Do you hide your unfinished work?
Here’s the piece of weaving I made. It took an hour to complete, and another 7-8 months to get enthusiastic about it again.
Sometimes I get excited about trying an idea or a technique. I dig up all kinds of information on how to make the stuff. In this case - weaving with scraps of fabric or thick wool. I quickly found the “professional” set-up of a weaver involves a large and complex loom. A smaller beginner-friendly set-up could be a cardboard box with some combs to keep the vertical threads apart. There’s new terms to learn, and Pinterest boards to complete.
Then, at some point, it becomes too much research. I can easily convince myself the initial method I tried is too laborious, and to do this technique right, I’m missing some key piece of equipment. I don’t quite give up hope to finish the piece, but lose enthusiasm for doing it the simple way because it’s moving so slowly - and because my initial curiosity has already been satisfied.
After that first attempt, I put away the half-finished piece, still stretched on a box. And I kept the cardboard piece I was using to separate the vertical base threads and as I pass through the thicker horizontal fibers. Putting something away like this hides it and reduces the guilt I’d feel about not finishing the piece - but doesn’t give the project a logical conclusion. I left it stretched so I could still continue working as before, not wanting to admit I’m done.
Some things just take time. I was digging through art supplies recently and found the hidden-away box with my fiber project stretched on top of it. After a few months, I’m no longer feeling guilty for leaving it unfinished, and have a realistic expectation that maybe I don’t need to. I cut it off of the box and was going to get rid of it - but it actually looked okay now. Perhaps worth keeping!
Waiting and not forcing myself to finish the project right away gave me some distance to appreciate it for what it is - an experiment. I mounted it on Bristol paper with fabric glue to secure the loose threads. It’s not a true “wall hanging” like the ones that inspired me originally, but it still works as a nice pop of textured red, and is currently on my wall. I may get rid of it soon, or combine it with other materials in a collage. Either way, it’s been useful.
The most rewarding part of this story for me was - I can let go of projects for a time, let them marinade, and give them another chance. As I go through past work, I will trash a lot of stuff when it no longer feels useful. But the perspective I have after making more work, and letting it sit can sometimes transform an old piece of something that didn’t feel right into a new piece of something that works.
PS: If, like me, you enjoy the textures and the combination of complexity and minimalism in hand woven textiles, you’ll definitely enjoy Sheila Hicks’ work.