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  • Michelle Sirois Silver

a job well done

Someone asked me, “how are things going in the studio”?

“I’m in the love stage”, was my reply.

I’ve just finished my work aptly titled Scattered. It’s now installed in the gallery and I can cut myself a bit of slack over the next few weeks before I begin research for the next piece.

In my last blog post do not disturb the water, I compared the creative process to a giant squid. There’s no doubt that at times the process is very squid like with its flailing tendril like missteps and gargantuan suction cups of indecision.

Over the years I have struggled with parts of the creative process. While it can be organic, I find it useful to balance and support it with a framework.

This blog looks at the step-by-step approach I used to manage the making of Scattered. Looking back on it, it's not dissimiliar to the ups and downs in any relationship.


Translated: Develop the concept or overarching theme for the new work. This work explores how we expand and contract mentally and physically to accommodate change.

The selfie used in Scattered.


Translated: Research begins at the artist residency. The feeling of possibility is expansive.

Artist Residency at FibreWorks Gallery. August 2016

Back in Vancouver I source materials and make paper and textile samples.

Scattered. Expanded square paper sample.

Scattered. Hand hooked and stitched sample.

Scattered. Hand hooked sample.


Translated: The design is transferred, and colours and materials are selected. The zippers I sourced are hand basted then machine stitched to the linen substrate.


Translated: I get to work cutting my fabric into strips and begin hand hooking.


Translated: I hit the first of several brick walls. My original colour plan and design are not working. I move on to Plan "B" and create a replacement design and colour plan.


Translated: There’s more failure and more reverse hooking. I’ve been here before. It’s uncomfortable. I’m now working with Plan "D".


Translated: The work is conceptually, materially, and technically in sync.


Translated: Late nights. Some swearing. Blistered and nerve deadened finger tips.


Translated: The work is delivered to the gallery.


Translated: What worked, what didn’t, and what can I do differently next time?

I’m a pragmatist who likes to attach human characteristics to the process. It helps me to keep a sense of humour which comes in handy late at night while working in the studio.

Several years ago, I was working on a series. The first piece had come together with relative ease, the concept, technique and materials had been in sync.

When I moved on the next one I hit a wall. The flow that I had felt earlier quickly disappeared as I struggled with the values. The weeks slipped into months without results and a knot began to grow in the pit of my stomach. Frustration combined with a fast approaching gallery delivery date.

In the end, I spent the same amount of time hand hooking the second piece as I did the remaining four pieces combined. But what I took away from the experience was invaluable.

  1. Resist the temptation to panic.

  2. The creative process involves problem solving.

  3. When I find myself feeling a bit of hate, embrace it knowing that I’ll work through it.

  4. Revisit the original concept because the answers are usually there.

  5. Stay focused on the task at hand.

Compartmentalization is a useful tool. There’s no doubt that I will always struggle with aspects of the process. And over the next couple of months, I will explore some of the more challenging parts of the process for Scattered and consider alternative ways of approaching those aspects in the next work. I already have a couple of ideas.

In the meantime, I’ll keep the focus on the untapped potential of the next piece.

I’ll remember to celebrate when the concept, materials and technique are in alignment.

And I’ll continue to use art as a visual form of story telling and a way to connect with people.

What draws me to making art can be synthesized into one sentence. It’s about possibility, flow, and the satisfaction of a job well done.

Means of Production runs until July 15, 2017. You can view Scattered at the CityScape Gallery on Lonsdale in North Vancouver.

The gallery is closed over the Canada Day long weekend and reopens July 4.

#Scattered #creativeprocess #hookedrugs #zippers

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