The first time I remember impressing someone with my art was in the 5th grade. I attended Avon Elementary School and my teacher was Mrs. Codner, a teacher who appropriately loved fishing. She tied A LOT of her lessons back to fishing, so it’s no surprise we had a lesson about carp. I don’t remember the lesson, but I remember the project was to design and create our own hanging carp.
I used glitter and drew with my mom’s help the basic shape of the carp’s head into my fabric. But I remember feeling unsatisfied with the work like it was missing something. That was when my mom showed me a trick with beads and sequins, something we’d also done making Christmas ornaments:
First, with a needle and thread you bring it through your fabric like you are about to sew with it. Next, you add a sequin to the string and then a bead. Once the sequin and bead are brought down snugly next to the fabric, you bring the needle and thread around the bead and back into the middle of the sequin, drawing the needle out through the backside of the fabric. This affixes the sequin and bead to the fabric.
When you repeat this process over and over again next to one another it becomes the perfect kind of sparkly texture and shape to suggest fish scales.
I felt a rush of excitement at this discovery, knowing this was a special artwork.
I worked on it, worked on it, and worked on it some more. Unfortunately, it was not a quick task. So when the due date arrived, my work wasn’t finished. I was a child who never missed deadlines and was absolutely mortified the work wasn’t done. I begged my mom to let me stay home to finish it but she made me go to school.
I remember the look of disappointment on Mrs. Codner’s face when I told her I didn’t have it yet but I would tomorrow. I felt like such a failure. At the same time, I knew this artwork, my carp, was something special and once she saw it she might think differently. I hoped so. I went home from school that day determined to finish it and bring it to school.
Just as I still remember that look of disappointment on Mrs. Codner’s face when I didn’t have it on time, I remember her genuine surprise and look of being impressed when I presented her my finished carp. She proudly hung the carp from the ceiling with the rest, but made sure it was in the front of the classroom, smartly displayed by her desk.
It was the first time in my life I worked really hard at something and deep down felt this knowing I was creating something special. Even though it meant breaking the rules and being late for an assignment, little miss perfectionist Carrie trusted that knowing.
Recalling this event has made me realize SO much about the work I create but most importantly all of it comes from my childhood. If I enjoyed it as a child, it somehow now influences the work I do today.
Now, nearly 30 years later, I’ve found that special something again. It started with my textile mandalas. Now it’s the series I’m currently working on called Anonymous Woman, which you can learn more about here.
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