Last week, I was artist in residence at Have Company, an awesome little store and residency space in Grand Rapids, MI.
I'm not sure how I discovered Have Company, but it was at a time when I was looking for pattern retailers. When I discovered that there was a residency tied to the shop, my brain lit up. I love small shops - having helped run several - and J and I have talked about creating a residency, so my interest was immediately piqued. It also seemed like many of the artists were working with textiles & zines. Plus, teaching workshops? Sign me up.
When it came time to apply, I figured I'd go for it. I've been in some shows and done some local projects with spaces as an artist, but never a residency. I'd only heard about them from my more art-career oriented friends. When I found out I was accepted, my brain immediately started going to work. An opportunity to work with a shop & subvert retail, to create something inspired by a new locale. I started scheming and researching.
A few short flights over the course of the day and I was in Grand Rapids. I had only been to Michigan once before, right after college. Everything was new, but familiar in a sort of medium-city, I'm in America sort of way. It took me quite a while to get acclimated. I have a bit of a routine back home, a partner, two animals I like to be around. I'm quite a homebody now that I live in the country. Dropping down into an unfamiliar city, by myself, was overwhelming to say the least.
Once I came out of my 24hr fog (traveling and a lingering head cold certainly didn't help) I had a mission. I had done a bit of research about historical homes in the area and settled on creating a project inspired by the Meyer May house, a Frank Lloyd Wright home and an iconic piece of 'Prairie School' architecture. Only a short walk from Have Company, it seemed like the perfect starting point.
I went to tour the house on Thursday morning and it was lovely. Steelcase, a local office furniture company, had purchased it in the 1980's and done a complete, period accurate restoration which was quite phenomenal (we watched a little movie). The house itself had the strangest, most serene quality. I was most smitten with the color palette. FLW had a penchant for using warm, autumnal tones and textures in his homes. There was even a flower mural on one of the dividing walls in this same color palette.
I had been originally intrigued by the stained glass windows found throughout the house and decided to base my design on them - if it seemed to make sense - once I got to the residency. Seeing them in person only reinforced this idea. I took a ton of pictures. I was also very fond of the coordinated textiles - also designed by FLW - and the dining room light fixtures that included built in plants, pretty modern for 1909.
I had been eager to make a simple elastic waist skirt pattern. I had also been thinking about how much I missed making zines, something I did quite a bit in college and continue to do periodically for myself or with my fiber art collective. I've been working, on and off, on a few that I'd wanted to include under the Blueprints header, but nothing had been finished yet. Have Company carries a wide array of zines and it's proprietress and staff are equally enthusiastic about them. Also, the idea of creating a full fledged sewing pattern in 5 days was impossible. So zine it would be!
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a 'zine' is a handmade, often self published, mini magazine or book. Most often, zines are created and reproduced on photocopy machines. Historically, zines have been an underground way of disseminating information, specifically of a more radical nature - art, music, writing, feminism, gender & sexuality, mental health, diy projects, and self care are common themes.
I spent the next few days working feverishly at the typewriter & sewing machine, drawing and gluing and planning in between. For those of you who design books, patterns, or other similar layout based things, creating a 100% analog layout for something is a wonderful challenge. The hands on process is similar in some ways, but forces your brain to consider things much more carefully than when using InDesign. It also frees you up to make small mistakes & have things be personal, imperfect, and odd. This is one of the things I love most about zines. They are one of the few mediums that almost encourage imperfection & handmade-ness. They have the intimacy and personality of a handwritten note.
After a few long days of excited cutting and pasting (and an unfortunate layout mishap that delayed the process) I had created a pattern. Making a pattern in just a few days felt pretty good, like running a marathon. It's definitely very different than my more full-fledged sewing patterns, but I like the personality and accessibility of a zine pattern. To be honest, it's something that I've wanted to make for a long time and was in line with my very early original iterations of patterns I wanted to create. I feel like this type of pattern might be nice for an ambitious beginner, the sort who's played around with a sewing machine but feels overwhelmed or intimidated by a full blown sewing pattern.