Textile Chaos and existential angst

5 years, 7 months ago 12
Posted in: Uncategorized

It will surprise absolutely no one to hear that being an artist gives one existential angst. Or perhaps having existential angst is the reason one becomes an artist. It’s a chicken vs egg dilemma, but whichever came first, sometimes seemingly mundane things trigger it, such as organizing my art supplies.


I really like keeping things tidy around my home studio, but my collection of fabrics for doll costuming is starting to spill out of my bathroom closet. I need to keep my toilet paper somewhere!

I have a policy of buying only the fabrics I require for an immediate project, so as to not accumulate vast amount of it in my home. However, this minimalist practice conflicts with being a maker, simply because fabric to a doll artist, is what paint is to a painter! There is only so much of hypothetical painting a painter can do without having an instant access to a full palette of paint colours, ready to paint on a moment’s notice! I mean, it would be ludicrous to suggest that a painter only has enough paint in the closet for just 1 painting at a time, right?

Then why do I feel so conflicted about having a closet-full of different fabrics? Is it because fabrics take up more space than tubes of paint? Is it because there is infinitely more different fabric in the world than there are paint colours?

So, how does an artist live minimally, exactly? I think about this all the time. If it wasn’t for my art practice and all the art supplies and equipment related to it, I think I’d hardly have any possessions at all. Just some furniture to sit on. But does my art truly justify the environmental footprint I’m leaving on this planet? After all, aren’t I just contributing to the clutter problem by having ‘clutter’ to make more ‘clutter’ with? Sometimes I wonder if I’m better off not having anything and not making anything.

Artist are makers. We are compelled to create objects with our hands for some reason. We make stuff from other stuff, therefore we need to buy and have stuff to create our stuff from. Why? It’s some sort of a pathological compulsion, I think, and I sure am thankful that doll-making is my particular pathology. I could have had it worse – I could have had a criminal compulsion, that compelled me to do bad things because they made me feel good. Instead I lucked out with a need to make dolls. Whew!

And that’s the kind of stuff that goes through my head when I clean. Organizing sure is an intense activity, full of angst and nihilism. I think I’m gonna stop now and go do something else, before I conclude that nothing whatsoever matters and everything is hopeless.

Guess I’ll go make a doll. It almost always makes me feel better. Takes my mind of things.


12 Responses

  1. Nada says:

    aren’t I just contributing to the clutter problem by having ‘clutter’ to make more ‘clutter’ with?

    That`s what I think as well from time to time.

  2. Crystal says:

    I believe that all surroundings should be beautiful, and walking into a room should bring a sense of peace and pleasure. Objects are a wonderful part of a full life, but I think they should be meaningful. Little glass animals from your childhood can give you wonderful memories, as can a pretty teapot you may have picked up from your travels to China. Meaningful, wonderfully made things enhance a life, not take away from it. I get so much pleasure every time I pass my collection of precious things, I marvel at how beautiful my Enchanted dolls are, and how well crafted! You have created a lot happiness for many people! I do not consider that clutter!

  3. Jayne Wourms says:

    There is nothing more decadent than spreading out your fabric stash, lace and linens and letting your imagination take hold when creating a doll outfit. As for storage, that is why they created bins that slide under beds under plastic hold-alls you can stack into a wardrobe.

    I suspect you may find you need these items ie: beads, fabrics, lace etc. as much as you need air. Don’t fight it. My advise for organizing is bite sized chunks. One drawer or bin a day or 10 minutes on the kitchen timer, then you feel like you are moving forward and accomplishing something and you forget the anxiety.

  4. Amal says:

    …Or get a bigger place, lol! Don’t throw anything away …this coming from someone who used to throw drawings away as a child and whose mum used to rescue them from the bin. You never know when you might need something. I bet looking through the stash gives you ideas, no?

