Thursday, April 25, 2013

Always make two ...

In the last few weeks I've had a few conversations (with other artists) about how we work or (more accurately) what works for each of us. One of the turning points in my creative process was the concept of "always make two". I wish I could say I'd come to this process through logic, but it actually started as a cost-saving measure.

At the time (several years ago) I was involved in a lot of collaborative and round robin altered book projects. I felt I needed to remember what I'd done in each book, and also (rather feebly) I *really* don't like letting my art go. It's not that I'm not generous (I like to think I am) but I grow quite attached to the finished object, and merely holding it takes me back through all the positive emotions I had while creating it. I don't think liking to hang onto my stuff makes me crazy. I'm just saying.

In the beginning I would photocopy what I'd done in other people's altered books before I sent them on their way. Given the volume of stuff I was doing at the time, this was getting to be quite expensive, not to mention that I'd have to drag the books to wherever to have them copied, fiddle with getting copiers to handle thick books with pages that were never ever exactly 8.5x11. One day it occurred to me that  I could easily make two pages in two books at the same time while I had all the materials spread out on the work table.

And it *really* paid off when I created pages with interactive bits to them (cards in pockets, flaps to lift, etc).

The more I did it, the more creating two of everything at the same time paid off. Eventually I figured out why this was so satisfying and beneficial for me ...

Firstly (as mentioned above) it cures the separation anxiety I feel when my art is sent off to someone else.

Secondly, it allows me to experiment more freely in the middle of a project without worrying that I'll have to go back to step one if it all suddenly goes pear-shaped (i.e.: what the heck was I thinking?!). Since I work in a printshop, I'm quite accustomed to making things in multiples and will often make three or four of something even if only one is required ~ just so I'll have a backup, and be able to mess about with a few different directions in the middle of creating. It's probably important to mention here that I tend to work small and with modest materials, so the cost of doing four of something is not going to break the bank.

Thirdly, keeping one of everything I make is like having a bank of prototypes for future projects. I can easily refer back to a previous object to see how I attached this to that, or how that paint looked on that surface, etc. It's like my own handmade reference manual of how I've been successful (and also when things have failed ~ which is almost as useful sometimes!).

Lastly (and not insignificantly) it's been a great help in those times when I feel like I haven't got a creative bone in my body ... faced with a project deadline or an unfamiliar material, a glance at my shelves says in the most positive way possible: "you've done it before, you can do it again."

So that's how it happened ... the two of everything habit, and I really *DO* make two of everything ... I leave you with the following ... two versions of a postcard I made for Ed Varney's Mayworks Postcard Exhibit. As you can see each card has slight variations, and when it came time to send one away, I didn't know which to keep ... I liked the shape on the head on one card better, but the shape of the hands on the other. In the end I closed my eyes, shuffled them for a minute and chose at random. Do I love the one I kept? Of course I do.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Mysterious mail ...

Top (right and left) Envelope and letter from France. Bottom (right and left) my collage card written in return.
As a person who is sometimes in the habit of exchanging mail art with person or persons unknown, it shouldn't really come as a surprise to have something unexpected and beautiful slide through the mail slot in my otherwise mundane front door. Last week I received an elegant white envelope from a mysterious stranger in France. From the arresting image on the front of the envelope to the single sheet of dreamily poetic prose inside, it was truly an enigma wrapped in a riddle.

My long-distant high school French classes came back to me in bits and pieces, but well enough for me to extract the letter's meaning ... once I'd sussed the quirks and delicacies of the writer's beautiful hand. That small pleasures can be a warm hand that reaches out to you ... or a solitary walk in the forest waiting to be reunited with the one you love, or best of all ... to receive a few handwritten words from you in return ...

Seriously swoon-inducing stuff if I were so inclined ... but, alas, so practical am I that all I could think about was the sheer pleasure this little letter had given me and the least I could do was to write those few handwritten words in return ... so I did. And while the half hour or so that I struggled (surely not struggled!) with working out the letter's meaning gave me such exquisite pleasure, it seemed a poor exchange to write my card in something so prosaic as English! No doubt there are poets who, writing in English, can induce a swoon or two (and if pressed I could produce a list of them), but I think there's little chance I'm one of them ... so I decided to reply in French ... knowing full well that M. Jean-Pierre (for whom French is a doddle) will no doubt find my French appalling, and perhaps (hopefully?) amusing and endearing ... oh well, no matter, it's the thought in the gift that counts, they say ...