Nowhere but Where you Want to Go…

Life has a funny way of unraveling itself. Despite all our efforts, all our planning, the road we set off embarking on will change as time goes by. Life will set obstacles in our way, and if we are to stay on course, we must surmount them. Yet, sometimes we’re forced to take a detour. Often, we become frustrated, and we try bustle through and get back onto our well planned pathway. Every once in awhile, if we actually look around us as we travel down these side roads life’s detours force us to take, we might discover something worthwhile: an out of the way diner, a cozy independent bookstore, an old theater, or maybe just a pretty house with a for sale sign in the yard.
Or sometimes we simply decide we want to go somewhere else and cut across a parking lot or a farmer’s field to get to another road.

I feel like society at large expects us to plot a course and stay true and unwavering to that course. The implications being that if we stay the course we will be happy and stable and successful. The general model that we’re supposed to base our lives on is: Get your HS diploma (or GED), go to college (or trade school), get a job, get married, buy a house, start a family. It also feels as if getting off that course suggests failure at life. But what happens when you’re traveling down the expressway and traffic jams up and forces you into a painfully slow single lane? Or what about when your ending destination suddenly disappears like Atlantis into oblivion?  This is what a lot of people who have lost their jobs have had to deal with. This is what myself and my peers have had to face (or will have to face) coming out of school. It seems like college is becoming more and more of a necessity with fewer and fewer guarantees of anything beyond student loan debt.

What do you do when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere? Where do you go? Do you keep moving in some direction, or do you pause for a moment and take in your surroundings? Do you follow the well trodden path? The path less traveled? Or do you create your own path, hacking your way through the brush if necessary? It seems to me that we often feel pressured or rushed to keep moving and to “get back on track” as quickly as possible. As if to be off track is to be in this very undesired position. I find it somewhat amusing that it’s ok to be “outside the box”, so long as you are “on track” and even better if you are “on the fast track”.  (this is my odd/corny sense of humor at work here)

When I started this project, I had no real idea where it was going, and over time, as I built upon it, its true nature revealed itself to me. It really took on a life and a meaning all its own. The Nowhere Man, with its kind of off-kilter compass and frayed edges that shirk convention, reminds us that even when we we’re out in the middle of nowhere, we have the freedom and the power to go where we want to. We don’t even have to know where we are going when we start off, the path will reveal itself in due time if we keep our senses open to it.

Having come to the end of the road (but certainly not the end of the journey), the Nowhere Man is now officially for sale on my Etsy.  I’m excited to see what other roads I will be led down as I continue to work this blog and continue to create…

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Nowhere on the Horizon

I want to thank my readers for sticking with me despite my negligence in posting the past few weeks. Almost immediately after I finished dealing with all the holiday happenings and the post-holiday take down, I was viciously attacked by a nasty flu bug bent on world domination… or, well, at least the domination of my immune system. After almost a week of full on war, the entire flu army has been obliterated. Somewhere in my sinuses there are still bits of mutilated flu bodies scattered around, and on a cell wall is a photo of some of my white blood cells in combat fatigues and helmets, climbing over a tonsil and raising the flag of victory.

Now that life is settling back into it’s normal rhythm, I’m back to work, sewing away. I’ve been doing most of my work on the Nowhere Man.  Have a look at what I have been up to:

Adding the second later of diamonds...

Rather than applique the star onto the back of the jacket, I decided to replace the entire back panel. I ended up using one of my collector knives as a seam ripper because I had lost mine. It actually worked rather well, however I did get a proper seam ripper as a replacement for Christmas.
I wanted to replace the entirety of the back panel, so, it’s obvious that I needed to add more diamond layers. One thing I would like to point out now that ended up turning into a huge pain later on: Do you see how the original panel is sewn together in 3 sections? Notice how they are curved? It’s a seam trick that makes the garment a little more form fitting — this is a woman’s jacket afterall. It also does not allow the fabric to lay 100% flat, there is an ever so slight curvature to it. With the way the star is put together and laid out, I can’t very well replicate those panel sections. So, I had to alter the shape of the entire back somewhat to accommodate my design.
I toyed around with the idea of orienting the star in such a way as to designate the cardinal directions (North, South, East, West) in red and using the grey for NNW, NNE and the like.  I also, ultimately, wasn’t able to do this either once my star was big enough to cover the majority of the back.
All the diamonds come from old jeans. The bigger chunks of denim come from scrap material left over from when I made myself a pair of bell bottoms 4 years ago. I save everything. I have some scraps of fabric I have been toting around since 8th grade that I’m still not sure how I will use. Maybe someday I’ll make some twined rag rugs or maybe I’ll get really industrious and use the smallest bits of fiber to make my own paper. I don’t put it past myself. The point is, I do not want to waste anything if I can at all help it.
Right now, I am actually in the process of installing the new “Nowhere Man” panel into the jacket. I still need to pick up some more yellow denim thread to do this properly, so all the current stitches are just temporary stay stitches. Something else that’s going to be super fun (and a super pain in the butt): Do you notice how those big chunks of new denim are so much lighter cleaner than the rest of the jacket? Left alone, it probably won’t look right once the installation is done. That’s right… I’m going to have to manually age/dirty those sections so it’ll fit into the surroundings better.  That’s something I have never done before.. so, on one hand, I am excited. On the other, I am nervous and worried that I might end up ruining this piece that I have spent so many hours toiling over. This is how I learn though, I play around and experiment.

