I can’t tell you how many wedding related pieces I have created, I’ve lost count. When I was single, I was invited to SOOOO many weddings. Not always because I knew the couple really well and they wanted me to share in their special day. I was invited because people began to know my work and would invite me because they knew I would make their wedding gift. A nice complement, but really!?!
So when I do get a chance to create a wedding piece for someone where I am overjoyed about their union, it is a special treat. Dawn and Stevan are that couple. Steve worked for me for several years and we would have many conversations about his finding a wife. He wanted to wait for his soul mate and didn’t care how long that took. In our last heart to heart on this topic I advised him to let go of his idea of his soul mate and be open to God’s idea of his mate…that was five years ago.
Two weeks ago we attended Dawn and Steve’s wedding, what a celebration. I won’t go into the details of the wedding (though my husband actually danced to multiple songs in a row!!!) I will tell you about the wedding piece I created.
Here is a shot of the paper/documents I received about the wedding: the invitation, save the date notice, wedding shower invite, and all the associated envelopes. Their wedding had an old hollywood theme, very elegant and very elaborate.
In emailing back and forth with them, they wanted something 24x36ish in a black frame. They like mid-century modern, clean lines, and wanted something very unique. Steve’s favorite color is blue and Dawn liked that color too. They told me over and over in each email their wedding colors – black, grey, silver, ivory. Their wedding song was “The Story” by Brandi Carlisle. It is a touching piece about the hard road to love and realizing that “I was made of you…” Which in this case meant an intricate journey and many years of searching while still living life and finding yourself. Somewhere in all that, I had the information I needed to create their custom wedding piece.
With all the pieces put together, now to the hard part – the actual work. Here is when I turned to my process. Whether artists know it or not, they have a process they follow when they create. Over the years I have tried several variations on creating a piece, but it usually comes down to the same elements. In this type of situation, I create the mat first. It is more productive to create the outside element first, then I write the text/piece second. I find I have more creative freedom to mix colors or writing instruments to compliment the mat than to try to find paper to compliment the writing.
How do I combine all this into a piece they will want hanging in their home for 50 years? Ugh! When I put it that way, it seems a daunting task. So I start by cutting up the wedding elements to see what I can see. As I cut I see colors and textures and embossing and personal stamps and background colors I can include. After that I begin selecting paper that will compliment their color scheme and the unusual elements I see in their wedding. To the right I have a picture of the paper I pulled from my many paper drawers for their piece. I do this like an interior designer might pull fabric swatches for recovering a sofa. I see which scraps speak to me, and I begin cutting these into smaller pieces. I do not lay it all out then begin gluing, I glue as I go – making the mat on the fly as they say. I let the paper and scraps guide me as I work. Yes, there have been bungles (those mats are in a drawer, not many but there are a couple!) and it is a risk. If I goof up I may waste a special piece of paper. It is exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.
One challenge this wedding pieces posed, it had such a large volume of elements I wanted to include in the mat. There were stamps and envelopes and pictures and rehearsal cards, save the date notices and shower invitations. All had a similar theme, yet were different. When I create a mat I work to make the personal elements a subtle mix with the color and paper I include. Otherwise it ends up looking like a scrap-book gone bad!
How could I be expected to create without the invaluable guidance and constant nudging of management…alias our cat Jezzy. As I began working, she had to be included. I spent more time getting her off the papers than I did cutting them! She doesn’t actually do anything, she just wants to direct what you are doing – hence her nickname of management. This pieces did get her seal of approval, so I guess that’s a good thing.
It’s funny how you have in your mind the idea of what you think you are creating. The overall shape, texture, and big picture view. I write down ideas and facts I want to include, then the creative process takes over and the piece has a life of its own. I started with a white mat and moved through their elements and the handmade paper scraps I selected and started gluing. The overall piece was white and cream with elements from the envelopes, invitation and rsvp card. Because their items were so full of design, I had to be careful how I added them together to avoid a piece that looked too busy or overworked. I had to include small sections of pieces to compliment the paper as well as include enough of their “stuff” to make it personal. If you look at the picture to the right, you will notice a touch of red in the corner. That is the LOVE stamp from an envelope I received. The blue line to the left is a segment from the bottom of the wedding invitation…
Once the mat was completed, I had to create the inside work. Their song is very wordy. It tells a beautiful story and I wanted to include the important portions. I wrote that text first around the edge of the piece and used markers to fill in the negative spaces with color that complimented the colors included in the mat. I then had to put in the big words. And this is where I get most nervous. As I build a piece, each section must compliment the earlier elements – and I can’t botch it up, otherwise everything has to be redone. I test inks and colors and text layout on test strips of the paper, and try many combinations before I add an element to the final piece. For this one, I had the outer edge ready for about two weeks before I did the inside lettering. I was not comfortable with the idea in my head being executed the way I wanted, so I pondered – or you might call that procrastination. Whichever, I gave it some time. I work best under pressure, not sure why, but I do. So as the clock ticked away I thought and wondered and thought some more.
The difficulty with commissioned work is that not all clients can “see” where you are going. I have had clients that were more like GPS systems wanting to direct my every turn and demanding I “make a legal u-turn” when they were not in control. Others have given specifics that confine my talents, and others give a general idea and wait in anticipation. Steven and Dawn knew my work and wanted to be surprised…and they were.
My husband and I delivered the piece and attended the wedding. One of the best we had ever attended – food, fun, music, dancing, and everyone in attendance was thrilled that this couple was uniting in love. The final piece is to the left.
They loved it and I am proud. It is different from any other piece, not just because of their elements but because of the amount of white paper and intentional negative space I left. I know they will enjoy it for years to come. I am very blessed to be able to share in their future through my work.