What it Means to Be a Process Artist

I am a process artist. What does that even mean? What kind of bullshit art language am I throwing around? Let me explain what this means to me as an artis.

The definition of process art is “where the pocess of making art is not hidden but remains a prominent aspect of the completed work.” It is the pure human expression that makes art… art. In some circles, process art means that the end product doesn’t matter at all. Other circles see the end product as a result of the efforts made during the process.

I fall a little in the middle. When I start a new project, I often plan for a particular outcome. Sometimes that decision is made halfway through a project. Sometimes, I have a picture in my mind of what I want to accomplish (art as a product), but for me, the journey is what matters.

Here is an example of a project I recently completed.

I started with a material. I had a scrap bag of wool squares I had picked up from Moda Fabric. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make but I knew I wanted to make something for the State Fair because there was a wool sewing category that I wanted to enter.

I brainstormed. I thought of making a plush or a mini quilt. When my brain landed on “make a wool coat” alarm bells were ringing. This was the thing we were going to make.

I searched for patterns and landed on the Taylor Trench Coat by Rebecca Page. It was appealing. It was everything I wanted in a coat: shoulder tabs, a belt, cute pockets. It was EVERYTHING.

So I bought the pattern and quickly realized… not only did I need to figure out I’d need a lot more than my little pack of wool squares… I also needed to figure out how to make all those squares into usable yardage. Not only did I not have the fabric I needed, I had no idea how to sew a coat. I had no idea how to sew clothing, period. Once I printed the pattern out, I didn’t even have a clue what I was looking at. But that didn’t phase me. I’d figure it out. Pesky details!

So, this is where the joy came in. Once I figured out how I wanted to make the fabric and I stitched a few pieces together, I realized I really liked how it looked. I dreamed about what my coat of many colors would look like finished. And I felt pride in how my fabric was turning out.

Then I began cutting out my pattern pieces, and I felt that same pride as I draped each piece over the back of a chair. Then I got that same feeling when I sewed the welt pockets. I spent probably half an hour putting my hand into and out of the pocket, running to my husband and saying, “look at this sweet pocket I made, I am a goddess.”

Again and again, as each little piece came together, I got the zoomies. You know how a dog goes crazy after a bath and just runs circles around the livingroom as fast as they can? Those are the zoomies. I get the people version of zoomies, going back and forth showing off whatever amazing thing I just did.

I imagined wearing the finished coat to work and how I’d tell my colleagues “Look, I made this! It has pockets!” I stroked the fabric every time I walked by, I smoothed the wrinkles. I showed my colleagues progress pictures.

And then, as I neared the finishline, I began to feel less satisfied with the coat. I noticed little flaws that I didn’t love. As fast as I had fallen in love with my project, I was falling out of love with it.

Finally, when I was done with it… I was done with it. It didn’t bring me joy anymore. So, I set it aside. I still planned to enter it into the fair, but I stoped talking about it to my colleagues. I knew I wouldn’t actually wear it, because it wouldn’t make me happy to wear it.

For me, the joy of art is in the making. The joy is not in the object that has been made. This is why you’ve probably never seen me wear something I made for myself. Once the process is over, my emotional attachment to the finished objects ranges from disregard to outright loathing. When I say I’m done with something… I am really, truly, and completely done with it.

My finished items might be described as art or craft or whatever word you think fits them, but to me, that isn’t where the art is. The art is what happens in those magical moments between me whatever puzzle piece I’m figuring out. The core of creativity is the creation of something new that has never existed before. This is what art is. For me art is found in the bringing together of elements and transforming them into new things.

This is, in part, why I love making yarn. Yarn is (almost) never a finished project on its own. It is stuck somewhere in the process of becoming. It is possibility.

This is what it means to me to be a process artist.


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