Blueprints for the future

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know that I sometimes fall into lulls in terms of posting. It’s never intentional - ok well maybe it’s a little bit intentional - but it’s inevitable.

To be honest, I’ve found myself quite perplexed about the direction that I want to take Blueprints in for 2019. I’m aware that it is now September. I’ve been pondering this questions since January, hence the lack of blog posts this year.

If I’m being really, really honest, I’ve been at a turning point with Blueprints since last fall. After my fashion show/event, I realized that a small whisper of internal questions about Blueprints for Sewing Patterns was growing quite noisy. I started Blueprints with the goal of making it into a business, though I found myself most excited and engaged when using it as extension of my creative practice and as a space for experimentation and collaboration. With those realizations came more questions, but those questions were placed on the back burner as I dove deep into my teaching practice (with a full course load both semesters). Until this summer, I have had few moments to pause, reflect, and really think about where Blueprints for Sewing is going next.

Before I get too far along in this existential discussion, I’ll make clear one thing I’m certain of at this point (in case you’re worried): I will continue to make clothing sewing patterns under the header of Blueprints!

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Even though I will keep making patterns, I’m still trying to figure out what direction I want to take those patterns in. Is it more zines? Videos? Books or one of a kind pieces? While I haven’t figured it out yet, I’m starting to feel as though I have some solid emotional ground to stand on while doing the figuring, which has not been the case for most of the year.

So, if you’re willing, join me as I process out loud and try to figure out where to take my business in its next phase!

I thought I’d start with making a list of what I’ve been really excited about in the last year:

Teaching

Needless to say, teaching has been a really big part of my life, especially lately. While I feel really strongly about bringing my teaching to a wider audience via Blueprints, at this point I don’t realistically see myself traveling around the US running workshops like I had previously desired (though I’m still interested in occasional teaching away from home). I’ve far more enjoyed teaching longer form classes that allow me to really develop relationships with my students and spend time researching and developing curriculum.

I’ve discovered that I really, really enjoy the instructional part of teaching. I love making handouts, PowerPoints, and sewing samples. While this seems like an easy thing to translate to my online teaching outlet, I still struggle with adapting these things to a larger audience and an online platform. I don’t blog reliably and still haven’t figured out a good blogging workflow. I don’t have a professional photography set up nor a way to keep images very consistent. I find that things that are the easiest to produce (a black and white, hand illustrated handout for example) get done, while more involved projects that require media (blog tutorials, videos, books, etc) get held up. Or, more often, I start working on them and keep expanding the scope of the project outside of what is actually possible or sustainable for me to do with a full course load. I’m working on strategies for this.

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Fashion Show

Even though I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life convincing myself I didn’t want to be a fashion designer (opting instead to focus my career on teaching, consulting, pattern making and custom work), there was something extremely fulfilling for my creative practice about designing a line of clothes again this year. I love working on series and collections. I love working conceptually. I love collaborating. I love the art of making garments for an imagined muse, rather than just myself or a client. I love making art.

Again, there seem to be some obvious ways to translate this to my pattern biz. For example, design a ‘line’ of patterns like other companies do. This was actually my plan when originally launching blueprints, but I quickly found that, as one person, I don’t have the time or resources to make collections happen as fast as I would want to bring it to market. However, I tend to think non-seasonally and in terms of capsule collections that can be released in any season (rather than following trends and fashion seasons). I’m definitely considering the pattern line route, but will have to work hard to keep my attention and passion alive when projects stall or work gets busy (thanks ADD 👎).

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Values

Something else that has become more clear to me as I’ve moved adjacent to the actual fashion industry (through teaching) and small business world (through Blueprints) is that it is close to impossible for me to separate my political and social concerns from my work. As an artist, I have created work that addresses the issues I am passionate about (sustainability, supply chain transparency, body image and identity). However, navigating the world of commerce in a way that feels authentic and provocative has been challenging. There are only so many “buy this item and I’ll donate to important-cause-of-the-moment” sales I can hold before it starts to feel redundant. Not that this isn’t a great strategy for many businesses, but as somebody with a background in conceptual art, critical theory, and activism, I feel both obligated and impassioned to push it further. Is it possible to create an ethical business under capitalism? Is there a way to make (capital p) products that truly challenge the status quo, get people to think, raise awareness, and empower? How can I not only bring beautiful and thoughtfully designed things into this world, but create things that actually make people’s lives better, instigate positive change, and dismantle harmful systems? This question takes up a massive amount of real estate in my brain (perhaps why I never remember to pay the electric bill or buy dog food) and I’ve been ravenous for an epiphany.

So, taking these factors into consideration, I decided to make a bit of a list of what I want the focus of my design studio to be going forward:

Elements

Teaching + Patternmaking + Clothing Design + Surface Design + Fiber Art + Graphic Design + Activism + Visual Art + Print Media + Textiles + Nature + Collaboration + Storytelling

Values

Sustainability

Natural Fibers + Recycled Materials + Innovative Construction

Social Responsibility

Inclusivity + Empathy + Craftsmanship + Respect + Empowerment + Accessibility

in relation to both the people who make clothing and the people who wear clothing

Thoughtful Design

Experimental + Creative + Functional + Comfortable + Timeless

I have some projects in the pipeline that I hope are already starting to engage these elements & values, including improved size ranges for my existing patterns and another clothing collection produced using recycled materials (with the goal of making patterns for this collection available as well). I hope you’ll stick with me on this journey, in all its ups and downs!

Taylor McVay