Almost there.

comments: 37


Yesterday was one of the big photo shoots I had planned for the book. This was the last big one, the one with my model, Beauty Nicole. That's what I call her. She's also the most patient and the nicest girl in the world. Even though a porch swing she was sitting on fell out of the porch ceiling and she got hit in the head with a two-by-four (from the ceiling) six days ago (I didn't really know this until we were fussing with her hair and had to be careful about where she'd just gotten two stitches removed), she modeled five projects perfectly. I really, really hope she has the weekend off, poor darling. I wish I had baked her some cupcakes to take home, at least.

I get a little anxious about these photo shoots. The "vision" we're trying to translate is such a wily, capricious thing. When I am designing something, I almost always have a vision for it, a specific environment. It's a setting. I can hardly think of anything that doesn't inhabit a very specific setting in my imagination as it's coming to life. Since I was very young I have always designed things this way, whether I'm making embroidery projects or short stories: There's always a place. It often comes first. My friend Andy Greer once said to me after a fiction workshop when we were in grad school together, "Well, I'm not sure what's going on in your story, but I know what all the characters are wearing and what the wallpaper in everbody's room looks like." And I was like, "Oh good! So you got it, then!"

I'm getting more relaxed about photo shoots in general, I think, which is good, in general, for the almighty blood presure, but good aesthetically, too. I've been involved in enough of them now to know that holding on too tight just squashes the sponteneity and naturalness right out of anything. I "know" this, of course, but it still takes a conscious effort for me to remember that letting go is Good, not Bad. But you gotta let go at just the right amount, and that's the tricky part. It sort of feels like doing a triple axel (as if I could even stand up on ice skates, but we'll just say) — you let go enough so that you can lift off and spin, but not so much that you can't land it. And maybe even attempt a teensy wrist flourish: Ta da! [There. Skate on.]

Part of what contributes to the intensity is just the weirdness of working alone for so long, only getting to talk to editors and art directors on the phone, usually in abstractions and generalities, and then trying, when there's only that one day to get it right (since, trust me, rescheduling a photo shoot is not something anyone anywhere ever wants to have to do), to get something that pleases all of us equally, not to mention pleases our future audience. It's ultimately a collective vision and I feel a great responsibility for that, since a lot of people and a lot of time and a lot of effort (and money) is involved. Part of it is just simple performance anxiety, which has always plagued me. And part of it — maybe even the biggest part of it — is just something that comes with experience, I guess. Is that right? Because all of it, not just the phototography but everything about making a book, has been so much easier and so much better the second time around. I think I'm surprised I had the capacity to enjoy myself this much.

Anyway. These are just the things I think about, now that I am almost there, and almost done. Just two more project photos to go now. But I'll be far away from needle and thread, camera and computer this weekend: I'm digging in the dirt. If the weather holds out.


So interesting!
And poor Beauty! I've always been nervous about porch swings--that must have hurt!
I can't wait to see your finished product. The process is fascinating!

Beauty sounds like a lovely person...and I have enjoyed hearing about your book...looking forward to its release! Yippee!!!

jeanzdreamz says: April 17, 2009 at 12:21 PM

Can't wait to see your new book! Enjoy your weekend digging in the deserve some quality outside time!

I hope you have fun outside this weekend.

Your book sounds like it is going to be another great one. I have so enjoyed your first book and can hardly wait for the second.

It is so fascinating to hear about the process. I would love to have more of a sneak peek! And to hear more about your vision if you would like to share...

Ahhhh, I'm just so happy to hear that you're having an actual photo shoot. I've gotten the impression from many craft blogger/authors that one is expected to be a sort of superwoman who not only conceives and crafts fabulous content and can, of course, write lyrically about it, but also takes photos to rival a dedicated professional and probably even produces her own elegant illustrations. It's nice to hear that one mustn't have to do it ALL to create a beautiful, fun and inspirational book (which I'm sure yours will be).

congratulations on letting go a little - that is one thing i am still working on!

SO jealous that you get to be outside digging in the dirt - OREGON dirt. i love oregon dirt.

This sounds like such fun even though I can understand the stress in trying to translate your vision to other people. Good luck in the rest of finishing up the book! :)

You are beautiful.

Oh, the weather should hold out. It should actually be fabulous! This fellow Portlander (faithful reader of your blog), is thrilled. I will also be out in my garden. I have a similar flat of patient plants to the one you showed yesterday, waiting to be put in the ground. Enjoy your weekend outside!

whew! I know just what you mean. Sort of. =) Well, about performance anxiety. I just lectured 250 undergrads on the life of Shakespeare for an hour. Yikes. I am SO GLAD that's over; I enjoyed the first part, but now I'm just enjoying that it's Friday and it's sunny and I am able to come visit this place and soak up some Alicia-time.

ah, that's better.

My girl and I built a fairy house yesterday in the back yard in our beautiful Portland sunshine, such joy! I took nearly 40 photos of the little structure to get just the right mood and atmosphere for my blog, I too had a 'vision'. Unfortunately blogger makes my pics look all oogly and it's devastating. I need to let go as well.

Lettuce, chard, beans are all snug in their beds as well but, more lovlies await at the farmers market tomorrow - I must keep in mind our small garden space, it's all so tempting!

I look forward to your impending publication, can't wait to see what you have visioned for us this time.

So do you write out a detailed schedule for photo shoot day? Or is that part of the spontaneity? Kinda made me anxious reading about it. Can't wait for the book!

Green-Thumb weekend for the win!

I just love to get glimpses of people's creative process -- whether it is for a little tea cozy or for a big project likea book. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

i love digging in the dirt! digging in the dirrrrrrrrrrrtttt--best therapy ever!!

You MUST know that I loved every single word of this post :) Here's to your sunshine and go ahead and make those cupcakes for deserve 'em, lovely :)

Oh congratulations! What a milestone you celebrated. I hear you on forming the setting for what will happen, having that in your mind. I do that every time I give a concert. All the setting up, rehearsing, preparing...and then it becomes what it becomes when it happens. Let go and let it be what it is. You nailed it!

How in the world can ONE person be SOOO good at sooo many things?! I am overwhelmed with your talent and creativity!! I'm looking forward to the new book but when are we going to see a magazine on the news stands?! ; )

Oh my gosh- I clicked on your blog today and I am wearing the exact same shirt as the picture! Weird!

I read your blog everyday...and I just so get your "Ta-Da".

No one else on the planet would get it. My husband just sort of looks at me like-What???...

I can understand your anxiety, particularly when other peoples time and money have been invested.
Your sweet creativity will shine through, and book No 2 will be every bit as good as the first x

I can't believe how quickly this has all progressed - I'm sure you were only telling us a month ago about starting this off!
Good luck with the home run

Have fun in the dirt!

I find it fascinating to read about your process - and I am so full of anticipatory delight!

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at