27 December 2006

wedding bell blues

no, this is not a statement about my personal life. as we teeter on the edge of january, i get to try and predict what i can book myself out for the following year. i am working on my official look book and catalogue for the year, and i am trying to guess how much time i will have for custom projects; which for the most part, consist of weddings.

i have been evolving my wedding policies from the get go, in a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants/learn-as-i-go sort of way. it has been these countless dresses made from scratch that have honed my design and dress making skills to their pursnickety, precise, perfect, insanity that they have become today. they could be satisfying: i've worked in partnership with someone to start from a few pictures torn from magazines, little sketches and swatches of fabric to create some true masterpieces. i have developed some close friendships, and attended some beautiful weddings. but then, there have also been the nightmares: the indecisive, the micromanagement, the person who turns on me, because i just happen to be there. there are the insane deadlines, and the last minute fittings for the out of towners, and then there is the tight schedule. i have had many summers where i had not one day off; i watched wistfully as my friends all took the day off to go to the river in the summer heat. not me. i could not miss the deadline.

two summers ago, i swore i would never do another wedding. i swore up and down that i would do no more custom work. the end of august 2005 found me ill, completely broke, and i hadn't designed or made anything for my wholesale line for a full six months. i was done. and then last winter, i took on a few custom projects. they were suprisingly easy, once i decided that i could say no to them. my friends reaction to me taking these projects was, "oh, so you needed the money." actually, it wasn't. i like my clients and their projects were interesting.

i took them on with no trepidation, because i made a few things clear to myself, and in turn to my prospective clients:

1. that the project is something that i want to do. i can do almost anything, but if i don't want to do something, it takes so much more energy to do than i could ever be worth any amount of money. i have taken on way too many things that i have no desire to do (please do not ever ask me to do alterations!). look at my website, or come in and look at my collection. does it resonate with what you want?

2. can you trust me? i have a pretty specific design aesthetic, and a knack for talking to someone, and knowing what to make for them. i have been doing this successfully for years. i listen to you, i take clues from our conversation as to who you are and what i can make for you. when i hire someone to do something for me, i choose them carefully, so that i can tell them what i want, and then let them do their job. if you want "that exact dress" that is listed for $10,000. for $500., i am not the person to talk to. if you want something inspired by this picture or that other idea, then let's talk.

3. i have to charge for my time. i've learned the hard way, that a custom dress isn't just the time spent cutting and sewing, but also drawing, drafting, sourcing (finding and procuring all of your materials; getting your fabric wholesale, zippers, lining, interfacing, thread, hooks and eyes, beads ribbon, etc.), fitting, fitting and fitting. i know how long this takes me. i am proficient in what i do, but i need to take all of this into account. i don't get to charge for the nightmares, i haven't figured out a pay scale for that yet.

4. i need to know that we can work together. this is most important. i will talk to anyone about their project, and this first consultation is always free. it is an opportunity to feel to feel them out, what the timeline is, their budget, and what their project will entail. but most of all it lets me know whether working with them is feasible. can we get along? most weddings are 6-9 months with the last couple of weeks spent fitting and putting the last finishing details. even a simple custom project can last 2 weeks to a couple of months.

i am not quite sure how much of my time i will be able to dedicate to custom projects in the coming year, but feel free to call me for a consultation. now is the time.

and! i don't just make wedding dresses. i actually like to make fun fancy dresses, skirts and corsets too, which you can wear more than once. just wait until you see the sun dress designs i will have once i have time to make what's dancing around in my head. spring is sooner than you think.

24 December 2006

my inability to be monogamous to one art form

i am not so fond of new year's resolutions nor making promises that i can't keep. i have been sinking due to old habits. there are the barriers that we put up that once protected us, but now are a detriment to my survival and especially to my ability to thrive. i have trained myself prioritize that which i thought would give me the best gain in the short term, and in the long run it has led to apathy and stagnation. once upon a time i would have an idea in my head, and then i would have to create it right away. my excitement would keep me singularly focused until i finished it; be it an outfit, an art project, a letter, musical piece or choreography. this has given way to finishing contracts and preparing for shows, making the things that i have made time and time again that are guaranteed to sell, which has led me to the assumption that i don't have time to do anything else. i have been hiding at home, avoiding my studio, because i can't make another garter, another flower. i have been hiding at home wondering whether i should just give up: on my business, my work, my life.

