Monday, June 30, 2014

The Whole Story

     As I look at the pile of fabrics I have amassed, dreading actually cutting any of them - they are to precious-it occurs to me that an explanation of sorts is in order. 
     Every year the Lilly Endowment gives 100 Indiana teachers a grant of $10,000 to pursue whatever they wish.   The Teacher Creativity Fellowship is designed to give teachers a big burst of inspiration and motivation that will carry over into the classroom.  Teachers who apply must design a 6 week summer plan and activities for the following school year.   There are no limits on what a teacher proposes.   Lots of teachers travel with their grants - Australia, the rain forest, Italy, Machu Pichu - all over the place.   Some hire trainers and do triathlons; others build robots or write music.   Your heart's fondest wish.   So you write a proposal following very specific guidelines in only two typed pages and mail them off in late October.   And then you wait.

     Last school year, I had a bit of time in my schedule.   This almost never happens so I wanted to put this time to good use.  When the Teacher Creativity Fellowship application period was announced, I decided to use my time to write the best proposal I could...lots of research, planning, writing and revising.   The first task was to decide what I wanted to do.  I got one of these in 2004, and 2 is your lifetime limit.  If I actually got funded a second time, I wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.  What is the most extravagant, outrageous thing I would ever want to do?

     Have an entirely handmade wardrobe!

     I have a fantasy of opening my closet doors and having only a fraction of what I currently own, but every single piece being both beautiful and useful.   Like an art gallery just for me.

     How will this impact me as a teacher and my students?
*Self-reliance - we have the skills and vision to make what we need
*Creativity as a  lifestyle, not as just something you do in art class
*Consumerism - do we really need to buy an entirely new wardrobe every 3 months or is that just a trick used by the fashion industry
*Cheap, disposable clothes are NOT a good thing!  It's not a win that you only paid 14.99 for that at Charlotte Russe.   How much do you think the person who made that was paid?
*Making stuff is more fun than buying stuff!


     I really didn't tell too many people I had even applied for this.   It seemed to far-fetched.   Who would fund this crazy project?  I kind of put it out of my mind.   Until February 14, when it popped into my head that winners would be notified "around the middle of February".  I was walking out of the kiln room and I thought - wow...I should find out soon.

     The next day I went to a track meet in Indianapolis.   I got home around 9pm and stopped to check the mail.   There was a big, fat envelope crammed in there.   I could barely make out the return address...The Lilly Endowment!   I knew at that moment I had been chosen as a grant recipient.   I think if you are not chosen, you don't get a fat envelope.  You get like a postcard that says sorry and better luck next year.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Handmade Teacher Begins

   The grant period officially runs from March 3, 2014 thru June 30, 2015...so here we go, kids.  Very soon after I found out my proposal was being funded, I realized I did not want to make 50 pieces of clothing. 

     What I really want to do, need to do, to make this work for a whole school year in my real life, is to create a  50 piece COLLECTION...like a designer.  I am consumed by thinking about this prospect.  Questions like how many pairs of black pants do I need and how do you make a button down shirt and what about jeans are keeping me awake at night.

     In trying to be organized about this, I am considering:
1.  What do I really WANT to wear?
2.  How often should I plan on repeating something?
3.  Why do I hate solid colors so much?
4.  How can I make solid three season pieces that don't look out of place whenever I wear them?  You know, you can't throw a Fair Isle cardi over and eyelet dress and call that a "Winter Look".  You can't.  It's like a law or something. 

     I'm also looking at different designers and trying to really pinpoint my style.  I think, if I can pick exactly what I want to wear and exactly how I want to style myself every day, I would say that my ideal style, the clothes that I gravitate toward in magazines and catalogs,  is a bit of hippy dippy boho, a pinch of punk and a drop of classic vintage...a tea party of sorts with Janis Joplin, Debbie Harry and Betty Draper,  maybe Stevie Nicks and Jackie O stop by...oh and Edie Sedgewick and Gwen.   Can all those style inspirations meet peacefully to create these 50 garments?  Yes.  I say yes.

     That's what artists do.  We take bits and pieces of things that inspire us and swirl them around with our own ideas and create something brand new.  Something mildly revolutionary.  The thing I love so dearly about The Handmade Teacher is not only do I get to create art, I get to literally, physically wrap myself in my aesthetic.  You won't have to look at book or my art journal (not that I have one) or my website to see what I love and what I make.  It will be right in front of you.  And for that matter, right in front of me.  Every single day. 

   I've been feeling a little stuck for...oh, I don't know...a few YEARS in my art making.  I make stuff all the time, but it's NOT art.  It's stuff I do to distract myself from what I really want to make.  The crafty stuff I make gets me approval from Others.  The art I really want to make will be challenging.  People might not get it.  They might not like it.  And I haven't really felt strong enough to take that risk.  But good Lord, I'm FORTY SIX.  Tick tock, baby.  Time to stop making excuses and make something I can be proud of...no compromises...if it isn't EXACTLY what I want, DO IT OVER.

     I will NOT wear anything I do not L O V E.  I will not make anything I do not *fully* believe in.

     And you thought this was just about clothes.