Mystery corsetry is wonderful for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, because it is how I work best. I feel that a huge part of being a good designer, artist, business person, etc., is in knowing your strengths and your weaknesses. You then must either work around those things, employ outside assistance, or make a concerted effort to improve those weaknesses if you refuse to opt for the former two options!
I produce my most interesting work when given a lot of freedom. Clients who collaborate with me by throwing hints my way are incredible. They know my work, they understand the routes I am likely to take (into embellishment, tone and texture, and so on), and so they can give me almost vague starting points, sometimes feelings, to work from.
I’ve a client at present who has mentioned things like pebbles and seaglass. Delicious. Things that evoke almost physical memories of ovals tumbled smooth down river beds, matte grey surfaces, milky stones run through with quartz… The sorts of things you pay attention to as a child, then have little time for as an adult. The wonderful things.
Another, Elle, sent me glorious illustrations from dark fairytales. I responded with John William Waterhouse’s nymphs. We understood the dreamy, inky, dark and mysterious feel that we wanted to create, and the Tjarn corset was born.
Karolina had me create a dark Moth corset for her, and soon we will be collaborating on another. This time inspired by the Rosy Maple moth.
Secondly, I adore my creatively free commissions because the very fact of that freedom lets me fall in love with each piece.
Every client of a creative practitioner should hope for them to fall in love in this way! When we fall in love with the design we invest a level of care that cannot be faked. Every little flourish of lace, every single bead or pearl, it is all done with a view to creating something beautiful especially for that one person. This type of art is very much like gift giving. You feel such affection for the process, for the garment, for the client, that you want with all your heart for it to be truly special.
That emotional investment is invigorating, draining, thrilling, exhausting, creative, wonderful. You give much of yourself away for the sake of the work and the person it’s for. Things take a long time, they cannot be rushed, nor should they be. The goal is to give you something exceptional and personal, all else is secondary.
There are easier ways of earning a living, but I imagine few are so creatively satisfying as being asked, “please make me something beautiful.” The compulsion to make something for someone has always been with me, and giving time, passion and artistry has always made more sense than giving anything else.
I was reminded the other day that the word “passion” is often thrown around with little regard for its connotations of suffering. Passion is choosing the road less traveled, the harder business model, the less usual client, the unfeasibly time-consuming, the more financially challenging… simply because the process, the garment, and the client, are all beautiful and all worth the struggle. To make a living creating anything bespoke is exceptionally hard, but this is why I do it.
I want for my time alive to be well-spent, and I want for everyone I work with to feel sunshine and happiness.