Paralyzed by Perfection (Or Turn it 90 Degrees)

I am in denial about being a perfectionist. The first time someone pointed it out, I was shocked – I’m not a particularly neat person (let’s go with “creatively messy”), I’m pretty low-key about many things in life — how could I be a perfectionist? Now, years later, I have to admit that I am, definitely, a perfectionist. Sometimes it serves me well – I have excellent attention to detail, I am willing to put the hours and hard work into a project to make it fit my artistic vision – and sometimes it is a real problem. 

For the past several weeks I’ve been working on the labels in the above photo. It’s a technique using coarse embossing powder to create a translucent shell over an image. In the past I’ve used it to make a translucent disk and, at the beginning of this project, I tried to do that same process. I had all kinds of technical problems, finding a frame large enough (in the past I’d used metal washers), warping during melting, warping during cooling and, once I thought I’d solved those problems, I’d find out my sample pieces were the flukes and I really hadn’t solved the problems at all! To compound the issue, when I attached them to book covers, I realized I didn’t want them translucent after all – the adhesive (and any bubbles) showed right through.

Piles of ruined supplies later, I was so frustrated, I stopped working on my books. I kept missing one self-imposed deadline after another but couldn’t get myself back on track. I also couldn’t let go of that artistic vision that said these books need this kind of label. Sigh.

During this period of paralysis brought on by my own perfectionism, I went to the Maker Faire. If you’ve ever been, you’ll know it’s wonderfully overwhelming with a mixture of creativity that reminds me of a G-rated Burning Man. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend going at least once. They have them all around the country. But I am getting off topic as usual. Squirrel?

Back to the paralysis and piles of ruined materials. During the Maker Faire I had the opportunity to hear Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz of EepyBird.com speak. It was a fun and interesting presentation (you can have way too much fun wandering around their website) and, most importantly, they said something that will forever change the way I approach my artistic paralysis. “Turn it 90 degrees.”

Part of their process is to play with materials and, after hours of trying to get sticky notes to act like a slinky with no luck, they had the idea of turning the pad 90 degrees. That simple change (which took them hours to think of) made everything fall into place.

The next day, as I was sitting at the table looking at those labels, I remembered what they said, “Turn it 90 degrees.” Now in my case, turning the labels made no difference, but rethinking them from the ground up sure did. Rather than layering clear material with thin paper and more clear material, I printed on Rives BFK and used the heavy paper as a base with clear material on top. In that one change I solved all of my problems. The labels no longer warp, the adhesive no longer shows through and the paper backing allows for a better bond with the book cloth. Eureka!

Somehow solving that label problem unlocked my ability to solve the other technical problems I’d been having with other materials in these art pieces. Everything has fallen into place and I’m happy to say that I’ve finished almost all of the books I’ve been working on (that I’ve been stuck on, really). I’ll begin introducing them next week.

Thank you Mr. Grobe and Mr. Voltz. I now have a sign in my studio that says “Turn it 90 degrees.” I’m hoping in future moments of perfectionist paralysis that sign will spur my brain to creative mobility.

~Ginger

www.gingerburrell.com

3 responses to “Paralyzed by Perfection (Or Turn it 90 Degrees)

  1. good post Ginger. it’s always nice to hear other artists struggle with these things. I did a contact print recently from 3 layers of negatives. It was great, but now I cannot replicate the effect I like. All my subsequent prints have been disappointing. Last weekend I decided it can be digital – this is a job for layers in Photoshop. So much for the romance of “being one with my materials.”

  2. to aggravate your perfectionism, here’s what was on the sign in my high school drafting class:
    If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when are you going to have time to redo it?

  3. Pingback: Turning it 90 degrees: Why Having a Community of Artists Matters | Midnight Musings

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