it was pointed out to me by dear friends that i just wasn't myself anymore. hard for me to hear, but i was so grateful to hear it once the initial hurt wore off. the worst part is how innocently these things begun and then how they just snowballed into a desperate situation. it is easy to make excuses: i'm too busy, the holidays are depressing, these things that i really want to do are frivolous, that i have to be a grown up (whatever that means), that earth life sucks, that i can't make a difference, and i am truly very tired. why am i tired? because, playing a part takes a lot out of me. it is amazing how much time i can spend resisting something. i waste entire days resisting. resisting going to work, resisting washing the dishes, resisting filling orders, resisting getting ready for shows, resisting being alive. i don't have much to show for that part except that i am overweight, exhausted uncomfortable in my own skin and miserable.

my main challenge here is not to run away. this is how i have dealt with things in the past. this doesn't solve any of my existential dilemmas, but postpones them so that they build up to bursting at the seams, only to burst forth knocking me flat on my ass. my challenge here is to stay put, and change my habits one by one starting today.

i am giving myself until the end of the year off from work. not a huge amount of time, but enough time for me to establish a few good habits that involve trusting my gut. against all odds, every time i am proven over and over again that this is always right. in the times i have trusted myself and gone a different way, or when i have talked myself out of something or into something only to find that was the most absolutely wrong way to go. this means:

1. giving myself what i want when i want it.
2. making time to do the things i think i don't have time for such as but not limited to: playing music, dance, drawing, knitting, play with my friends, reading books, looking up words in the dictionary, wandering around and looking at things, following my distractions. i all but decided that none of these things were possible for me, because i didn't have time for them, but they are what inspires me creatively, and enables me to make my creative living. i have spent a lot of time hating what i am doing, which does not help me pay my bills either.
3. saying what i think out loud to those close to me, before deciding for them how they will react; whether an expression of affection, or a notice of self-destructive behavior.
4. movement. some sort of movement everyday, both physical and emotional.
5. time to myself. i am a solitary creature, and i need to be left to my own devices to allow me to separate my own individual voice from the rest of the world.
6. quality time with friends.

and last

7. letting go. letting go of the people i love the most. this is the most difficult challenge. my best intentions lead me to hold on and to hold on tight, but i cannot heal anyone's soul for them, nor take away their pain. if i can let them go, and trust that they are capable of healing themselves in their own way, i can honour them as an equal in how i wish to be treated. i hope i can be courageous enough to realize in my heart of hearts that this is the only way to keep anyone near me, and i know this because i feel the urge to flee when i feel anyone grabbing at me.

the most important part of the process is self-realization. only then do i have the opportunity to heal what has come up. i have come a long way in the past several months, but the teetering on the edge of "almost there" can be discouraging, which has lead to the rise of complacency and apathy.

in talking to my friends, i have found that there are quite a few people in my position; directly related to me, and we affect each other. what i do and what you do and what everyone does adds that ripple effect to the entire community. we can either feed each others' disfunction by not saying or acting upon that which we observe in each other and in ourselves. we settle in to our complacency, because it seems easy. i have been shown time and time again that this way which seems easy is the most difficult. i have made some major changes in the past several months, and then i slowed down to a trickle. why? because things were going well, and making a daily conscious effort seems like something that is temporary, because the effort is made during times of adversity, and once the adversity passes, then it is easy to lose momentum, because things are okay. and okay is usually functional, but not completely resolved. i have chosen the path i have chosen, and i manage to move along on it, but i have not mastered it by any means, nor have i been able to keep a steady pace. but with each step forward, i am making progress. my lesson here is to be patient AND keep moving forward. moving forward following my instincts, my whims and my heart. sounds easy, yes? surprisingly, it is easy compared to the alternative.

i just tend to think too much, overanalyze, and talk myself in and out of things, instead of just doing or saying; which gets me into trouble. this over-thinking, having conversations with people in my head, preemptively judging how they may or may not react, deciding for them how they feel, or what they might want, or not want, has seriously compromised me and my relationships. everyone is where they are, and by no consequence of what i say or do. my best contribution to any relationship is my personal integrity (which i am still figuring out), not to conform to my preconceived notions of how they might want me to be. i have been that pleaser for too long, and it has not served me well at all. and what i keep coming upon, is that most people don't really like her very much anyway. why is it so hard for me to just be myself? some days i hardly know who i am. i am watching myself from the outside, completely appalled by what is falling out of my mouth. this is where i need to keep that constant consciousness, because i close down and become that false version that has been hard wired to be my default version. i know no one likes her very much, i don't like her either. she is controlling and diminutive, she judges to the minutia, and will do anything to make you like her (mostly to her detriment), which makes you dislike her even more. i have to pull her out wire by wire, sinew by sinew.