The Aimless Journey
For this studio prompt I put a pause on working on my eco-printed dress in favour of experiencing creativity without the goal of being productive. In conversations in class I was encouraged by the group that this was the way to go at this time. Louise, my instructor suggested I try to be aimless and Sahil, one of the other students suggested I ”follow curiosity because it doesn’t come back”. Both of these ideas are so beautiful to me how could I attempt otherwise.
This prompt started just before reading break when I was planning on going on a trip to the Rockys which made it a little difficult to be aimless other than in our travels. All we had to do was be home on Friday night so that my partner could go to work on Saturday. We drove aimlessly through the mountains in search of crevices to explore. Though this didn’t really feel like part of this prompt upon reflection it was actually the ideal way to start.
My partner did all of the driving. I often fell asleep, unfortunately when the scenery was breathtaking. He woke me up whenever there was something unmissable in sight. But I wasn’t asleep all the time.
The first night we spent in Revelstoke where we crashed my partner’s brother’s date night and were rewarded for our unexpected company with steak, wine, and smashed potatoes. We visited a distillery that makes Gin.
We wandered into Lake Louise where people ice skated on the frozen water under the picturesque view of the glacier. We toured the Fairmont where I got carried away in the Quivic store which had ample items made out of Muskox down, the most expensive animal hair in the world. It is softer than cashmere, warmer than wool, all super wash and doesn’t attract moths. I adore muskox fiber.
Next we enjoyed the hotsprings in Banff followed by lunch at the Fairmont there built in the 1890’s. It was like a castle. We went through their archives in awe of the courage and confidence it must have taken to build such an incredible oasis in the middle of nowhere.
We made a detour to Calgary to see some of my partners family and the next day were off to the Ice Fields. It was stunning. Onto Jasper for the evening where we met some of the locals then we spent the night at Mount Robson making it home just in time.
The Aimless Journal
Once I got home I was starting to feel time crashing down on me. I had so much homework to do before I got back to school. I felt like I hadn’t even started this prompt yet although I feel like my trip was actually pretty spot on in hindsight. I felt a lot of tension between the idea that I must do something for this prompt and the attempt to be aimless. It was feeling that I was pushing aimlessness too hard in the direction of productivity so that I would have results for our class on Wednesday. In spite of this frustration I decided I must do something because I really want to do this prompt for my self and not just because I made a commitment to a class.
I spent a lot of time in the passenger seat of the sprinter van thinking about how I could be aimless with this prompt and came up with more reasons not to do things than to do them but that did help me generate some ideas that would come in handy later.
I started by punctuating productive homework for other classes with journalling with glitter pens and paper. I frequently journal but I use an app now so that I have the chance to save these entries for later. This time my intention was to make my pages disappear.
It took quiet a bit of time to fill out 6 pages double sided as it always does, three double sided pages a day is actually a lot of writing. At the end of my 6 pages I decided to burn them and let them disappear.
I used a plant pot to contain the ashes. It had been raining for the last few days so I wasn’t worried about the fire but I did have to keep the chickens in their coop so they wouldn’t be tempted to get involved. As I was burning the pages I attempted to meditate on the releasing of the feelings, the tensions and the anxieties but I found it quite hard to do while focusing on being safe with fire, keeping the pages lit and keeping an eye on the recording so I moved my attention to fully perceiving the fire.
The flames slowly curled around the pages causing the ink to vanish before my eyes. The fire hid in the folds of the paper and was actually hard to keep burning, typical when you want something to burn. I tried to keep the fire going as much as possible so I wouldn’t create too much smoke and attract attention from the neighbours. The smoke that did escape came right for my face and my eyes ran with tears. Ironically I must have looked very emotional but with the fire burning I was actually quite focused.
When it came to the end and the pages had all burned up I watched the orange glowing embers whip around the black parts of the paper that still remained turning them to white dust. It was beautiful. Once I could no longer see any embers I meditated for 5 minutes on the feelings and thoughts making sure I was fully consumed by the experience. I felt peaceful and serene. I felt free of my worries and need to do anything or rush around. It wasn’t until I got up to dispose of the ashes away from animal mouths that I started feeling the anxiety of productivity creep in again.
In spite of the rush of anxiety I felt like this was an opportunity to continue exploring some emotions and went back to my journal, this time on my app to document the more personal side of my experience. I recognize the value in slowing down and being calm and integrating this process.
The Aimless Imagery
Before we left for our trip we looked at the weather and saw it might not be too pleasant in Vancouver so thinking ahead that I might be able to use this to my advantage some how I left a bowl out to collect rain water (Is this being too productive or just curious? Hmm).
