Monthly Archives: April 2014

Not Every Attempt Wins

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Words can hardly describe how much I love a day at home alone with no requirement that I leave the house. I often deny myself things I would like, so I have a million excuses as to why I can’t go into my studio and draw even as I claim it is the thing I most want to do. I’ve always been somewhat afraid of not being good enough but also that were I to run to the studio every time I had an idea or followed every creative urge I might disappear into it and never come back. I suspect that is some fancy pants foolishness my brain has come up with as a variation on “not good enough.”

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to draw a piece with a deer in it. So I got out the trusty copy paper and worked awhile on this:

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When I was sure I liked it, I inked it.

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I really loved it there. I wanted a child in the picture, also, so I worked that out on another piece of paper, occasionally putting them together on the light box to make sure they’d line up right. Then, I got out the good Bristol board and put them together.

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Now, if I am honest, I know that RIGHT THEN it had all gone to shit and I needed to rethink the piece. I mean, look at her eyes. Beautiful, flowing, lyrical deer and Vampire Girl. NO. Yet, I went on. It’s just the ink, I figured, I’ll get it back with color.

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Perfect. Vampire Girl is now a sightless zombie. I was unable to stop.

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Plague? Severe beating? This is after I worked the face about 5 times and then erased over the entire thing to, I don’t know, make it muddier. The deer is still beautiful. The figure?

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Horror!!!! Overworked, eyes too big, blotchy, flattened out. This is the only part of her I still like:

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Since I work in marker and pencil, there’s no painting it out and starting over, which is why I ink things on copy paper–I still have the deer in her perfect, not-yet-molested state. I just hate having wasted the hours, even though I got the satisfaction of the process and that’s a big piece of what feeds my soul.

Too bad I made a zombie who sucked it back out of me.

Flares (I Don’t Mean Pants)

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I should not be typing. The rules are actually really simple, which is why they are hard to follow. The rule is: if something hurts, don’t do that. Stop. Do something else.

My problem is that there isn’t anything I want to do that doesn’t use my hands. Can’t type? Let’s sew. No? Let’s draw. No? Let’s play a computer game. No? Let’s read a book (involves holding a book or device, so….no). I already read the script for House of Blue Leaves, smarty-pants, so no, I don’t have anything that is just some pages xeroxed and stapled together to read. I read it twice.

This rebelliousness stems from the fact that the day before yesterday my joints started to hurt, a lot, for no reason that I could fathom. The new shrink says that trying to figure out why is counter-productive–it feeds the ego that then keeps the cycle going instead of simply saying, “My left wrist hurts really badly” and leaving it at that.

So, my left wrist hurts really badly, and I decided to wear a splint on it today because after I ran through the usual mental games of, “Should call the doctor” and “Should get an image of it!” and “What if tendonitis/-osis/-opathy? Alarm!” and landed where I need to land which is, “Nothing to be done. No treatment. Splinting. Ice. Heat. Suck it up, Buttercup” which helps ONLY in that it saves me money so: Splint. The splint, for reasons unknown* (other Whys, as it were) seems violently uncomfortable today, but I am goddamn well wearing it anyway because it’s The Only Thing.

It’s human nature (and yes, the rumors of my humanity hold a degree of truth) to try to figure out Why so that we can then ferret out the crucial question of “How to stop/avoid/prevent?” In my case, this becomes a somewhat stupid dog chasing its tail and randomly catching it only to give it a solid chomp and start the game all over again. The Why is that I have a rare genetic condition resulting in defective collagen that means all connective tissues are flawed and it causes joint pain progressively, sporadically, often for reasons no one can explain.

That is just like, the most unsatisfying Why in the world. It’s the kind of Why to which I want to say, “Fuck that, dude, that’s stupid.” (I say “dude” rather a lot. It’s a character flaw and I’m sorry but that’s just how it is). Unsolvable Whys are like falling just short of an orgasm–after all this work, the thing you were trying to get falters and dies in (or on) your hands. Perfect. But it remains that the answer is still the answer and its self-worth is not dependent on whether or not I like it.