  5. Giorgia says:

    That’s incredible. Just yestarday I have a discussion with my boyfrienda about thi theme. We live together; he is very minimalist in his interests and hobbies. I read on Kindle, he play one videogame a time, he has 4 pair for shoes for all the year…. I love create outfits for my dolls, I paint for pleasure, I collect the book that I read, I’m a woman, so clothes are a pleasure…. We have this problem about space. I’ve never enough for accumulate paints, fabrics, books, paper, colors, stuff for sewing, painting, taking photos of my dolls. You create wonderful dolls, you have a great reason to need space. Your creations are work of art, make people feel happy! You deserve to do it! I only play, consuming space and time…. But I need it! It saves my life to become insignificant. ^__^

  6. sarah e says:

    Collecting/keeping fabric bits is very important to doll makers and customizers- because finding exactly the right kind of fabric when you actually do need it- can be very difficult! The second you throw away that scrap of brocade, you are going to absolutely need it in two weeks and will not be able to find anything similar anywhere else…

    Fabric is frustrating though- as it is not tidy and takes up more space than it deserves…

  7. Silver says:

    This is just what I needed to read! I came to your blog to get away from the existential angst going through my mind over my current art project. It also involves a lot of fabric, materials, stuff. If it’s any consolation, you’re far from alone with this struggle Marina!

    I think it’s only human to question why we accumulate things, the purpose of our possessions etc. I also think it’s healthy to question such worries, to question anything in life! My insomnia begs to differ, but oh well.

    I really like these kinds of posts – your humanness and the thinking behind it is really interesting. I’m crazy about organisation and completely appreciate everything you’ve said here.

    Take care Marina!

  8. DeeDee says:

    Don’t know if anyone else is thinking this, but,…where are all the doll clothes you are making with your unruly stash? :-)

  9. Heather says:

    Isn’t creating fashion fun? In my opinion, the most beautiful dress you’ve made, is the hand painted one, where you created the print on the fabric yourself. It’s wonderful the way you create couture for your dolls. As a fabric collector myself, the only tip I can offer is that my sewing stash got a lot smaller when I purged out the synthetic threads and materials. My projects take forever and I want them to last for the next generations in my family, and so when I read polyester decays and things made of it fall apart sooner it was easy to part with. Cotton lasts and a long long long time and is good for something of museum quality and so it’s my favorite now but I kept the silks too for beauty. Good luck tidying up your supplies:)

  10. I am so glad I stumbled on this blog entry. It really hit home with me. You see my sewing room is also a craft room. Things are stacked along all four walls, in bin, boxes, drawers, cupboards, etc. Although I plain sew for my myself (clothing), I also recreate Erte fashion costumes and other outfits now for Darq, the fashion doll that became the avatar of my novel. (Erte is known as the Father of Art Deco, so if you’re familiar with Downton Abby or The Great Gatsby, that’s the type of fashions he made famous). I usually tidy up my sewing room after I finish a project, but throwing something out that has the potential to be recycled into something else, well . . . that’s the hardest part.

  11. Sharon Wensley says:

    Marina, what you were feeling is very normal for someone who needs fabrics for projects. Just tidy it up and like Jayne said put it in bins and containers away but organized. I am much older than you so have accumulated much more for all kinds of sewing projects, I collect dolls so have precious silks and cottons and antique laces for them, then of course precious beads for them and the list goes on and on. I have two of your resins so they made me buy more stuff, especially the beads. I have gotten rid of stuff that is not very nice because I have so much of the really good fabrics laces and silk ribbons so you could do that. I also quilt so you can imagine the clutter from that plus I do machine embroidery and that entails cartons and cartons of different threads. The list goes on and one but the answer is organized clutter. I think the problem is when you are doing a project or thinking of starting one you have to get everything out and then it looks so messy, just clean it up when you are done. I get depressed when I see the mess and also think of the fact I won’t be here long enough to use it all. I live by the mentality if I see something wonderful I get it because I many never find it again. I know I am not alone. Your wonderful dolls deserve only the best and that is what my two resin ED dolls get. If I every get a porcelain she will be even more spoilt.

  12. Debi says:

    Marina, I am an artist too, and I struggle with these issues all the time! So you are definitely not alone in it. I try to use natural and Eco-friendly materials in my work, but it’s not always possible, and, as you’ve pointed out, even those things leave a footprint. However, I believe we were made to create things, and we bring people much joy by doing so. I think we just need to practice self-control, so that we don’t buy more than we will use (which is super hard, I know!), and also to choose materials very carefully, for our own health, and the health of others and the planet :)

    That said, I have a particular love of textiles, and it looks like you have some lovely ones there! Fabric stores are so very dangerous…

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