I was glad I did because I decided I would be able to use this water for some watercolor painting later. I wasn’t sure what I was going to pain yet. I wanted to be aimless but I found a use in the end.
On Monday I wandered around my neighbourhood looking for opportunities to draw with the plants. I was able to do one drawing of a little leafy plant before I got too cold and decided I was going to have to work from photos instead.
I wasn’t sure where I was going with this but I knew a line drawing didn’t feel done so I started filling in the background with watercolor using my rain water. Still unsatisfied with the result I colored in the pencil lines with a pen. Now I was starting to feel like I was getting somewhere.
When I finished I still felt like drawing and painting had too much planning in mind. I knew what I wanted it to look like and I knew when it was or wasn’t finished. This is when I came up with embroidery. I grabbed a big piece of polyester satin from an Ikea bag full of like fabric donated to me from a wedding dress designer. I have no idea what I am going to do with all this fabric but I know it is too beautiful to throw away. At least one piece has now found it’s use.
I pulled out some of my embroidery thread stash, grabbed a lovely gold and just started aimlessly embroidering a path around my fabric.
It was a Tuesday afternoon after class when I started this piece. During class I had begun to feel a swell of anxiety come on so I had hurried home. I took some CBD oil which usually helps me calm anxiety, not instantly but with continuous use and I hadn’t used it in a while. Unfortunately I am very sensitive to THC and don’t enjoy the experience of being high on it. The CBD oil I have has such a minor THC content on the label I believe it should be scientifically impossible to get high with it but after loosing count of how many drops I took I indeed got high. On the bright side this enabled me to spend the entire night with my aimless embroidery. Why I mention this is because I noticed, once embroidering the next day that the embroidery I did while accidentally high was quite jagged and sharp though abundant. I wonder if this is a reflection of what I don’t like about being high, whereas the sober embroidery was smooth and rounded more like lines in a piece of wood or a topographical map.
Aimlessness abound I continued this project for the rest of the week feeling like I was truly and finally getting the point of the project. Over the rest of the week I experienced a lot more anxiety. It built right until Thursday evening when it erupted in an anxiety attack complete with insomnia and plenty of tears. As I attempted to process the anxiety and continue on with this project I started to wonder if it was the aimlessness it’s self that might be partially responsible for the anxiety attack. Perhaps being goal oriented is a way to maintain control and to keep the anxiety at bay. I did have second thoughts about this since I realized I had a lot of other goal oriented work going on at the same time and there is no shortage of other things going on in my life that might be causing increased anxiety, years under covid pushing my business to the breaking point, a miscarriage only a few months ago, a war, being in a masters program and just life in general but I still think there is something to the realization of how much I cling to productivity for self worth. It’s certainly not the first time I have made that connection nor will it be the last.
As the week went by I noticed this project was starting to impact the way I was doing and seeing other things. I started doodling in class, I would have always opted for knitting something useful before, I started playing with the bubbles in a totally present state of mind in the hot tub whereas I would usually be working hard to puzzle out a problem before I got out and on with my day. It was starting to change the way I valued my time.
In the spirit of aimlessness, while working in my store on a Sunday I picked out some new colors of embroidery thread and began to fill in the cracks. Still under the spell of my anxiety attack I was trying to use my conversations with customers to give me some grounding. It had been a while since I worked in the store. People were so enthusiastic about all our items. We didn’t make a lot of sales, shopping habits have changed so drastically over covid, but I could tell people really love what we do which felt good. I also really enjoyed sharing my process of aimlessness with customers who inquired as I stitched at the counter. I really value and enjoy that aspect of having a store that it is an opportunity for community education and engagement. I love adding value to peoples live in such a relaxing and inviting setting. As more and more of our independent and creative retail environments continue to disappear I feel this is a really important component of communal life we will ultimately loose.
As I continued to work on my aimless embroidery I continued to receive comments and compliments. People could really connect with the idea of aimlessness. I had a wonderful moment where a fellow student, Melanie, told me she had drawn a picture of my embroidery on another students ipad when I was out of the room. Ironically it was her prompt on doing nothing that had initially inspired my aimlessness. I revelled in the circularity of our synergy.
This project definitely made me more aware of my intentions and how they don’t just impact the results but they impact the journey. I don’t think that would come as a surprise to anyone but really feeling it deep down is a different story. I am hoping as I go back to my dress project that I will be able to bring some aimlessness to it so that I might be able to do it in a more present manner.