A New Way of Thinking

So I know this is going to be a stretch for some….but go with me here and see where this takes you.  It’s about perception and how we think about things.  I’ve been an artist for a long time.  I knew that growing up. I was very creative and enjoyed putting something together as much as using it when it was finished.  Truth be told, I actually enjoyed the putting-together part more than the using it part. Hence my joy in making one wedding own or debutante gown or formal ball gown after another, but never having to go to the ball. As far as I was concerned I had all the fun of making the garment without having to go to the ball.  And the fun for me was creating, envisioning, drafting, assembling and seeing it on my client!

Not a punk rocker

The time I got into real trouble on this was creating this gown.  That beading took a whoooooole lot longer than I thought and I started on the gown the Thursday before the Saturday night ball.  I got 2 hours sleep during that time and the rest was spent beading.  I made my entrance at the ball and wanted to go home an hour later as I was dead beat.  Going to the ball isn’t all that much fun for me, but making the gowns were a blast!

So enter this fiesty little artist in high school and due to a terrible misunderstanding (and my big mouth) I killed my change for learning sewing in high school.  So I’m off to college to get some real study in design and sewing, only by this time, the women’s movement had murdered just about every existing Home Economics department even in the hinterlands!  So I took art and that’s what I studied.  It was probably a good thing cause I got an excellent art background before I found my mentor some 10 years later and finally learned my sewing skills.

Finally – to the point – thinking differently about things.  I’m reading this article this morning and wondering why so many of my students resist the label artist when I talk about their work?  It’s like I’ve told them they have body order or something.  It’s shunned worse that a politician shuns an in-depth news interview!!!  It’s like I’ve called them a sloppy, stinky person or something.  And it’s always puzzled me.

This article begins to explain why.  When folks are told something in a work of art, they think of it differently than if it is just a part of life.  For example, a photograph that is a picture of me and my dog, is just a photo – nothing special.  Add “artist” to the photo, suddenly people think of it totally different, even though it’s the same photo.

Now this isn’t just perception or wrinkling your face at something….this is actual, measurable responses from electrodes on people. The physical and mental response is different.  Here’s what the article is meaning:

Take this photo:

If this is reality (not art), then the thinking might go like this:

OK – did I make the correct turn last time?….when did I last fill up with gas?…when will I have a chance to fill up again?….how long is it to the next town?….are we there yet?….yikes I’m driving in the middle of the road!!!

But if it’s art a totally different scenario happens:

I wonder if we could see far enough if the two white lines would actually meet (even though I know in my head they won’t)…wow this is desolate and yet very simple…can I see the curvature of the Earth here?…that guy is in the middle of the road…is that for a reason?




So how does this pertain to sewing?  A lot of the same thinking applies to sewing.  When we are making something up we think of it as how it is put together; how well or badly it fits; how useful it is in our wardrobe…lifestyle….size; how easy/hard it is to care for and those sorts of things. So when we’re looking at this picture (left) we’re looking at this in a particular mindset.  That mindset most of the time is not as a work of art.







But now looking at this picture, we see this as a whole other thing….this is art.

Why the difference?  What the research (and numbers from the researchers) say is that because it is labeled art, we think of this differently than if it were labeled picture or line drawing or something like that.

But why isn’t the line drawing above art?  In reality they are they same thing.   It’s the mindset.




miumiu1So let’s put this into practical application.  Say you are looking for something to make up this fall.  You’re looking through a magazine (more likely looking online) and you find this jacket and this pattern. This is a MiuMiu jacket and you like the print and the contrasting collar and different details of the jacket.  So when you’re looking at the picture you’re thinking “art”  when you’re looking at the sketch you’re thinking “information”.   Here’s where I want you to change a little….after you make up the garment – think of this not as something you use only.  It’s so much more than functional.  It is a work of art by you, and so step back and take a look at what you’ve created.  Think about where you would go to purchase something like this.  Think about if you could find it, how much it would cost.  Think about what it’s made of, how it fits you.  All of these are what makes up a work of art.

This is no more evident than in this picture of these sisters who homesteaded.  These dresses had to be functional first, but after they were functional – they did’t they say, hey we get to throw style out the window because it’s functional or we’re not going to make anything artistic to express ourselves cause we can’t afford that – we have to make something that works in our lives and that’s it.pioneer-women

Each one of these gals had a personality and it shows in their dresses.  You have to feel that even though they were sisters, they each had their different style and artistic manner and showed it in this photo.  For me this is the clear evidence that even though our clothing is functional, it is so much more than that.

So here’s to all you artists out there who sew…..you sewists you!!!







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