Since purchasing my mini Moleskine, I’ve been diving back into a passion that was once a big part of my life a few decades ago. I was passionate about creating daily collages based on things I foraged for throughout the day. Even if my day seemed dull, somehow I would always find beauty.
I’ve always been drawn to collecting scraps of fiber and even the tiniest bits of paper. My favorite– corrugated cardboard. I was intrigued by the way a certain textured paper was cut or ripped, and I would find a new micro world within it.
Tiny things have always attracted me. There’s something about small that is so precious, so delicate, so beautiful. The book that I’m currently creating in is the smallest format I’ve used to date. Back in the 1990s, I created a series of visual collages, which were contained within 4 x 6 black-bound sketch books, but this latest size is a smidgen bigger than a business card, measuring a mere 2.5 x 4 inches.
In college, I was an illustration major and was on the path to make this my career. I fell in love with three-dimensional illustration and collage. During my senior year, I became very drawn to fashion design. Upon graduation in 1991, I decided to find a job in the fashion world. I didn’t know how I would make this happen with an illustration degree, but I knew this was what I wanted, so I proceeded to create a portfolio, and eventually landed an entry level job.
From my perspective, it was pretty hellish working in the cut-throat world of New York City’s Garment Center. My main focus was cut and sew (fabric) accessories, but I soon discovered the magical world of surface design.
The first company I worked for hired freelance surface designers to create pattern repeats for fabrics, which were used to create a variety of accessories. When I discovered this, I thought– “hey, I can do that,” so I convinced the company that we should do this in house, purchase a computer, and I would be the one to do the job. Mind you, this was the early 1990s and computers were not yet considered a necessity in the business world.
The computer sat on my desk and life was good. I proceeded to create cutesy repeats and I simply loved the process. I got so lost in the work and my days flew by. I became entranced. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had become a surface designer. Eventually I left this job, and the pattern repeat biz too. Blame it on my passion for knitting, but thoughts of this always lingered. Something was left unfinished.
Fast forward to today: One day not too long ago, I was digging through my parents’ New Jersey attic, and found the beloved visual journals that ruled my life for two years. How could I have spent so many days obsessively planning and scheming about when I would have time to craft my daily creation, only to leave them like this? There they were, echos of the past just sitting in a dark box.
Trying to open the old pages was dreadful and even worse- the bindings started to fall apart. As a twenty-something, this was the thing that I thought would seal my immortality. I could leave my mark through these books, which would remain beyond my time here, but how naive to think that these could be solid, so permanent.
Now that I’m slowly getting back into my groove, I can see how rusty I am. It’s almost like learning how to walk again. I’ve been rediscovering paint and the tools I used to love working with each day. I’m digging in deeper and seeing things I didn’t see the day before. It’s like practice. I just keep doing it, and then I see more.
The process reminds me of studio class I took in during the final semester of my senior year of college. It was a six-hour in-depth oil painting class. It was pretty intense and incredible because as I proceeded each week and hour by hour painting the same model, I kept seeing something I didn’t see the week before and even sometimes the hour before. I could see a new dimension of subtle shadow and the depth and gradation of color. Through this training process, I realized that it was not about how skilled my hand was, it was more about what my eye was capable of seeing, and my hand just went along for the ride.
For me, creating something each day, no matter what is not an “I should,” but more of an “I must.” It’s as if my life depends on experiencing something creative each day. It’s like breathing and it makes me feel like I’m home.