Friday, May 11, 2007

Please Resuscitate

Moving is good for a few reasons. It forces you to ask yourself, “Do I really need to hold onto all of these back issues of Vogue? Do I really need to keep the $8 tea pot I bought in Chinatown for brewing disgusting yet healing Chinese teas? Am I ever going to wear that sundress I made six years ago again?” All questions I’ve asked myself. So far, only the magazines are in the trash.

Moving also reminds me of the parts of me I’ve forgotten. I moved to Los Angeles to work in fashion. I looked for jobs in fashion for almost a year before I surrendered to the entertainment industry. I won't go into why I moved here instead of New York. That's a different post. When I moved, I brought with me boxes of exquisite fabrics I’d collected over the years. I had containers filled with multi-hued zippers, trimmings, elastic for swimsuits and comfy pants and a wall-mounted rack for my rainbow of threads – small spools for machine stitching, large spools for my serger and spools of silk for hand-sewing.

In my past life in Boulder, I rented a studio just for sewing. I had a job that was flexible, which meant many days I left at 3:00 and headed to my studio to sew until 9:00 or 10:00 at night, eating a dinner of Goldfish crackers and water. As my uncle said, I had a fire in my belly. I bought patterns and manipulated them into what I envisioned. I studied with a master tailor and apprenticed with a fashion designer. I dreamed of taking draping classes and making gowns like Madame Vionnet. I loved the serenity of carefully finishing a garment by hand. My body and mind hummed in unison with the flow of creativity

Four and a half years ago I moved into my apartment. I paid my good friend Willie to make me tables that nested together. One for cutting, one for my machines. I was giddy when I finally got everything set-up in my apartment. After long days at work, I cut out a few simple items and partially sewed them. And then, abandoned them. They sat in little aborted piles on the cutting table for months. I hung shelves to try to make the space more workable. I put up a brighter light. I tried to tell myself I didn’t like leaving a mess in my living room, but the reality was that I was exhausted when I came home from work. My thread got so dusty that I could barely tell if it was pink or grey. Eventually, I conceded defeat. I put my machines back in their cases and found spots for them hidden from my view.

When I started packing, I found all of these things. I found my past. The woman I was when I arrived in Los Angeles seems like a foggy memory. I remembered why I moved to Los Angeles. I remembered how talented and passionate I once was. I looked at tools I’d forgotten existed. My button-hole knife with just one purpose: cutting open a button hole. A long, metal tool with a loop on it? It turns skinny fabric tubes into straps or belts. I found swatches of silk jersey and hemp and charmeuse that I dreamed I would make three-dimensional. And then I found my fabrics.

I ran my hand over fabrics, the images of the designs I dreamed bounced through my mind. I gingerly refolded yards of wool jersey in reds, black, pea-soup green, shook out sumptuous camel hair bought to make an overcoat. I gasped at the beauty of fabric I forgot I owned. I smoothed my hands over luscious silks and bright cottons. All of the fabrics, the trimmings, the zippers and things that made me truly an artist with cloth, the things I hadn’t looked at in years are heading to storage along with my sewing tables.

During all of this, my mind didn't even dare to conjure up a new dress design to make. Before, I would have so many ideas for a piece of fabric I couldn't bring myself to cut it. Now, I wear black almost every day because it is easier and am not making my wedding dress like I imagined I would. I didn’t cry, but I wanted to. That woman seems so far from who I am now. I keep hoping that when I have children, I will make clothes for them. I will remember how to put in a lapped zipper. I will remember how to manipulate a pattern into what I want. I will remember how to make a button hole, and how turn of cloth works. I will remember how to set a sleeve. I will remember because it is in my soul. My bones. I will remember because it makes me happy.

I can’t bear to not have my machines near me, so I am bringing them with me to my new apartment. Even if they just sit in the closet, I will know they are there. Waiting for me. Keeping a lifeline to the artist in me. Reminding me she exists.

And maybe one day, when I have the time and space, I will make a wedding dress if my daughter will allow me the privilege.


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