Category Archives: Project Runway

Vacation Optimism, Reality Bites

So I just got back from clean air, lush grasses, and good friends. All the way back on the 12 hour journey from the White Mountains to LA, I listened to Return of the Native. These little ironies happen to me. I also–when not plugged in to my CD player–thought about all the stuff I wanted to accomplish when I got home: new stories down on paper, old stories reread and polished, submission mania, contests to enter; jewelry too with Betsy’s boutique coming up in a couple of months, supplies still virgin from Tucson and ideas popping out of my brain; and the painting. A little party in October at the salon of my very kind and loving hair dresser. Lots to do, lots to get ready for. BUT as always, the blush is off the aging sunburned cheek faster than I can say, “What IS that awful smell in the kitchen?”

First my dog. Reality bite #1. Cinder is amazingly alive and well. I’ve been worried–still worried–that one of these mornings I’m going to wake up and she won’t. I couldn’t imagine the stress that would be put on my mother-in-law if while staying at our house, SHE woke up and my dog didn’t!!! I put her at the vet while we were on vacation. The dog, not the M-I-L. By Friday according to the vet, Cinder was on an I.V. with–well, I won’t go into that. Let’s just say, I brought her home ($700 dollars later) and after a day, she’s back to normal. Her back end is wobbly with arthritis, but she IS 15 1/2 years old. That’s over 105 to me!

Second, the daughter—and her dog. Rodeo is a very cute puppy, a 10-month old rescue from Reno, part Australian cattle dog, part ???, and definitely part coyote. Rode is loving, sweet, and just emerging from the traumas of life on the street. I am so proud of how my daughter has nurtured this perky tangle of bones and fur. Having them both here the night we came home from the mountains, however, was a mixed blessing. Thrilled to have them–love that girl–but also difficult because Rodeo IS a puppy and a HERDER, and Cinder, old grand dame that she is, does not like to be herded!!! Plus daughters are distracting. I wanted her to see the last five episodes of So You Think You Can Dance (she doesn’t have TIVO and watches no regular TV up on the mountain) and of course, Project Runway. These shows appeal to both of us and our creative spirits so it is tradition to curl up on the sofa, skim through all those ruthless commercials and watch how passion can transform some one. Alas she went back up the hill yesterday. I miss her, but it is now back to reality.

Third, vacation ketchup!! making me bleed tomato sauce. Yep, laundry started, smells finally eradicated, to-do lists written and lost, new sneakers to buy (thank you, Rodeo, I’ve been putting that task off. Now I HAVE to go shopping!), and multitudinous loose ends to tie up including transferring photos to the desktop so I can send pix to all the people I promised too.

And of course there’s those teeth marks from the reality bites in my “creative life” too. Lots of writing deadlines I’d like to meet: Clapboard House, the Fish Anthology (thanks for the heads up, Sarah), Writer’s Digest’s popular fiction, and short shorts contests. New ideas are cooking up in the brain pan, but I need a week of uninterrupted work time to organize and get started. I hope that begins today.

I probably have more than enough paintings for the Masters Studio spot in October, but I have made almost no jewelry is six months except for the twenty or so bracelets Lynne and I cranked out for my son’s bride-to-be shower in June. Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. There is that wedding in October, weight to be lost, skin to be polished and I wish tightened (no way I’ll go under the knife: does anyone know a miracle cream for 59 year old skin?), and shopping for the M-O-G dress. MOG! What a great word to describe the emotion of trying to look good for wedding photos! I’m feeling very MOGGY today!

So my dance card is full and I’m feeling less optimism than I did toward the end of the week last week when all I had to worry about was washing my hands for dinner. But at least I know what’s on the agenda for the next couple months and that given this, I hope I remember to employ the word “NO” when REALITY BITES.

