The Question

Does anyone ever ask you, "How much time did it take you to make that?" And do you have an answer? I don't! I have no idea how long it takes me to make something. I've always made things, and I used to dream about making things that might actually appeal to the public and could be sold in a store. I remember making some dolls, years ago, and thinking they were good enough for that. I was showing them to a friend, in the elementary school parking lot, when a very nice woman stopped and oohed and aahed over them. Then she asked The Question. It took me by surprise, and I tried to give an accurate answer. What came out of my mouth was, "It took me my whole life." I knew what I was talking about: every step, every attempt, every daydream, had led me to finally make those three dolls. Unfortunately, the woman looked at me like I was demented, and went on her way. Why do people ask that particular question? I actually got to the point where I believed I had to be able to give an accurate answer. I put a kitchen timer in my work(play) room. I kept track of when I started and when I stopped and how many .25 hours I had spent on a particular piece. It wasn't easy to do. I don't work in a linear fashion and I always have many irons in the fire. All my pieces started sporting little pinned on pieces of paper, stating how much time had been recorded so far. I kept screwing up the system. I'd find myself poring over my button collection, lost in the desire to select the perfect little circle of hand-carved mother-of-pearl. Then I'd wonder, should I count that in the time record? Does time spent choosing count? Or I'd leave a project to go rummaging for some material, and then come across some

other

project I had forgotten all about; then I'd wander off on a wonderful tangent, completely forgetting to record when I had stopped working on the

previous

project. And then, too, I'd wonder if I should record the time spent searching for raw material at yard sales and the Goodwill store. Oh! Don't forget the time spent turning the sweaters to felt: the sorting, cutting, repeated washings, more cutting, pressing, and so on. This business of keeping track of time was doomed. Because there is no start and stop. It's an organic process and this time-keeping scared off my muse and just about crushed my artistic spirit. Come back, Muse! I'm sorry, Spirit. I'd really like to never hear The Question again. If I do, I'll only be able to give answers like, "a very long time" or "not too terribly long." Here are some possible alternatives, if anyone is interested. These are questions that make sense to me:

  • How did you feel while you were making that?
  • After you make a piece, is it easy or difficult for you to let it go?
  • Do you know before starting, what the finished product will be?
  • What are your feelings about this piece?

Here's a piece I made several years ago. I carried it around for two or three years, adding a stitch here, and a button there. How long did it take? Just exactly the right amount of time to get from the beginning to the end.