By Sue Bleiweiss
“What if:” Two words. Six letters. Gives wing to a whole lot of possibilities.
Those two little words when spoken together are probably among the most powerful tools you have in your studio. They have the power to take your artwork in a new direction. They invite you to step off the paved sidewalk and venture into new and unexplored territories.
Those two words can help during those times when you’re feeling blocked or unmotivated. The next time this happens ask yourself,
- “What if” I tried working with a material I’ve not used before such as metal sheets, fine wire, knitted mesh, or paper?
- What if I tried using paper towels, coffee filters or dryer sheets in place of fabric?
- What if I painted them and then sewed them to something and treated them just like I would a piece of fabric?
Or, what if I sewed them to a base fabric and then added paint, foiling from Laura Murray
or fabric and then used ink to color it?
Or maybe you’ve been working on a piece and it just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Ask yourself, what if I cut it up and sewed it back together again? What if I sewed the pieces back together again randomly, or used wire to sew them together instead of thread? What if I added eyelets or buttonholes?
Like a lot of fiber artists I like to paint and dye my own fabrics, and just like many of you I sometimes get less than stellar results. Recently I painted a large piece of fabric with colors that I don’t usually work with and the resulting fabric seemed flat and boring.
And then I thought, what if I added some scribbled text and squiggly lines using a craft syringe. Which then led to, what if I cut the fabric into smaller pieces and made postcards from it?
Some of my most unexpected and wonderful discoveries have come from asking myself “what if”.
Next time you’re tossing something in the recycle bin ask yourself, what if I used this in my studio? What if I painted this paper bag with acrylic paint and treated it like fabric?
What if I fused that old pattern tissue to a base fabric and then used it to create a box?
“What if” has the power to turn boring into interesting.
For instance, recently I held one of my books in my hand:
Much more interesting don’t you think?
Of all the tools I have at my disposal in my studio, it’s the question "what if" that motivates me the most. It's the exploration of finding and discovering new ways to manipulate and embellish paper and fabric that drive me into the studio and inspire me every day and it’s the power of the words “what if” that push me to look beyond the expected results.
My goal is not to create a perfect and flawless item. It is to create a piece that excites the viewers eyes when they look at it, makes them wonder when they hold it in their hands and inspires their own imagination when they consider how it was created.
What better way to achieve that goal than to ask myself “what if”?
Sue Bleiweiss is a mixed media fiber artist with a passion for surface design and book making. She lives in