Project Inquiry for Artists

Do you choose a project or does the project choose you?

My answer: “It could be both.” Based on my experience, projects evolve, and not necessarily in a particular order. This is true of pending projects as well as of past ones.

For example, upcoming class dates (March 11-12) are posted on my office wall. On/before March 11 I must gather objects (12 of them) and prepare material for a wall hanging project that will be completed during a two day class.

Here is a lens into my process. With the date looming, I begin to curate potential color opportunities. Color makes a central backbone for a theme. Mood begins to emerge once color is decided.

Initially I elected to design “A Few of My Favorite Things,” with blue, my favorite color, for the upcoming class. My background would be comprised of  varying shades of my favorite color. I envisioned my background to be varying shades of blue, since my stash yields a plethora of potentials in this realm. Before long, there are a dozen blue pieces from which to choose. 

Unexpectedly, I changed to a green background after rummaging through a trunk and two plastic bins where more green fabrics caught my eye. Then I realized my efforts were influenced, at least in part, by a recent creation “Ripples of the Guided Heart,” in which greens and bronze were dominant. I took a breather to clear my head. Within a week, a completely different palette emerged: a rich, burgundy color, one that could be paired with deep navy and tan. It reminded me of the old saying, “The third time is the charm.”

As I selected materials and began to arrange possibilities, the theme of the project came into focus. Jotting words that represent the feelings of this project helped to create momentum. Often I’ll write words that represent the feelings my future project will generate. For “A Few of My Favorite Things” these are the words that came to mind: royal, regal, sumptuous, rich, vital, forceful.  

In the planning stage, I gather everything that might prove useful. In this instance, beads of garnet, red crystal and lapis match the colors of materials displayed on a side table. I leave everything on the table in the center of my studio. As I walk by, I rearrange colors, move bead samples, or otherwise change the focus. It’s all part of the prelude. The real curating begins with a moment of truth when I place the first stitch or otherwise affix a segment to the project.

Every design and each project are different yet some elements remain the same. Sometimes it’s the beads. In other cases, I find focus with a single element. The path meanders, transcending form as it morphs  into being.

At any point, a window (a jumping off point) within the project could lead to a completely different result. In the aforementioned Ripple project, I originally envisioned a tree as the central element. The finished project had no tree at all.

In gathering the threads of my process for you, here’s what I currently see:

  1. Develop a theme
  2. Determine project thrust – color, words, found objects, stones, crystals
  3. Gather materials – fabrics, beads, embellishments
  4. Curate materials
  5. Create breathing space
  6. Refine materials and narrow focus
  7. Begin

P.S. If this sequence doesn’t produce the result that pleases you, repeat.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you choose a project or does the project choose you?