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Give Conformity the Bird: Its Time to Show Some Underpants

Ahh spring brings birds and nests, and as I enjoy the final days of my thick wool capes and boots and prepare to don featherlight sheer skirts and wispy crocheted shawls, I turn to my sketchbooks.

It’s time to introspect and develop new themes and let go of fear, doubt, and uncertainty. It’s time to stop fitting in and Burst Out.  For my faithful readers, thank you for joining me on this quest to find real, meaningful, deep down, not always poetic or pretty inspiration. For those of you stopping by for a curious peek, I do hope you find a word or two to make you go “hmm”.  Thank you all. I am buoyed and humbled by your continued support. Really.  Now, on to my Underpants.

So many times, I’ve used fancy metaphor, snazzy abstraction, or just visual elements to cloak what I was really getting at. What I learned is that there is a place and time for artistic license and smoky trickery, and there is a time to quit being chicken shit and TELL YOUR HONEST STORY. You may have noticed, my time is now. If I have any hope of completing Sinister Stitch with the integrity and open access that I so admire in others, it’s time to get really real.  Here’s why:

when I thought I had it all figured out, when I had a business plan, a goal to navigate by, and a “persona” all worked out for the maximum effect… I was. Dead. Effin. Wrong.  I straightened my hair (which took 2 hours and 5 products – sick! — & how funny that depending on the light, my hair is fire red or softy auburn? I’m all redhead, no chemicals, but the variation on film is kinda wacky, n’est pas?), Anyway, I wore jackets and tailored trousers, and built a “professional” image.  But like a shoe that looks great yet doesn’t quite fit, I was uncomfortable to some degree EVERY DAY!!  I simply didn’t feel like “me”. I felt like I was acting in order to be “accepted” or seen as “approachable” or “credible”.  NOW I know it’s because that was NOT me — it wasn’t authentic. I’m not the straight hair type. I don’t give a crap about perfectly coiffed hair or meticulously tended manicures.  I can do “business” certainly, but studied conservatism is just not who I am. I am dead-on professional, and freakishly organized, and passionately  bankable if you give me your trust… But those are very specific personal characteristics and in no way effected by my quirky self presentation. And THEN it hit me: You can strategize seven ways to Sunday but if the art you’re advocating isn’t reflecting the authentic YOU, the real honest ESSENCE of your true self, then it’s just a lie. If it isn’t your Underpants, it’s PLAYing at art, and that’s UNforgivable. Pow. Cosmic lesson. (There IS a place for play, but that’s a different post;o} )

As 2009 ended I’d just come off building my website, building my classes, building my design catalog… and found myself utterly empty and unfulfilled. (Of course, this all time low was fueled by my lurking cancer – but I didn’t know it at the time). Peggy Noonan says: I do my best work when I am excited, and thrilled, and scared. **Insert Deep respectful bow.** BLAM. That’s what I’m talking about.  I couldn’t remember the last time I was artistically thrilled, or scared — until Sinister Stitch. Not because I’m resurrecting the deepest darkest most fear-laden aspect of woman-as-witch (I’ve already been threatened that I’m “doing the Devil’s work” with this series… wtf?????). Nor am I thinking that  it’s because I’m invoking  nature-as-destroyer in the poisons. Also, not because I’m taking a BIG risk personifying folklore that makes a lot of people cross the street to avoid eye contact with me. It’s because Sinister Stitch IS my ideological underpants. It’s digging into my most heart-felt battles, my deepest insecurities, my trying to tell my story to you while I’m sobbing snot onto my laptop keys from the personal nature of the subject. And it finally feels like I’m doing the work I was meant to do.  Sharing the swirly dee-lish that is my perception, and my moving in the world of creativity. I am lucky enough to have the chance to live my creativity 24 hours a day (not without SERIOUS  sacrifice and mind numbing stress, mind you) but I have been given this gift and I intend to repay it a thousand fold by letting YOU in to see my journey, for better or worse, and hopefully helping us all to find our way – That’s Underpants honey.

So,  what does my process look like? What does this art need in order to take shape?  Often it has to be taken outside. I’m in the habit of taking my trusty leather backpack to a beautiful spot and working on location: it easily holds my stitchbook and my folio full of watercolor crayons & pencils:








Definitely one of my favorite bags EVER! And everything fits in it nicely. I made a book with muslin pages to keep threads and needles in when I’m on the go:

It must be the Virgo in me but I can’t work around chaos. I need my things to stay put, in the same order, in the same place — hence I’m always designing contraptions and solutions to impose order on my supplies. Books do seem to be a recurring theme: it’s also how I store floss:

Big black sheets of posterboard, scored to make a 2 inch spine, and lined with straight pins to hang floss on. It was a really simple solution that was actually suggested by a little old guy at the craft shop

(Read the Story of the Studio& the Wall of Thread)

Ultimately, I find keeping things tidy and portable makes me the happiest.

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I also need a few sketchbooks going at once – I like dedicated books, one for each theme or subject. Nothing makes me crazier than spending hours hunting down a drawing or bit of information because it’s buried somewhere in a sketchbook. I often put a table of contents in my books too – sure makes finding things a breeze!

Today, I’m getting my bazoom kicked by a cold (I’m currently in the chills part of fever-n-chills) but still working on my feature article for Needle magazine. I just made a pot of veggie soup all hot and spicy with black pepper and curry powder (THAT oughtta burn the bad germies out!)

Now, you. What have you been waiting to tackle? What are you orbiting but not delving in to? Invite the Muse to lounge in your free time and see what comes to play… I’m meditating on Poet’s Narcissus today. The daffys are blooming like cray-zay so I want to soak up all of their energy while it’s juicy and alive:




Overall I think it’s developing nicely. Now I’ve got to get my sneezy self over to the Sinister Stitch Chronicle Diaries and build a Poet’s Narcissus page — I think I’ll be using a quote from Anne Sexton in the final embroidered piece. Have YOU read any poetry lately? Arthur Rimbaud “I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still.”  I often paste that quote in the front of a new sketchbook, just as a reminder of WHY I do what I do. Hmmm… I’ve been working to make my world stand still my whole life. I think I’ve finally got a handle on it. It feels really delicious.

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3 comments to Give Conformity the Bird: Its Time to Show Some Underpants

  • I read EVERY word of your post, and YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, love the daffy painting. I love smelling bunches and bunches of daffodils. Oh, and YES i love your contraptions.

  • Pattie

    Ok, girl, I can’t figure out why in the world you would try to polish up for an image?!?!?! You are gorgeous and wonderful just the way you are. Rock on, sister! And I love your paintings AND your organizational books too–I’m such a journal person and I love that you store everything in books. Vive les livres! 🙂
    OH…and poetry! April is National Poetry Month.
    Sending love to you! Hope to see you this summer in our Missouri days before we head to Alaska.

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