The seductiveness of the Why is that if you work on it enough there is a slim chance you will find a solution hiding behind it, so you start to focus all your energy on untangling something that only a few doctors in the entire country even know about and even fewer will see patients for. IF you get into see them, they will say that there is NO TREATMENT. There is no solution. No magic combination of diet, drugs, activity or lack thereof, or mental fortitude that will change the fact that I have EDS. Each of those things can sometimes help, but just because something helped once doesn’t mean it will help again.

Things have flared up, and there is no triggering event that I can think of. The last flare I realized that part of the issue was a pair of boots that I would pull off rather than unlacing. I was clearly tearing up my ankle each time I did that, so I replaced the laces with elastic and after a few weeks it got better. Or, maybe those things weren’t ever remotely related, there’s no way to tell. I’m not wearing any boots now, it’s warm weather, so nothing is pulling on anything.

Even that much figuring is to plunge right on down the rabbit hole trying to figure it out. I can’t. I can only a) not do things that hurt (maybe later) and b) immobilize the offended joint. It’s my own problem that I find that completely unsatisfying.

 

 

 

*OR STUPID PUT IT ON WRONG. There’s that possible Why.

Actually, I’ve Not Been Doing Nothing

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Our final show of the semester is up, and while one wouldn’t want it to get out that we managed to build an entire show in two weeks, we did manage to build an entire show in two weeks. Our production is of Moliere’s The Misanthrope, and our director made some fabulous and creative decisions best described by this review. I personally built five men’s vests, two pairs of knee pants, and one astounding skirt and bodice–here are some process photos of that:

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The skirt is basically three circle skirts cut with high-low hemlines to create the layering. Each circle has 3″ of horsehair braid inserted at the hemline to create that sculpted swooping that makes it so great–it moves beautifully onstage. The reveiw I linked to above has a good picture of the actor in full costume, makeup and wig. The show is glamorous and masterful and very, very funny. I built the bodice as well, as a modified-Georgian bodice, as this show married the Georgian and 1980s fashion eras in a wonderful way.

It also served as my debut as a makeup designer. All of the women wore pure color eyeshadow from Sugarpill and dramatic false eyelashes, while the men wore strong lipstick. As the show is about truth and lies, I wanted to emphasize the facial keys of expression, the eyes and the mouth. It was simple but extremely effective, and married well the costumes and wigs. The best part is that it was something the actors could easily be taught to apply themselves and has a very high impact. Simple but effective–that’s always my goal.

Meanwhile, at home, I made this:

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It’s higher contrast than shown (let’s talk about why the hell Apple can’t put a flash in an iPad? What the hell, Apple? I have a flash in my phone, for heaven’s sake–get it together!), an upholstery weight fabric brocade in aubergine and dusty gold, with hot lime bias tape edging that I cut and made myself. I used a continuous loop method for cutting the bias tape and it required serious spatial skills and as such there are some bits of brain in the carpet because: hard. I tried a no-hand-sewing approach to attaching the binding and as such, the jacket is cheaper than it would normally be because there are a few kinks to work out. Nothing that the average consumer would notice, mind you, but it’s not as clean (read: invisible) as I’d like it to be. It is, however, in a larger size, since there’s a dearth of great clothes for big girls out there. I’ve done a lot of my design work for larger women–believe it or not, real women want to look nice, too, and they are willing to pay for great clothes. I know, right? Shocking.

So, that’s the extent of what I have photographed. Now it’s on to the next project, plus some costume design for local theater. Summer fast approaches.

 

 

 

Possibly More Boring

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Two months ago or so, I was realizing that I couldn’t achieve my dream–being a Costume Designer. I could get proximity to it through my job, but I’d never be able to get the right degree. At the same time, I was realizing that I resented the fact that I work very hard, and have a set of very specific and specialized skills, yet am paid so little that there would be no way for me to actually support myself on my income alone.

No, I don’t mean that I wouldn’t be able to support myself “to the degree to which I had become accustomed” but that even with a masters degree, a highly specialized skill set, intelligence and talent, I’d be the sort of working poor that couldn’t pay rent, afford medical care, or have cable, internet and electricity at the same time.

