up but loosening as it falls to the hips where it’s quite floaty. It turned out pretty good, just not good enough to call the prototype the finished pattern. I want to play with the neckline and the arm scrye (to be a bit classier in my wording) and the bottom edge before I finalize it as a part of my line.

I used four thin yarns together, the yarns chosen to produce irridescence because they were opposites on the color wheel, and I’m quite happy with the resulting fabric. In fact, it’s the fabric that everyone who examines the piece comments on. (The little negative nellie person who always sits on one of my shoulders whispers that this is only an indication of how minimally attractive the actual garment is, but I’ll let you decide that for yourself when I post a picture here.)

In any case, I’m perfectly willing not to sell this version until I get a better one done early this week. In the meanwhile, it will serve as a swatch for the fabric. I now have three fabrics in my swatch collection with more to come rapidly. Got to get busy fast with the camera.

It was very easy to name the fabric used for the tunic. I merely draped it over one knee and thought “Mermaid Skin”. Perfect. Now I’ll bet you can’t wait to see the pictures. Soon… very soon.

My aim is to make unique fabrics, using either the knitting machine, my loom, or painting plain fabric. I may do some screen printing later on as well. I will also make garments of these fabrics as I develop the fabrics themselves, to show how they perform in garments, and to sell. But I want the making and selling of bespoke fabrics to be my main business.

And all this will be done out of my space at St. Lawrence Textile Centre.

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=59122441305&ref=ts

And I will post pictures and chronicle the progress I make as I have time in this space. Are you interested? Let me know.

I’m rather up in the air at the moment about this blog. I do not want to shut it down, because I have a new purpose I want it to serve. But since I have to make that purpose pay, and writing a blog does not pay, I may decide not to write as often, and my posts may take totally different forms than they have up till now. Perhaps I will be writing on my other blog instead, as it is more relevant to my other subject.

I have spend a good part of today working on a crochet design for a vest or waistcoat in rayon chenille. I wanted it to be a non-traditional shape and row arrangement, something that was in the spirit, more or less, of the kinds of designs Ann Lavene does. I began at what I though of as a middle front point, as I know that is one of her favorite design elements because it disguises any stomach pouch. So I widened from the point, varying my stitches, searching for ones I fill the most space with in the smallest amount of time while not leaving too big holes in the “cloth” I’m forming. When it got wide enough for the front of a garment, perhaps a little more, I started working the rows even alternating two stitches. The edge of the piece began to look rather like a curvy parenthesis, or a face profile. I wasn’t at all impressed until I turned it on it’s side, when it became a cutaway side of a front with a middle front point where the closure would be placed. Now it made sense. I began to shape the armhole and “grow” it towards the center back with the idea that the second half would be its mirror, the two laced together in the back, with a strap coming up either side of the back to meet the curvy parenthesis top.

I stopped, drew a picture in my sketchbook of what I had in mind, and wrote down my notes for the first prototype of the design. I intend it to have the possibility of fitting  a wide range of sizes. We’ll see.

In any case, I’m proud of myself for the concept.

I already have some critiques, though. Anne’s designs are, in general, much more drapey, much looser on the body than this one. I’ll have to give some thought to that.

It’s a pity I don’t have any of my fabric paints at home. I have some idea for other items that I think will fit right in as well, but no way to play and try out my ideas this week. I HAVE to find out when it is OK to go to the centre and work on ideas.

Today has been a good day.

It didn’t start out that way. I had to turn up at the job centre first thing to report that for the 12th two-week period I had not found a job.

That could be a good thing. My next visit to the job centre will be an extra long interview supposedly to figure out what kind of help might actually result in my finding a job. I have two proposals for them: Either send me to teacher training or help me set up my textile business. Wonder which one they’ll support, if either, or will they send me out to take the job in the chicken processing factory with all the other immigrants?

I had a few errands to run, none of which went the way I had hoped. Long lines. Library fines. Place not open. But I survived.

My objective at home was to begin sorting out which things from my “studio” I would take to “live” at the textile centre. Now, understand, this was a joyous task in the first place because the room I call the “studio” is overstuffed and cramped. It’s a tiny little bedroom without much in the way of natural light anyhow, with three bookcases, a floor loom and a folding chair to sit in while weaving, a sewing machine table and sewing machine (from the US which I daren’t risk with UK electricity but I couldn’t part with because it really is a very nice one and was my Mom’s), and endless boxes of fabric, beads, partially completed projects, supplies of many types, completed projects that I don’t quite know what to do with, writings and records, and on and on and on.

