I’ve been pondering creativity as a concept a lot lately, wondering about who gets to be creative, how is creativity defined, and how does one build a creative practice into one’s everyday lifestyle? And ultimately, how do we be creative with buying less? A lot of my projects grow from a need, whether I need something that I don’t want to buy or I have things that I don’t want to throw away, but I know that I’m in the minority on this one. Creativity is a multibillion-dollar industry. It’s challenging for anyone with the tiniest amount of creativity running through their veins not to get caught up in a frenzy of purchasing things unto which to be creative with. It’s a problem without an answer because, on the one hand, I see the magic of buying stuff that sparks a familiar sense of whimsey unto which one sees the potential for making. On the other hand, the consumerism behind creativity is contributing to a culture of waste.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Growing up without a ton of money, I always needed clothes that fit my budget yet I wanted clothes that were gorgeous. So I learned how to make my own clothes, and when I ran out of fabric (and money for fabric) I started remaking clothes that I already had lying around. I’ve never felt bad about or worried too much about cutting into things, much to my mother’s dismay. I’ve ruined a lot of clothing this way, but I’ve also learned a lot and now I live a life that revolves around making and remaking. My creativity has only ever been fueled by the idea that something could start out as a dress and become a shirt. This kind of creativity is not pre-manufactured, delivered in a box with a ribbon. It comes from having a life-long creative practice, which is something I’ve always done.
The idea of having a creative practice might sound a little surreal to the average person. It actually doesn’t take that much effort, just a little bit of participation every day. Sometimes I’ll sit in bed and look around my bedroom and think about what I could remake various objects into. Other days I’ll make whole garments, knit, draw, write, photograph. While making takes a lot more time than thinking, the thinking is still part of my creative practice because it allows me to visualize how things could be different. This is useful not only later in the making process but in how we start to conceptualize the things around us. It’s why I’m so adamant about sustainability and environmental consciousness, I simply can’t stop thinking of a world in which climate change is a minimal threat, where we’ve created more systems to ensure that micro-plastic fibers don’t pollute our oceans, and where everyone composts. That’s all creativity really is: the act of daring to imagine what could be and acting on it.
This dress was constructed from a vintage blouse, a used fast-fashion dress that my old housemate found on the street, and a thrifted lace curtain. I wore the blouse religiously between 2014-2016 but it started to wear down and I wanted to preserve it somehow. It became the top collar and mini-skirt parts of the dress. The fast fashion dress I also wore quite a bit, but it was no longer my style and I stopped really wearing it about a year ago. I loved the lace though, and it provided quite a bit of material. It became the bodice and sleeves of the dress, which I self-drafted from the skirt. I then faced a conundrum. I didn’t have enough lace to finish the project and no other material in my stash really worked. I originally planned to make a shirt, but then started fantasizing about a dress victorian inspired dress. After several months of waiting to stumble on the perfect fabric, I found this lace curtain at Goodwill, conveniently in a similar enough shade of off-white for it to work with the other lace. And thus, the dress was born.
I make a lot of garments like this, where several pieces of clothing will magically become one piece, immediately, transcending each item’s original purpose into something greater. It minimizes waste because I’m literally using up several items at once. It also means that I end up with more interesting clothing, like this lace skirt I made from a tank top. I really don’t think that I would have conceived of how eco-friendly it is to use clothes that I already have loved to make completely new clothes if I didn’t have a regular and on-going creative practice that forces me to pull creative tools from my environment.
Therefore, I encourage all of you reading this to start your own daily creative practice if you don’t already have one. It can be as long as dedicating several hours to a project, or just a few minutes everyday visualizing directions you want to take. I keep a notebook that I specifically use to jot down ideas, draw pictures, and get inspired. The act of putting things down on paper can be really freeing, just make sure you allow yourself tons of room to write down ideas that you don’t think are great. It’s so important to clear the fluff out of your brain to create space for the good ideas to flourish. And if you don’t like something, try again. Don’t get discouraged when it’s not perfect. Undo stitches, and try again. Love yourself enough to grow and flourish with your mistakes. I can’t tell you how many dresses I’ve made in my life that I didn’t like. Too many to count. I’ve taken photographs I hate. I’ve written stuff that’s total garbage. But I’ve never stopped either. I force myself to persist, not because I want to be an artist but because my soul needs to create to feel alive. If you think you feel the same, never stop 🙂
And challenge yourself to step out of the cycle of buying new craft supplies so that you can be creative. It’s definitely more limited in some ways and takes greater patience, but it also builds greater creativity in the long run and you can feel good that you reused something that might have gone on to sit in a landfill.