Big projects have them. Usually what keeps me motivated is the process – I like making things, all sorts of things and that has extended to my new project: making patterns (especially because it’s new to me and I’m all lit up with learning).
I had hoped to finish the paper mache ship pattern in the Adirondacks over the holiday weekend. Planned on it really – no distractions, great light, plenty of room etc. but I’m back in thick, hot NYC summer and I‘ve still got a long way to go. Often, if something is taking me a very long time it’s because I’m lingering in the process – I don’t want it to end. In this case a lot of the fun designy stuff (like the cover) is done. And the project has gotten bigger:
I had made the executive decision to keep it small and manageable – just one ship – one small, pretty ship and I was nearly done with that.
But then I reversed that executive decision and decided to make it a collection – 3 vessels. The original small ship, a little boat and a large ship (similar to “The Gulnare” one of my favorites) – a big billowy full sailed affair. And the large ship pattern had to be designed pretty much from scratch – I didn’t have a reliable large ship template. That’s a lot of designing, and a lot of step photos and instructions, editing, testing etc. A lot.
This morning I woke up feeling daunted by the hugeness of the task and frustrated about not being where I hoped I would. I re- read a post from James Clear that I keep a quote from pinned to my wall:
It’s great advice. Great, simple advice that I still need to be reminded of often. The size of the project has changed and it requires a new strategy to finish. Rather than pushing hard towards a completion date or relying on my enjoyment of the work to motivate me I’ve got it on my schedule everyday – 3 hours - first thing in the morning: photographing, compiling, testing and editing.
I can’t wait for you to try the ship patterns and I know that focusing on the schedule rather than that goal is the most reliable way to get there. If something, some goal has been eluding you I recommend trying the approach.
One of my favorite parts of making paper mache ships ( and other things) is collecting words and parts of words and letters to include. I’m always collecting them and when I’m ready to make something, or sometimes when I’m wandering and inviting inspiration I sort through the box – I love the happenstance of it.
I think if you want to make progress, find your best work and ideas, you must be willing to start where you are – as awkward or small as that might be. I’m usually very willing to do that – it’s one of my main life skills (the other is that I am insanely persistent, relentless even, the cool hand luke of art and craft). As soon as I started to compile the patterns I’m working on I realized that video instruction would be helpful – there’s nothing like a demonstration and it helps with language barriers on tricky steps. I have no video making knowledge or equipment beyond my semi broken iphone and a part of a tripod I found in the trash but I put something together with stuff I had around that’s working well enough and I wanted to show you in case you’re in need of a similar solution.
I used a table lamp clamp I got at a yardsale, a wood clothespin and 2 file clips. The clips slide in and out of the clothespin easily and I can position it in a bunch of useful ways – it’s getting the job done. I’m looking forward to getting better but having fun being a mess and experimenting. The whole pattern making experience has put me into that curious and driven kind of place that I was in when I began 7 years ago.
Today I was taking stills ( I don’t use the phone for that) and making videos for the next pattern – paper mache ships and boats (start saving your cereal boxes). I’m hoping to finish the photography tomorrow morning, test the rough draft this week, put it all together over the holiday weekend and have it available just after that.
paint box 7/29
The ships and boats are a very satisfying project to make and I’m excited about sharing it.
Thanks so much to everybody who has purchased the bird pattern. I’m putting a post together of birds made by y’all and if you’d like to be included you can send a photo to me at: ann at ann wood handmade dot com (please put bird photo in the subject).
I’m a big fan of Abby Glassenberg’s Podcast : While She Naps. I love having things to listen to while I’m doing mountains of sewing and her show is one of my favorites. She asked me to be on a while ago and I took a leap and said yes. It’s definitely something way out of my comfort zone but I’m happy I did it. Abby is a great interviewer and we had fun. We talk about creativity, process, sewing, selling patterns, and all sorts of other things. You can listen to the episode here and below is a quote that I love from a book we talked about:
“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure.They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”
Catching the Big Fish – David Lynch
new songbird in progress
The little bird sewing pattern is finally here! My goodness- it was an epic effort – this first pattern. I hope you enjoy it! You can purchase it here.
