As I am sitting down to write today’s reflection, I am feeling far less hesitant than yesterday. The day is warmer than it has been lately and vibrant bird song is drifting through the open window. These two things have cheered me immensely. But I also think that sometimes the hardest part is just beginning. And since I’ve already begun looking back on this hard season, I can let the momentum of it carry me forward.
I’m now realizing a pattern about myself. That the hardest part for me is usually just beginning. I often take so much time asking what’s required and gathering all the information and hemming and hawing over the perfect time to start. But then once I actually finally start the thing, I come to find it was much easier than I expect and wish I has just started sooner. A new reflection for me to stew on…
Anyway, today I am turning inward to look at the creation of the Spring Garden Collection and what I learned from it.
The Spring Garden Collection continued the same themes as I shared here. The major difference is the flowers themselves. Growing in my garden last spring were Iceland Poppies, Sweetpeas, Cosmos, Snapdragons, Larkspur, California Poppies, Queen Anne’s Lace, and other foliage. However, there were two milestones of sorts in the making of this group of work – larger pieces and difficult flowers.
By comparison, my spring garden was absolutely bursting with life. With a larger number of blooms as well as the flowers themselves being larger. This in turn required me to create larger pieces, some of the largest I had ever made. The larger the piece the more difficult it is to create an even coat of cyanotype sensitizer and a clean unblemished blue background in the end. I was nervous about this but able to create many large pieces that met my high-quality standards.
There were a number of flowers in my spring garden that I consider to be difficult. Meaning their details were hard to capture. This could be because the flower has lots of detail or because the petals are thicker making it more difficult for the light to pass through and capture the detail. Iceland poppies are an example of the former challenge. This flower has so much detail but is also extremely thin. Without going into incredible detail about why I’ll just say that there is very little room for error and each part of the process needs to be incredibly precise. Once I figured out these nuances I was able to produce magical results. The final collection included three of these pieces, the first two were very hard to let go of. There is still one available and I know I will be sad to see it go as well.
The thicker flowers were difficult for almost the opposite reason. The two flowers that specifically come to mind are California Poppies and Snapdragons. These flowers need a much longer exposure time, however, the longer the flower sits in the sun the more it will wilt and become moist. And moisture is the enemy of clarity. But again without boring you with all the nerdy details, I was able to nail down the precise process these flowers needed. “Painted Over Each Spring”, made with the California Poppies, and “A thousand Blended Notes” made with snapdragons are two pieces I am incredibly proud of.
These milestones were such a huge win for me, especially in such a hard season. However, I don’t want to give you the impression that I can do no wrong. This season had both wins and losses in the studio. After creating the collection, I was soon to discover that the new release method I shared about yesterday, was not all that I hoped it would be.
In short, the slow collection release did not work for me. It’s true, that the slower pace of tasks was a good fit however, maintaining the high energy needed to market a slow collection release was not. Even if I wasn’t in a season of grief, I think maintaining that pace would have been difficult. “I wonder if they can tell how tired I am” is a direct quote from my notes and summed up perfectly how I was feeling. But even though this idea was an epic fail, there is still so much I learned from it and these lessons have continued to change the way I think about my practice and the way I release collections to this day.
Simplicity + Focus
The initial impulse that led me to the slow release method idea, was a good one. The way I had been doing collection releases in the past was not a good fit for my life in the spring of 2021 but also just in general. There really was an overwhelming amount of work that I put into prepping a collection to release. However, instead of changing the method I really needed to simplify the tasks and focus on the ones that mattered most. Eliminating all else.
Sustainability + Pace
Something else that was challenging for me about the slow release method, was that it extended the release. Which was kind of the point. But what I didn’t realize is that this also meant I had to put off creating more artwork. Spending months, yes actual months plural, not creating killed me. One of the big reasons I changed from wedding photography to fine art was so that I wouldn’t spend my entire day chained to a computer. Keep in mind that, one of my big takeaways from the winter was that I wanted to be creating every day. And the slow release was not a good fit in light of those two important things. But this mistake helped me to realize that what I needed was a more sustainable pace and more balance between creating and prep work.
Since the spring of 2021, simplicity and sustainability have been at the forefront of my mind. I’ve constantly been asking myself, how can I simplify? how can I make my practice more sustainable? It has been a constant refinement. And sometimes it seems silly that I need to keep asking myself these two questions. But my work, practice, and personal life are all affected by it and with such a large impact these themes have become foundational to my business. And I don’t think I will ever stop asking them.
Failure is never fun and I for one lived most of my life under the impression that it was something to be avoided at all costs. However, I think failure is actually such an incredible gift. And if we allow it, failure can shift from being the dreaded enemy to being a helpful teacher. What good thing is not worth refinement and work? And how do we discover what must be refined without trial and error? This is a lesson I often have to remind myself of, but when I allow failure to be a gift, beautiful results always come from it.
How do you typically respond to failure? What would happen if you began to see failure as a helpful teacher rather than an enemy?
What is something that did not work last year? What is something you learned from it?
Collect the Artwork
Most of the pieces from the Spring Garden Collection have been collected. However, there are a few originals left as well as a few framed prints sourced from this collection. I’ve linked them below.
Tomorrow I am moving on to reflecting on the summer season and the Current Collection. As usual, there will be a few questions to help you dive inward along with me. Below is a quick reference guide to all the posts in this series.