Improvising when an idea leaves the creative space
There is this chapter in one of my favorite books, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, where she wrote about creativity as a living entity. She was inspired to write a story but after two years of tending to her personal shit and not writing the story, it was gone. Not literally. It has just disappeared from her. I had a similar experience with fashion design where I come to visualize a garment in my mind, not work on it and the idea jumps out and finds a collaborator.
There is this chapter in one of my favorite books, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, where she wrote about creativity as a living entity. She’d described it as a creative person’s collaborator. She was inspired to write a novel but after two years of tending to her personal shit and not writing the story, it was gone. Not literally. The story had disappeared from her. I had a similar experience with fashion design where I come to visualize a garment in my mind, not work on it and the idea jumps out and finds a different and more present collaborator.
Every creative has been through a situation where we have inspired ideas but when left unfulfilled, the idea is gone. I have so many of those situations that sometimes I’d even say goodbye to the idea and let it go completely. However, sometimes, I’m too stubborn to let go, I would rethink and improvise.
I can not remember why I bought a Liberty fabric that had this whimsical design you see on my vest in the photographs. I believe it may have been during the time I was designing a garment inspired by an everyday object, and I chose the book Alice in Wonderland. We only had to make a sample of the garment (no final fabrics) but we still had to go do our research and make design choices. I found this fabric that had a very Alice in Wonderland feel to it, like when she got herself entangled with the flowers. I have an obsession with the story, films, and everything in between actually. So I was entranced to buy the fabric. Really, I was bewitched. Next thing I know I have it in my hands. (Paid, of course.)
It was also a case of I want this fabric. I can envision it as shorts for summer. Well, my Alice in Wonderland-inspired project was in my sophomore year! The shorts never got made and the fabric, the fuckin’ expensive Liberty fabric that retailers make such a big deal out of (me included, sadly) was collecting dust. Summer rolled through and I didn’t have any summer shorts. Not even a sign of it getting its pattern made. It was just non-existent. A couple more summers rolled in, I finally graduated and my wardrobe never once saw me-made Alice in Wonderland shorts.
After many summers and one style change later, the whimsical summer shorts don’t fit my personal style anymore. What to do with this fabric? I actually made a mask out of it at the beginning of the New Zealand lockdown. And as the pandemic forced everyone to isolate, I had time to create.
My final graduate collection had a lot of potential but it came out as something I only somewhat like. So much of it was clouded by wrong choices that had nothing to do with design. Some elements I wished I did differently. So after University, I wanted to recreate some of them differently. That’s when I put these two dilemmas together. I had a fabric without a design and a design that needed new life. I fixed the pattern to fit me as it was sized for the model I used then and made a top. However! It worked best styled as a vest. Honestly, I liked it better than any of the original ideas I had for either problem.
Funny how creativity works, though. Thing is, Elizabeth Gilbert did not end the story at her novel leaving her to disappear forever. In fact, she met another author and as they become great friends, they found that at a certain point in their friendship the story had bounced from one collaborator to another. The same premise of the store, different elements, new author. And you know what, a year after I finished University, I bought a pair of pants where the name of the fabric was Alice in Wonderland. Crazy.