Another Lesson From Reality TV: Emulate those who succeed

Project Runway is my absolute favorite reality show. Although my other favorites feature real talent and creativity, PR features the kind of creativity that I relate to. Not saying I could do what they do anymore than I can sing or dance. I can’t sew anything but a curtain panel, but I’m talking about deeper stuff, that digging into the hidden corners of the right brain when doing art and finding originality. That’s what two designers were able to do on last night’s premier of Project Runway, Season 5.

What is originality? Talent and imagination, certainly, but also a third component, knowing what to do with it. One could say a person either is talented or not, has imagination or doesn’t, but I don’t believe that. Like everything else in our genes, the amount of talent and imagination varies, but of more consequence is what we do with what we have. Last night’s first episode of PR is a good example of what I mean. There is talent and imagination in each contestant, but two of them also showed that third component: savvy, the wisdom and shrewdness to pay attention to those who succeeded rather than to those who failed.

I can’t remember their names, Blond Tattoo Girl and Wistful Guy is what I’ll call them here. BTG and WG are obviously students of the show and so were familiar with last night’s challenge: Season 1’s grocery store outfit, and they were successful because they looked to the winner of that challenge while everyone else focused on what previous contestants had done wrong. That shift of perspective last night made all the difference.

Here’s the set-up. The contestants were taken to a grocery store and given $75.00 to purchase materials to fashion an outfit. Tim Gunn told them to think about the WOW factor, to come up with something that would “blow the judges’ socks off.” Austin Scarlett, the competitor who WON this challenge four years ago, pointed out that he succeeded by delivering the unexpected. The name of that episode was “Innovation” and his design, a bustier sundress made of corn husks, transformed an ordinary agricultural product into a snazzy little summer number. Yet despite these admonishments, many of the contestants headed straight for the easy-way-out aisle.

The most obvious and forgiving “materials” to purchase are, of course, trashbags, shower curtains, and table cloths. My immediate thought as they scurried into the aisles to buy these exact items was “These guys have thought about this challenge.” Of course they have. Me too. Everytime I take onions and avocados out of their plastic netted bags I think ‘evening gown yoke.’ But unfortunately, this year’s designers focused on the contestants who floundered with seemingly unsewable products, and they were determined not to fall into the same trap.

All except Blond Tattoo Girl and Wistful Guy. They paid attention to the winner of that challenge. They recognized Austin’s inventiveness and had considered about how they too could innovate. WG made probably one of the most impossible choices. He bought plastic drinking cups. As one of the judges said, “Exactly what ANYONE would hurry to grab for this challenge.” But it worked. He molded–literally with an iron–a corset top and bell skirt that looked wearable and was definitely sexy. He remembered the word “innovation” and by the silhouette he chose, he also remembered the corn-husk design. He kept it simple and pretty, AND used the unusable.

This worked for BTG, too, who won the challenge. SHE was crazy-creative with her vaccuum cleaner bags, her coffee filters, her tacks, and her binder spirals. Again I’m positive she’s thought about it before the show, asked herself, “What would I do if…” Her dye and bleach treatment to the bags created a fresh and artistic skirt. The burn-out filters worked humorously with the tacks for the bodice. It was charming. I was pleased she won.

So why am I–a writer–spending all this time on this topic? Because this first episode of the season carries with it a potent message: emulate those who succeed, not those who lose.

How many times has a writer, a friend, or even me, said, “I read the worst book. I know what’s wrong with it, so I know what not to do!”

Is this what any creative person should think about? An artist? A designer? A writer? Or should he or she instead, study what’s hanging on the walls of the Norton Simon and MOOLA? Watch what’s coming down the runway at Olypus Fashion Week? Or read closely for the content, the structure, the language of To Kill a Mockingbird or The Yiddish Policeman’s Union or Tess of the D’Urbevilles and shout out loud, “Now this is the kind of art I want to do!”

The two best pieces last night were created by savvy designers who listened, who studied the winners, who dug to the center of their imaginations, and who executed with confidence and verve. That’s the kind of writer I want to be. An original.