About 8 months ago, I created a set of wet felted nesting dolls; minimal, modern, matryoshka. I always knew I wanted to embroider faces on the dolls, but I kept avoiding the project. Embroidery requires an attention to detail and precision, and I am unpracticed in needlecraft. I was worried I’d mess up and ruin the nesting dolls. Avoidance was easier. The time has now come for me to face the uncertainty and discomfort.
Recently I’ve been giving much thought to what I do and how I do it. Unlike an artist who becomes an expert in a certain medium or method, I have always been a dabbler. Certainly, I have built up enough experience (not expertise) in using various materials and tools that I have developed a comfort in making almost anything; much like a multi-lingual person might feel comfortable learning yet another language. But this experience does not preclude me from occasional insecurities and doubts which boil down to the same basic mantra “I am not good enough.”
Which brings me back to the matryoshka. I didn’t feel I was skilled enough to add the faces. I tried to see them as finished in their minimal, faceless state. But that was just avoidance. They needed personality and detail. So I thought about those times when I feel successful working with unfamiliar materials or methods. And it occurred to me that the key is to “pay attention.” Amazing things can happen when you give all of your attention to one thing; focus in and let all else fall away. The skill you thought you lacked may blossom when you spend the time to look and act with care. So I took the blank felt dolls off the shelf and researched embroidery stitches on the internet. With a pencil, I lightly sketched the faces on each doll, and then just started stitching; slowly, carefully, trying to keep stitches as even as possible. And by simply allowing myself the time and space to pay attention to my work, I was able to create personalities for the matryoshka.
I encourage anyone who feels “I’m not creative” to think about those times when you make the time and space to pay attention. Our best creative thinking and doing occur at those times. I posit that creativity is less about the skill and more about the attention. My own making is proof of that.