At the moment, crochet is my main creative outlet 🧶
I generally spend hours on a piece, constructing it just to my liking by trial and error. I may change the concept halfway through, add details, unravel yarn, scrap ideas and then start all over again. A simple project can easily turn into one that spans weeks or months... occasionally years!
Once it's finished, I admire it for a while then shelve it.
If it’s a wearable piece, I may wear it once or twice but generally set it aside fairly quickly. It's not that I don’t like it anymore, it's just that I’m satisfied with it and feel like moving on.
'Well, that was fun. Okay, time for the next project!'
On a few occasions, I've found myself disliking some of my previous work. There's absolutely nothing wrong with them and they're generally well-liked by my family and friends but somehow, I find them distasteful.
A beautiful piece
A few years ago, I made a crop top that combined crochet with some scrap pieces of fabric. It was brightly coloured, extremely frivolous and making it brought me so much joy! ☀️ It fit perfectly and I was very pleased with myself. 😌
I took pictures of it, modelled it in front of a mirror then placed it on a hanger and admired it for a while...
... but strangely, the more time passed the more disagreeable I found my work. There was nothing inherently wrong with it. It was just as lovely as ever with all its fancy embellishments.
And yet It was as if every time I caught sight of it, the less I liked it.
To this day, I've never worn it out of the house.
In the excerpt below from Anna Karenina, Tolstoy captures this feeling very well. The phenomenon of disliking your art for no good reason.
In this scene, Mihailov (an artist) was receiving praise from Anna and Vronsky for one of his paintings.
"Oh, how exquisite! What a lovely thing! A gem! How exquisite!" they cried with one voice.
"What is it they're so pleased with?" thought Mihailov. He had positively forgotten that picture he had painted three years ago. He had forgotten all the agonies and the ecstasies he had lived through with that picture when for several months it had been the one thought haunting him day and night. He had forgotten, as he always forgot, the pictures he had finished. He did not even like to look at it, and had only brought it out because he was expecting an Englishman who wanted to buy it.
The enthusiasm over this picture stirred some of the old feeling for it in Mihailov, but he feared and disliked this waste of feeling for things past, and so, even though this praise was grateful to him, he tried to draw his visitors away to a third picture.
In Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, we see yet another example of the complex relationship between an artist and their work.
We meet Frances who writes poetry and performs at spoken word events.
I could perform each poem for a period of about six months after I'd written it, after which point I couldn't stand to look at it, never mind read it aloud in public.
I didn't know what caused this process, but I was glad the poems were only ever performed and never published. They floated away ethereally to the sound of applause. Real writers, and also painters, had to keep looking at the ugly things they had done for good.
Art and creativity
The more time I spend expressing myself in my chosen creative medium the more I'm convinced that the 'act of doing' is really what it's all about. It's about the quiet, contemplative immersion of sitting with your piece, tweaking and tinkering until it meets your liking.
Perhaps creativity's greatest mercy is this: by completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the burden of being who we are.
Best of all, at the end of your creative adventure, you have a souvenir- something that you made, something to remind you forever of your brief but transformative encounter with inspiration.
At the end of the process, the finished product doesn't necessarily have to make sense to you or anyone else. It doesn't have to serve a precise function or tell any particular story. You don't even have to like it.
Sometimes it's just a physical representation of a captivating stitch in time.
Elizabeth Gilbert describes an interesting paradox:
... art is absolutely meaningless. It is, however, also deeply meaningful.
My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (If I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (If I am to live sanely).
I'm currently about halfway through The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I'm not a huge fan of it (so far) but Wilde definitely presents us with some very thought-provoking ideas.
The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless.