Two birthdays ago, Peter presented me with a sewing machine. The way it made me feel was wonderful; a mixture of excitement (at last, a sewing machine!), surprise (wow! a SEWing machine!) and the tiniest knot of dread (what if I turn out to be truly as bad at sewing as I was told I was in year 8 at school?). For as long as I've been blogging I've admired, from afar, Jude's Spirit Cloth, loved Shula's way of speaking about cloth and thread in the same way that I did about food. Without a proper space in which to stretch out, it would be some time before this beautiful, shiny beast got a proper workout, but a few attempts at fixing things up proved I'd retained enough knowledge to get by. This year, I've gone nuts for it. Even the ironing part.
Twenty years ago I found myself freshly graduated from art school, living back with my family (never a good idea, no matter how much we love them) and was spending a year, unemployed, trying to work out how to make Art. I'd become lost along the way, somehow, found myself hating every artistic attempt made. Most days, I felt physically sick with worry about the fact that I just couldn't bring myself to draw. I had this friend at the time - let's just call her A - whose drawing skills were extraordinary. I mean, mind-blowing extraordinary. Like no-one else alive. She was astoundingly talented. I'd managed to get all the way through my education up until the point of university thinking my skills were pretty good (they were) but A's were on another plane entirely. I still have the tarot cards she made me all these years later and, still, flicking through them, I wish I had her skill set.
A was full of all sorts of classic comments and jokes I find pop into my mind from time to time. We had a lot of fun for a while. The Hitler Youth flag that hung above her bed (her father's) disturbed me each time I passed it going to the loo NO END, but for the most part, she was funny and wise. Once, when asked why she made art, she responded thus; "Making art is like taking a dump. I have to do it lest I get backed up."
Classy though that sounds (and my older, wiser, kinder self now thinks of it as a rehearsed, deliberately-provocative answer, the sort of comment young artists like to throw around) it remains the most accurate reason to be creative. People give all sorts of wishy-washy answers to that question, but in the end (pardon the pun) it's about the act of creative expression. One is either wired this way or one is not. I am, but it's taken a bloody aeon to get it stuck solidily in this brain 'o mine. Expressing myself creatively, or more importantly, denying myself the relief it can offer, has exhausted me for years. YEARS! What the hell have I been thinking?
What I didn't realise until (embarrassingly) recently is that the act of expressing myself need not take the form I believed it should when I set out upon The Rest of My Life as a young adult, indeed, change, some new shape, some other forms in which to flourish would be helpful.
Sewing is teaching me is to be patient. To practise mindfulness. To be accurate. To go back and Do It Again if it's wrong. To enjoy the the process, no matter how repetitive, of every single stitch. Any tendency toward slapdashery is impossible. What it's really doing though is freeing up my left shoulder, a problem I've had for about two years now, making my right brain happy again through the act of creative expression.