You might wonder what I mean by practice projects. It’s a term I use to describe something that I think all curious crafters and makers do. It certainly helps improve my work. There’s always an element of fun in creating them too.
A practice project wall that is featured in the Finding Form with Fibre book
While I was writing my book Finding Form with Fibre I wanted to address the issue of perfectionism in craft, and how crafters will often want to create something perfect on their first go. Often, if they don’t they’ll say ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘I’m useless at this!’. I noticed this a lot during my workshops and students wanting their work to look the same as mine that I had spent 100s of hours working out a technique. So I always like to show my first basket for this reason.
I think, at some point, we’ve all had a go at a new craft and thought to ourselves ‘it doesn’t look like that in the book or on Instagram,’ etc, etc. Can you relate to that? I bet you can!
You might be one of those crafters who becomes very enthusiastic about a craft and spends a whole load of money buying things for it (with full intentions to make lots of interesting things). Then you become disinterested because it doesn’t quite look like how you imagined. I cannot tell you how many times I have done this too.
Trust me, I always wanted to be a perfectionist - but gave up on that sometime ago and it took me a while to discover the art of the practice project; that is, to trust the process of making without holding myself to ridiculous standards. I mean, where’s the fun in that!?
Two practice projects working on Under and Over weaving
So, in answer to the question, ‘what are practice projects?’: practice projects are about making small pieces using only a small number of materials, then experimenting with techniques. I encourage you to make lots of small pieces, and I mean lots and lots of them! This is you allowing yourself to play and experiment - if you do this you will not get hung up about being perfect. Your mindset will be different – and more accepting of the process in creating.
A collection of twined weaving with various fibres
Next step: keep all your little projects until you have lots, 10, 20, 30 maybe - then start to arrange them together on a flat surface like a bench or on a wall. By doing this you will probably find that together they will look really interesting - this will likely keep you interested to make more and where you find your ideas! Keep your note book nearby and scribble down any thoughts.
At this point, you may even feel like you can move onto larger practice projects. You see if we start off on a big project, and you’re not quite sure of the technique- you’re likely to make mistakes and very quickly lose interest. For example, it’s not like you’d turn up to your first woodwork class and start making a wardrobe, you’d start off learning to make smaller items. It would be much less daunting than trying to perfect cabinetry in one go.
Lately I have been exploring techniques using as many different plant fibres as I can find. I have been doing the usual small practice projects, mostly learning how new fibres (to me) work and sometimes, what doesn’t. By doing this I have found some unexpected results which have pushed me into exploring new creative avenues.
A collection of cordage (string) made with many different fibres. This is an excellent way to test out fibres.
This process of practice projects is also helpful when you want to push the boundaries as an artist and want to produce something different.
So, my tip for you today, is to have a go with the idea of some small practice projects. I want you to simply explore techniques and different materials, using the mindset of playing and experimenting and see what you can discover!
If you'd like to share your work on Instagram for a bit of fun just
hashtag # craftcshoolozpracticeprojects and I'll show them in my stories.
Have fun! I can’t wait to see what you’ve made.