He’s a Real Nowhere Man

I know it’s been a few weeks since my initial post, and I apologize for that. I’ve been extremely busy most of the month. I’ve sat down and given this blog a healthy dose of will power and fiber, so I promise this thing will be regular from here on out 🙂

Earlier this year I started playing around with old jeans and scraps of denim. I didn’t really have any rhyme or reason, I was just toying around, not really knowing what I would make, what these old pieces of jeans would become… kind of like streams of consciousness crafting, lol.  I wasn’t far into anything when I got called into doing some other major project and my little nowhere man got shoved into a forgotten corner of the fabric heap.

My Little Nowhere Man

Well, I have finally reunited myself with my little nowhere man, and have started working on him once more. Only now, I have all these ideas running through my head.. I’ve decided that my nowhere man needs a purpose.. he should be going somewhere.

I considered what he is.. he is essentially pieces of recycled denim being handsewn together like a patchwork quilt. So I thought more about the concept of combining blue jeans and quilts… and thought to myself, a denim quilt, even a small one, would be kind of heavy and cumbersome.  That was out. I thought about building on him and making him into a couch pillow.. but I felt that my nowhere man needed to be seen out in the world. He needs to be worn. But how?

I thought about what he symbolizes, what he represents.. I looked at the history and cultural significance of blue jeans in America. They say that the average American owns 7 pairs of jeans. I am no exception.. in fact, I own about 10 pair. So I did some research.. here are some of the more interesting parts of blue jean history, for your amusement:

  • Despite the fact that denim has actually been around longer than the USA and was developed in Europe some 500 years ago blue jeans have become a distinctly American wardrobe.
  • The word “jeans” comes from the name Genoa, where sailors wore pants made of a kind of rough cotton/ linen blend material(1).
  • The officially recognized birthdate of the blue jeans we know and love today is May 20, 1873. It was on this day that Levi Strauss got the patent to add rivets for added durability. The idea of Jacob Davis, who sold the idea to Strauss and went into business with him (3).  Blue jeans started off as the sturdy and long lasting pants worn by the miners, the scores of men searching for gold, and most any hard working laborer because they were rugged and didn’t rip and tear as easily. Because of this, jeans are tied into that American dream, that hunt for fortune and glory of the prospectors and into the notion of self-reliance and a hard days work.

It was Hollywood that really helped to push the image of blue jeans. Most of the world thinks of blue jeans and thinks of the cowboy or the American Old West. Indeed, according to Wikipedia:

In Spain they are known as vaqueros (“cowboys”) or tejanos (“Texans“), in Danish cowboybukser
meaning “cowboy pants” and in Chinese niuzaiku (SC: 牛仔裤, TC: 牛仔褲), literally, “cowboy pants”
(trousers), indicating their association with the American West, cowboy culture, and outdoors
work. Similarly, the Hungarian name for jeans is “farmer” (short for “farmernadrág”, meaning
“farmer’s trousers”).

Before Hollywood started making westerns and depicting cowboys wearing jeans, cowboys actually hadn’t worn jeans as a regular thing. Of course, the movies and John Wayne helped to change that.
It was in 1950’s that started to bring about the association of jeans with rebelliousness, non-conformity and youth. Teenagers were wearing jeans more often, and movies like “Rebel Without a Cause” with James Dean and “The Wild One” with Marlon Brando gave rise to the image of the American bad boy, the wild child anti-hero. And what was this iconic anti-hero wearing? Blue jeans (and a leather jacket, but that will be another post for another day).  Did you know blue jeans were actually banned from schools and other public places because they were connected to this troublemaker image?

Marlon Brando in "The Wild One"

Movie poster for "Rebel Without a Cause"

I thought about all these connotations, all these icons and images that are wrapped up into the very soul of the substance I was working with. I thought about the social and environmental implications of my making this.. thing.. strictly out of old blue jeans, and that I am not using my sewing machine at all and doing all the work by hand. My mind took a tangent off into the realm of Etsy and what kind of meaning that has for us, for those of us who have gotten tired of cookie cutter fashion and big corporations controlling what we buy, what we think. I thought of how 50-60 years ago, or more, Americans knew more about how to make their own clothes and alter them themselves. I thought about how few of those of us who sew our own clothes in America today know how to draft their own patterns.. we buy readily available patterns from McCall’s or Simplicity or whoever. All we have to do is trace and ta-da! I thought about that, and how girls in Japan draft their own patterns from ゴスロリ(Gosu Rori) and the like as if it were nothing. I feel like I’m in the middle of some kind of Pro-Green, Anti-Consumer Culture, Anti-Walmart-and-all-it-stands-for, Neo-Self-Reliance Revolution…  and how, somehow, my little nowhere man is supposed to be this unifying visual symbol for all of these concepts and ideas.

And then I remembered my Peirce (Semiotics) and what my nowhere man really began as.. a nowhere man. And I think he would look pretty cool as the back panel of a denim jacket when he grows up.

Sources

  1. http://www.jeans-and-accessories.com/history-of-blue-jeans.html
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeans
  3. Confidential: Blue Jean Confidential via Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YK-JRxrprAA