Part II of the "Small Works Dreams and Largely-Unrealized Plans Report", or "I Can't Believe I've Been So Dumb For So Long."

"I always wanted to be somebody,
but I should have been more specific."

Lily Tomlin

I always wanted to be a writer, but until recently I had forgotten that I did also specifically want to do exactly what I do now for a time when I was a youngster. Aunt Lillie taught me to crochet and embroider, and I fiddled around with making doll clothes and such, but when I happened upon one book I had a very specific yearning to work forever with felt and a needle and thread.

I had forgotten all about this book until I was perusing my sister's book case on my recent Phoenix visit, and I believe I squealed out loud as the memories came rushing back.

I loved this book! I thought it was cool! I wanted to make everything in it! I found it to be absolutely inspiring!

Upon renewing our acquaintance, I had to ask the following questions:

I loved this book?!
I thought it was cool?!
I wanted to make everything in it?!
I found it to be absolutely inspiring?!

All I can say is that it must have been easier to get a craft book published in 1970 than it is today. I'm speechless at this book's overall crappiness. (Is that a legitimate book review term? Because it's the only appropriate term that comes to mind.)

The projects are truly bad.
And the photos do them complete justice.
I certainly should have aimed higher.

But I remember when I came upon the page with the doll pattern, it took my breath away.

I dreamed of making those dolls. I planned to make a complete collection of dolls from around the world in traditional costumes.

I was certain I could be an art star if I could only hone my doll-making skills, and this was the volume that was going to help me do it!

If only . . .

It was when I contemplated having to embroider the faces that my dream began to fall apart.

I was absolutely sure I couldn't draw a face, and even if I did manage to draw one, there was no way I could translate that drawing into thread.

And after a summer spent stewing over this book and its magnificent doll instruction pages, when I still couldn't muster the courage to embroider a face, my fiber art dream faded.

Why didn't I ever thread a needle
and just give it a try?

I don't remember.

But I did remember my lack of success.

I've always detested making things in front of other people. I can't even stand for people to see my works in progress. Not even my best friends. Not even my children. Certainly not my sister.

For some reason I continue to think of myself
as being craft-challenged.

By the time I was ready to make my first quilt, I had my mother-in-law choose the fabric, because my lack of confidence had reached epic proportions.

Whether I was born with this feeling

or whether I developed it as a result of staring longingly at craft books but never daring attempt the projects as a child, I don't know.

But my warped self-image is in large part responsible for the fact that I came to what I am doing now so late in life. I still won't participate in any craft projects with my church group because I'm so self conscious.

You see, once my pieces are finished, I have perfect confidence in them. I can take them to shows without fear. And it's funny that the faces on my pieces are often the best part. But I continue to doubt the process, and my ability in relation to it.

I guess I should make one of the dolls in the book as some sort of homework assignment for myself, but the pattern is just so gosh darn ugly that I can't imagine making myself do it now.

(And of course, in the great ironic spin of the universe, now that my skills are improving my eyesight is failing.)

Isn't it amazing how much time gets wasted loitering behind the "uncool" fence (previous post)? And isn't it amazing that we're the ones who put ourselves there?

It wasn't until I saw that funny little felt book again that I thought about how many parts of my dream are already happening.

I love this quote by Robert Benchley:

"It took me 15 years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous."

Thank goodness I've got enough "fame" now to feel like I ought to keep going -- it doesn't take much.

There's power in threading the needle.

And there's power in putting something
out there after you've stitched it.


Amelia and Justin said...

So, does that mean that since I am so insecure about my musical abilities but still decided to go into music that I have a chance to get over it later in life? Maybe? No? :/

Judy said...

I would love to see a post about some of your earliest projects, like that first quilt, for example. Do you still have it?

Allie said...

ROFLOL. I look at projects I thought were the cat's pajamas and now wonder how in the WORLD I thought they were good. Ah well - we just keep learning and growing! I still have a problem putting my stuff out there, though. So why do I have a blog???? Ah sweet mystery of life.

susan m hinckley said...

The answer's in the question, Allie -- that's the way you put things out there, and you do a great job of it. Blogs are the perfect way to share your work to just the degree you feel comfortable, don't you think? That's what makes them so useful (and fun).

Yes, Judy, I have that first quilt -- it lives in my cedar chest and sometime I guess I'll haul it out and do some show and tell. It's very uncharacteristic of my work, but my decorating was a little different way back then as well. It lived a long and happy life on my wall and now it lives under heaps of stuff in my cedar chest. I think it's happier there.

Amelia -- no promises you'll get over it, because as you can see I haven't. But as you know we have the family motto around here that "we can do hard things" -- stretching feels important to me for some reason so I've chosen to do something that's hard for me every day, and you're doing the same thing with music. You should take double pride in that!

luanne said...

It's fascinating that you feel so insecure about your process, yet so confident about your final pieces. For me it's exactly the opposite; I'm comfortable in my making phase and then completely insecure about my final products. Which is why I have boxes full of things that have never been put out there... no risk, no judgements.

I wonder what it is in our early life experiences &/or genetic code that prevents us from just kicking down the uncool fence, at whichever point we encounter it.

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