Walking into the room is an exercise in balance and precise footing. Accomplishing anything in the room, aside from weaving,  is out of the question. Weaving is uncomfortable, and warping the loom, even for a belt-width warp, was a job for a contortionist, which at 58 I am not.

But there was no place else for the stuff, until now.

So it was a joyous task to start. But in sorting it out and choosing the things to go to the textile centre, I discovered over and over again that I had produced good work, work I still thought was excellent five years or more later, work that I hadn’t thought that much of at the time I did it that I really like now. Finishing jobs that I hesitated to do at the time but now feel perfectly confident in managing. Work that I will be proud to display in my space at the centre to show off what I can do.

There’s a 5 yard 30 inch wide chenille shadow-weave gamp with some really beautiful weaves and color combinations! There are at least five crazy quilt square pillows that are really fine work (though they need to be remounted since the cheap lining fabric I used for the pillow bases has faded.) There are yards of fabric experimentally printed with my three coordinating screens in screen print class. There’s my upholstery weave  and my double-weave projects. There are T-shirts printed with styrofoam blocks that are rather nice (They’d be even better if the T-shirts were black or at least not white. Hmm.) Every corner I excavated, every box I opened held things that deserved to come out into the light and be shown off.

And I had been thinking I might not have enough work ready for a good display! How could I have forgotten so much?

I had been a bit worried about something else, getting the things I wanted to take to the centre there for a price I could afford. A two-mile taxi ride is a significant expense these days.

Halfway through my efforts, long after the mail had come, the mail slot clunked. There was a brochure for a new taxi company offering bargain try-out prices and bragging about their large-size cars.

Jump, and a net shall appear?

A few days ago, I watched a rerun of one of my favorite shows, Monk. Monk had learned to swim…from a book. He’d never taken the risk of actually doing it, of course. Natalie quoted a relative as saying “Jump and a net will appear.” Eventually, of course, Monk was forced to do just that, and there was no net.

Over the last five months, I’ve been blogging from time to time on my hunt of a new job. (Some of these will be under job hunt, some under jobhunt, maybe even under jobhunting. Whatever. I attempt to write “perfect” thoughts. Editing comes later if at all. I learned that from NaNoWriMo.) I haven’t found a job yet, and I will not give up the search. There are things I want to do before leaving the UK, among them some more exploring of the continent, that will not be possible otherwise.

None-the-less, I think I’ve made it clear that what I really would love to be able to do is to make a living from all my various textile skills, preferably all of them at once, something I thought beyond the realm of possibility in the city I live in.

And that not withstanding, I decided to investigate establishing a business using all these skills. I made up a card. I enquired at a department store that sells fabrics and found that they DO get enquiries about having things sewn for customers. I let a tailoring business know I was open to dressmaking commissions. I posted the card on a sort of bulletin board at a local store. I did some research on what local repair and alteration businesses were charging. I enquired about the rental cost for a room in  a community building thinking about offering classes.

Perhaps that’s when there began to be signs that this could work. The room rental was affordable. Considering what is affordable in our present situation, that’s amazing. 

But strangely enough, the best thing I did was to get back in touch with a local organization, WEETU, that I first became involved with when I first got here. They hold courses for women  who are thinking of setting up businesses, and after a spring and summer of not finding a market on my own, I took the course. Things did not get better, and the course materials lie hidden away in a box somewhere on the premises.

Anyhow, I looked them up with the intention of talking about what support might be available and never got a call back, but in looking up their number on the web, I saw an announcement for the establishment of a local textile centre in one of the many unused churches in the area. It had happened in the middle of last month, just about the time I got sick of doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results and decided to do something different, however impractical, based on past experience.

Wow! I researched the person establishing it. I asked WEETU to help me contact her. I arranged to visit the centre today.

I didn’t see many visits from the public. But the people there were my kind of people, designers, inventive folks who do more than one thing,  who make things that don’t really fit well into local prosaic demand. Lovely folks.

I made a deal to donate my time in exchange for having a space there. I’m in. Such an amazing opportunity with such a low monetary investment.

