So, I have decided to try working through the Artists Way in a group environment, to try and ensure that I stick with it for the whole 12 weeks this time.
I missed the first week last week (quelle surprise), but the second meet is tomorrow night. I commit to this with some trepidation as I have no idea what these people will be like or how much we’re expected to share (‘Hi, I’m Sista! I am suffer from depression, panic attacks am jobless, distrust everyone and barely leave the house! Be my friend! Whoo Hooo!’), but what the hell, I’ll give it a go.
I did try this last year and as I recall, participants have to relate how they found the previous week, so decided that for my first week at least, I should show willing and do my homework, so decided to go to a craft and fabric shop for my ‘Artists Date.’
For the uninitiated amongst you, an Artists Date is an activity/trip/treat that you do with your ‘Inner Artist’ (sort of a creative imaginary friend) that will give you some quality time together without anyone else there, without the distractions of family or work (not a problem for me) and hopefully spark creative insights and inspiration.
On the negative side it can feel quite cheesy and contrived, on the positive side, you’re sometimes allowed to buy nice stuff for yourself! That said, I’m not sure Coccinelle bags or a nice spiky pair of Jimmy Choo’s count, but nice fabric does, and I’ve been thinking about getting back into making things hence my rationale.
I had also discovered that a new sewing and craft centre had opened about 2 miles from my home, so I braved the snow, hopped into my car and high tailed it over there this afternoon.
The exterior of the store, I have to say was not promising; it looked pretty ramshackle and cheap with lots of old Singer machines piled up outside, it had wasteland and unoccupied buildings either side, and a bunch of guys watched whispering as I parked there. They didn’t exactly look like knitters or dressmakers, so I assumed they were feral wheel clampers. I gave them my best evil eye as I marched towards the entrance, trying not to show any weakness or look over my shoulder, daring them to touch my baby.
Inside was no better; it was all a bit old, dilapidated and musty, especially as it was supposedly a new store. The majority of the stock looked dated, and there swatches of fabric on sale that looked so rancid, Miss Havisham would have rejected them in disgust. I could have sworn some items were priced in shillings and pence. Hardly Liberty of London.
Behind the cash desk, stood three assistants, one of whom looked rather hostile, the remaining two, away with the fairies. I smiled tentatively; they stared at me, as if I were a fox in a chicken coop.
Fuck, why do I sound so posh all of a sudden?
‘Do you have any velvet in stock?’
Scary Mary, piggy little eyes layered in thick black eyeliner, an alarmingly badly dyed purple/black crop atop her head, stared at me balefully. Clad in a grotesque neon orange jumper that made her look like a redundant pumpkin (and would make any budding knitter take up, erm, rock climbing) she managed to remain motionless for a good three minutes.
‘Erm, I couldn’t see anyt…..’
I wanted to turn tail and go, not out of fear or rejection (hey sometimes even I welcome rejection), but it was clear I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for.
The whole reason I knit or sew is that you can buy amazing fabrics like velvets and linens, or beautiful silk alpaca or cashmere yarns to make things unique to you that you will want to touch, stroke and feel against your skin, and can keep and wear for years. Were I to wear anything made from the stuff on display here, I’d set myself on fire from static electricity, get a rash or walk around with my hair standing on end like Marge Simpson.
But I stayed because I didn’t want to (a) admit defeat, or (b) take my Artist out tomorrow too. Hey these are early days, don’t want to spoil the bitch, do I?
A box of knitting patterns suddenly caught my eye. They were clearly modeled on those naff 1950’s covers that companies now use on risqué greetings cards that are sold in those expensive little gift shops in Soho. What a cool idea, reviving retro patterns! I grinned conspiritally at the woman next to me, assuming she’d share the joke. She jumped as if I’d goosed her, then skidaddled towards the lining section, her hearing aid whining in her wake.
I look again. No they’re not joke knitting patterns; they’re the original ones. WTF?
Maybe I should buy the lot and sell them as antiques on Ebay?
I continue to walk past row upon row upon row, bolt upon bolt, metre, sorry, yard after yard of cheap, nasty uninspiring fabrics, boxes of old, recycled zips, discoloured cards of buttons and ancient dummies dressed in 80’s outfits festooned with dust. Ikk. Other shoppers shamble around like grey bloodless zombies, without purpose or enthusiasm.
No one buys anything.
Have I wandered into some kind of creepy, bad taste time warp here?
‘Yes,’ said my inner Artist clinging to my arm, clearly unnerved, ‘we need to get the fuck out of here. Now.’
My skin starts to feel dry. Perhaps it’s the central heating.
Then I feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. Slowly I turned towards the cash register. All three shop assistants are staring at me.
Was it my imagination, or can I feel my ovaries start to shrivel?
Suddenly I smell something sour and fetid at my shoulder; it touches me. My Artist whimpers. I turn. It’s the old dear with the hearing aid her lips twisted into something that once might have resembled a smile.
‘There’s some nice seersucker on offer over there dear!’ she hisses in my ear ‘and there’s a discount today for the over 50’s!’
I swear I can feel my vagina drying up…..
Not taking any more chances with what’s left of my womanhood, I nod politely, put my head down and head for the door with my Artist in hot pursuit as they watch silently, feeling their eyes burning into the back of my head as I make good my escape.
Scuttling across the car park, I find my little car intact and unmolested, much to my relief. I unlock the door and hop in, my poor terrified fangita finally breathing a sigh of relief, and relaxing into the leather seat. That is one ‘creative’ outing I wouldn’t be repeating again.
‘Well,’ said my Artist sarcastically, ‘that was just lovely. I’m sooo inspired.’
You can do one as well, dear. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.
Well not for a week or so anyway.