At the same time, as I finish my fourth year in this job, I realized that I was taking on more and more responsibilities and duties, but with no possibility of advancement. I started talking to my boss about that fact. He started working on realigning my responsibilities, but also on possibly reclassifying me and getting me a raise.

We’ve talked through several scenarios, and then, rather suddenly, a path opened up.

My boss told me today that as of August 01, 2014, I will no longer be a “Program Coordinator Level 06” but a “Costume Designer.” Poof. I’m a princess. The Dean has agreed to supply the funds for a 30% raise. It’s not parity yet, but it’s a huge step forward, and the title is a gigantic, amazing thing. It means that my co-worker and I are now classified the same. It means that each year, at my evaluation, I will ask for an “equity raise” as currently, today, my coworker makes more than twice what I make and does not have the scope of duties that I do.

Within two years, then, it’s possible that I will be paid much closer to what I am worth, and when my coworker retires I won’t even have to apply for that job if I want it, because, see–I will already have it. I am a costume designer. I design and construct costumes, fit and alter costumes to fit actors, supervise student labor in costume construction, manage production and overhead budgets for the costume shop, design and apply makeup for stage, teach classes, supervise the strike of costumes from each production, manage stock rentals, control, manage, maintain and inventory stock, arrange dressing areas for actors, supervise costume running crews and hire student employees.

I also get to keep the 9 month contract that gives me time to rest so that despite EDS, I can still do my job. We’re closing in on the end of a really intense period at work, but even though I’m hurting and tired, I know the end is near and I’ll have a few weeks to close out the semester and then the summer to rest. And when I come back? I get that new title and paycheck  and still get paid to do what I love doing.

I’m glad I’ve hung in there, and I’m glad I have a great boss. Sometimes those things really pay off.

 

Nice Is Nice But Also Boring

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Xena told me today that I’ve seemed weird lately. I immediately took great umbrage and thrashed her.

No, I didn’t. I said, smart-ass that I am, “Well, as it happens I have been feeling less bitter and hostile, and my aura of pleasantness and, dare I say, optimism has many people quite stymied.”

It’s true. I found out that a coworker is not, actually, plotting against me and actually thinks I am an asset to the team. The gallery I was dreading trying to retrieve my work from called to say they’re closing their doors and had all my work ready for me. My boss told me that a future job that I thought was entirely outside my grasp was actually something I could be considered for. Then he asked me to be the costume designer for a play he’s directing at a local theater.

Knowing that my coworker isn’t harboring grudges and actively trying to thwart me has released me to see that behaviors I interpret as personal aren’t personal, they’re this person’s own pathology and not related to me. It turns out that I am *not* the center of the universe.

I know, right?

Getting my work back means the potential for an unpleasant confrontation has been avoided. I think it’s weird to hang all your own work up in your house, but what the hell will I do with art no one bought? I hung most of it up. Buy my art if you think it’s weird.

The new shrink is helping. Sometimes it’s just the tiniest nudge to get you where you need to be, and while I think she feels like she’s doing little, I feel like it’s what I needed. We’re in a really intense, heavily physically draining period at work, and each day I’ve come home, taken a bath, and put on comfortable clothes before fixing dinner. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s something I felt would be giving up before–taking off my fabulous outfit before bedtime? My husband would reject me out of hand for that!

Except; I’m relieved of some of the pain that built up over the day, and feel less constrained and bound up. Apparently, this is a good thing. It’s seeing the shrink and confessing how my mind works that has gotten me to wise up a bit. Having to say to someone, out loud, that you think that putting on leggings, a tank top, and no bra will end your marriage forces you to examine that depraved shit that just came out of your mouth.

Lesson: A great deal of internal dialogue sounds incredibly stupid when repeated to a professional. This can be helpful if you can get through the squirming.

Soon I will post the great things I am building at work, and the equally cool stuff I’m making at home. For now, though, I’m going to be grateful and aware that for however long it may last, I feel okay about where I’m at.