I was wishing I had more space to work with the new-old sewing machine at home. I’ve got it. I can take a lot of what is in my studio and use it to  “decorate” my space there, thus making more space. I can teach there. I can work there in ways that are chancy here at home. I can collaborate and help other members. But the very best of all is:

I have a reason to do what I do.

No, better than that, there’s another best thing of all. In a few weeks, with considerable publicity, the organizer is going to inviter her clients to come and see the place and what we’re doing. I jumped, and a net appeared. It may not be a net that will support me, but just like Monk, I may not sink.

This is a rant! It is not ONLY a rant! it’s a full blown one, continuous in the back of my mind whatever I’m doing, and I’m sick of it being there, sick of hiding it to fit in. It’s born of four years of  trying like crazy to make a life here, trying to locate a few people with passion for what they do, whether they do it for pay or otherwise. It’s born of living in a whole county, or so it seems, of settlers, folks who settle for jobs that sound boring and are boring from the very start. Folks who don’t MIND that! Folks who think that it’s silly and useless to care about bigger things. No, I take that back, they care, but they care in the same measured deliberate way that care for anything else, half-heartedly, enough to carry a bag with a slogan on it, or to walk for a charity, or some other activity of minimal inconvenience and minimal benefit. 

I mind! I think everybody minds when they’re in their teens, before someone convinced them to take that first job that’s just to pay the rent. And I guess I believe that most who start out minding having settled for less than they really wanted end up satisfied enough to tell themselves that it has all come out for the best. Maybe I even believe they’re right when it comes to them.

So what happened to me? Was it being in graduate school? Spending my time among folks who had that passion for their work and sensing that I didn’t have it? That I had the willingness to learn and reason and do everything that needed done, but that I didn’t care as much as they did, not enough to spend enormous amounts of hours in the lab so as to get those results before anyone else did.

Was it finding my passion, all those lovely textile skills that I love developing and sharing only to find that the whoe textile system had been simplified and shipped out and there was little appreciation left of something done exquisitly? Was it that it took so long to find a way to make that my life, and then, even in that, finding myself in a job in which I didn’t get to express all that passion, all that creative urge?

Was it daring to ask for a good balance of life at the same time?

All I know is I’m 58 and still full to the brim with life and passion and an unwillingness to settle, and it’s driving me into poverty and I don’t know what to do about it, because I cannot help caring as much as I do.

Do I just have to throw up my hands and go for it, just set myself to live however I have to in order to do it? Is there anyone else out there like me? Well, is there?

Do I see a flicker? A candle in the distance? An LED over in the bushes? An early lightening bug?

Did I predict it or what? Just when I decided to put more of my efforts into making a business of my own, a company called this morning about a substitute teacher placement.

The placement was about 15 miles out of town in a village. I was unprepared. Heck, the last I heard, on Friday when I called them up to see what was happening with the application I’d put in about two months ago, since the required criminal record check had come in (I’m innocent as the driven snow.) a month ago already. So I woke up assuming the most that could happen was a call back about where things stood. I said I needed a day’s notice to figure out the logistics of getting to a place out of town since I use public transit.

My day was all planned already. I would work some on the workhouse costume, which really is reaching the end now. I’d repair the hole in my one pair of jeans which I wear essentially every day (I’ve been putting off scouring the charity shops for a good fitting “new” pair.) I’d take a bath and wash my hair. I’d make the card for my aspirational clothing repair and alteration and re-fashioning and costuming and other textile enterprises, the business named Ragamuffin or Threadneedle Enterprises in my mind. I’d post here, of course.  I’d pay first of the month bills. I have no problem filling these jobless days, really I don’t.

Well, one way or another, it looks like they might just possibly be coming to an end. Not that I haven’t received one more rejection in the past few days, but even that one came with a comment that they wanted to keep my info for other openings coming soon.

I know which one’s the most practical. I also know which one interests me most. They are not the same. I’m trying to think of the more practical one as a way of getting the financial means to do the one I really want to do. And I’ll do a little praying to help me sort it all out in my mind.

For years, my household has joked that the powers that be have us on a just-in-time plan. Once again, it would seem that is true. Is the economic cloud the world has been under lifted a bit? What a way to live!


Djcnor’s Weblog

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