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My Weekend With the Clothespin People

Heather Ross23 Comments

This has been a busy, busy week. Actually, its been work work work since I returned from Quilt Market in Houston (I was there to promote my book, due out in March) working on two new fabric lines set to launch in the spring, both of which were due before I left. I had finished the first (for Kokka) and was well on my way to submitting the second (for Westminster) when I decided to tweak it just a tiny bit, to add a print or two more that would really "pull it all together", promising myself it would only take a few extra hours of my time, and now here I find myself,  five days later, with guests on their way and nothing done.

How, you might be asking, did I wander so far off track? Simple. I was led astray by an odd and dandy tribe known simply as the Clothespin People. My diary of this cultural experience as well as some insight into what I like to think of as my productive if not alarmingly tangential creative process reads below. 


My Birthday! large box of incredible swiss chocolates have just arrived by morning delivery from C & J, am so quick to start inhaling them that I assume they are from TC and do not read the card. Must focus and tweak Westminster line, which is looking like it wants to be developed from a "sewing and crafts" theme into a full blown "Odd Church Basement Craft Bazaar Upstate" collection, but must make it quick as it is due. Will try adding a sheep print (rare breeds bred for their wool) and maybe something simple and tiny. knitting needles aren't working. maybe I will try clothespins. Must Google clothespins. Vintage or modern? Plastic or wooden? Colored or not? Eat more chocolates and call my sister, who is also having a birthday today and is therefore the only one in the family that I remember to call. I am halfway through my first draft, which is so boring that I have to go back upstairs and get one more chocolate. see for yourself:


O Dear, so dull. Maybe I should look to vintage clothespins? OOO, this is nice:

TC calls from train on his way back from Washington, and when thanked for the chocolates he tells me they are not from him, which means I have to rummage through the recycling to find the card (the beautiful packaging is already on my inspiration board, those swiss sure know how to get the color green right) that came with the chocolates, but on my way past the computer I see that my search has turned up these two images:


Out walking the dog in the freezing a.m. and begin thinking of clothespin people. Would it be gettable? Confusing? Tacky? Craft Bazaar, certainly, but what would you do with it? The fabric I mean... Am so distracted by voices in head that I leave the leash on the dog when I get home because I go straight to my drawings and only realize it when I hear him coming down the stairs loudly dragging it behind him.  I spend five minutes untangling him and pondering my potential as a fit parent, then get distracted again and go back to drawing little outfits on my clothespins. 


A day off from drawing and spent at the newish Elizabeth Peyton show at the New Museum and lunch with Alli and Denyse trying not to think about clothespins. Still, I realize during my day away that I have become quite attached to my little clothespin people, and look forward to coming home to them. I have begun to think of them as a band of pluckish little pioneers, all full of hope in their long skirts and braids and startled smiles. I can picture them carrying water and driving oxen, knitting warm hats as they move westward in their little wagon train, towards the arduous mountain passes that have tested clothespin people before them, until they huddled cold and shivering, eyeing one anther's brittle little legs as the last of the firewood is exhausted... OK wait stay on a cheerful track here... Perhaps dancing in groups, swinging one another around on those little cocked pipe-cleaner arms. I and am determined to finish them and to introduce them to everyone as a part of my little collection of new prints, which I can see now has been rounded out because of them. I already love them. I am prepared to defend them. And to dress them. Now they look like this:


Sent clothespin people to those who will really tell me what they think, my sister and Brooke, and also to my husband, who will likely think of something funny to say about them and tell me that I am a genius, which usually counterbalances whatever honest critiques I get elsewhere. Also to Denyse because they will make her smile and its Monday. My first response is from Brooke, who thinks they look like little naked mannequins. I am almost ready to defend my little nude clothespins against her obviously extreme views when an email comes through from my sister. She thinks they look like "little nude wooden people". Now I really have to consider this. Westminster is pretty liberal with its designers in terms of creative license, but I am pretty sure nudity is out. A third and R rated email from TC confirms the success of my foray into clothespin _orn. Not since my first day in life drawing am I blushing like this. I also need to rethink the layout and remember loving Andy Warhol's shoe print.... which I am able to find online and compare. Yes, that's better. Here is my next try:

Emails from the council agree, its better, but almost everybody thinks its better without the people. Brooke suggests killing them. I know she means it as an editing term but I am suddenly fiercely protective. I get the attention of my little clothespin family and yell at them to gather up their little prairie skirts and circle the wagons, because we have six months of uncharted territory ahead of us, and as usual, not everybody will know what to think of us. Plus we have to convince Westminster that they should allow me to make this one a border print, with the little people along the selvedge (see top image). This means that the sales reps will have to drag around a sample that is the extra big and cumbersome. They are going to love that.

Am nowhere near done, one year older, and not at all prepared for Thanksgiving.

And somehow, during my accidental process, I managed to miss the loveliest example of clothespin civilization out there, which is led by Sarah Neuberger at  The Small Object. I have seen her cake toppers before, but did not make the clothespin connection! Here are a few of my favorites, but I highly recommend going to get some chocolates or a coffee and looking at each and every one of them. She has a blog too. And look! KITS!