Little Birds includes a link to the free video tutorial “how to make a perfect bird leg” – useful with this pattern and for all your bird leg needs as well as a link to a video on sewing the bird body that you will receive within the PDF when you purchase the pattern. I hope you make birds! If you do I’d love to see – you can post photos here if you like. And if you’d like to be notified when more patterns are available (there is a ship on the horizon…..) you can sign up here.
I keep adding things to the bird pattern. Last week I decided it needs videos so last weekend I shot how to sew the body, ( it’s the trickiest part) you’ll get a link to that with the pattern download. And today I shot “how to make a perfect bird leg”.
It’s one of the things I’m most often asked about, the little bird legs, so I thought I would share that now as a gift. It’s my first ever video! It should be below - if not click here.
How to Make a Perfect Bird Leg
*measurements are approximate for a bigger foot use more wire and create a bigger loop
* and one correction – if you find the 18 gauge wire to difficult use a HIGHER gauge wire – I incorrectly said lower gauge
tools and materials list:
18 or 19 gauge steel wire (hillman is my favorite brand)
floral tape (flora is my favorite brand)
needle nose pliers
I hope you make bird legs! And stay tuned for the little bird pattern – it’s almost there. If you’d like email updates about new patterns and workshops etc. you can subscribe here. Be sure to check the “make something” box on the signup form.
*This is a long post and there are a lot of birds in it.
I’ve been working on a pattern for my little birds and as I’m reaching the end of that long process of drafting and adjusting the pattern, shooting the steps, writing the instructions, testing the pattern, compiling the files and materials and resource lists etc., etc. I’ve been thinking a lot about my long history with these funny little fabric birds. Releasing this pattern feels like a big step in that history and involves some letting go.
The things I make are a large part of my identity and that is maybe even a little more true of these earnest little birds. They came about sort of accidentally – it’s funny how one thing leads to another and strange things you could not invent occur.
How I came to Make Thousands and Thousands of Little Fabric Birds
In the fall 2005 I happened into a ruined Edwardian gown. I wish I had a photo. It was in pieces and all of it too delicate and too fragile to even display. At the same time I was designing a holiday window for a shop on Orchard Street. The gown was shimmery and twinkly and I wanted to incorporate it. The featheriness of the fraying fabric suggested birds and I began to experiment with sewing a bird shape. I counted – I made 60 failures before I came to a shape that sort of worked. The first birds were fancy: miss haversham on the left and bertha whimsy emerson on the right.
I hadn’t intended to sell them but people wanted to buy them so I did and then I made more.
And more. And more.
I also photographed them. They went to summer camp,
put on plays,
Continue reading “a history of birds” »
When I’m making ships I spend a lot of time with a big box of pale ruined dresses and parts of dresses, edwardian mostly, and each time I go through it I pull out little bits to save – things too fragile to use but too precious to part with or things I find so interesting as they are I don’t want to change them.
A tattered bit of very old silk lace with tiny bright green beads attached to each point – it was a cuff – it must have been a magnificent garment.
I finished 2 more ships today and photographed them – one similar to The Louisa May and another paper mache.
This style of ship is also one of the patterns I’ll be publishing and I spent some time breaking down the steps today. I would also love to teach a paper mache ship class in person – it’s such a satisfying project to make.
PS – all the new ships will be available in the shop tomorrow (6/5).
I got up extra early this morning to begin photographing more new ships. This time of year the nicest light happens between 6:30 and 7 am. I’ll do the same again tomorrow – the ships are tricky to photograph – they need lots of light and are almost constantly in motion – lots of waiting around for stillness.
You might notice that I’ve rearranged my place. I have stuck with pretty much the same arrangement in every apartment I’ve lived in. I tried changing it a couple years ago with unhappy results – nothing about it worked – I couldn’t concentrate and it just felt wrong. I got inspired to try again a few weeks ago and I’m very happy with it. From a purely practical perspective I have light where I need it and it makes sense with the electrical outlets. It feels more open and spacious and new and the plants seem to like it. The sewing machine is next to the largest window now – it’s a huge improvement. Sometime when I’m being tidier I’ll show you the whole thing – right now I’m kind of a disaster in that department.
I’ll post some more ship photos in the afternoon tomorrow ( they will all be in my shop on thursday 6/5).