108 days ago, I joined in on the public creative challenge #the100dayproject. The annual project is hosted by artist Elle Luna and takes place over 100 days. This year we started on April 4th and ended on July 12th. The idea is to pick something creative, work on it every day for 100 days and share your progress on a social media platform with a unique hashtag.
Last year was my first attempt at the project. I wasn't feeling particularly creative and I didn't want to make anything physical and so I decided to share 100 Pep Talks. That exercise changed the way I think about creativity and among other things, helped me realize that I really am in control of my time. You can see all the pep talks through the hashtag #100daysofelisepeptalks OR you can just buy the book. After the challenge, I took all the talks and some of the photos and self-published a perfect bound, full-color book. It's one of my favorite projects I have worked on to date.
This year I wanted something completely different. I wanted to get my hands dirty and make something that wasn't just words. I thought about a lot of different things before deciding to go with sewing. Then I felt like I needed more direction so I decided I would piece fabric together into plants. Then that didn't seem flexible enough so I decided my only two requirements would be plants and fabric.
Could I get "plants on fabric" 100 times in 100 consecutive days?
Turns out yes. For 100 days I sewed and stamped and dyed and hammered. I embroidered, appliqued, painted, bleached and wove. I experimented with sun dye, fabric spray paint, wax and freezer paper. I carved stamps out of clay, potatoes, wood, cork and rubber. I pressed ferns, daisies and leaves.
I stitched at a craft fair. I puff painted in San Francisco and London. I embroidered while sitting around a pool with my girlfriends and while on an airplane to see Hamilton. I was inspired by ferns in the Scottish highands, leaves at the post office and succulents in my backyard.
The project turned into a personal journal. I stamped seven tulips for my seventh wedding anniversary. I got the girls to finger paint a tree on Mother's Day. I machine stitched a growing plant with deep roots on Piper's first day of daycare. I created a dandelion with 4 wishes on Ellerie's fourth birthday. I lived, breathed and created plants on fabric for 100 days.
I have been thinking a lot this week on what makes this project "work" and why it's been the right project for me these past two years. None of these are fool-proof ideas, but they are something to consider if you want to embark on something like this.
Spend some time nailing down your idea. Let it simmer for awhile. A month, a week, whatever. Really think about it. You don't need 100 ideas going in (of course) but it's great to have SOME ideas that jump right to your mind. You want to be excited to get going. If you're not excited day 1, you really will not be excited day 27.
Set yourself up for success. Gather your tools and supplies. Clear a space on your desk or kitchen table. Make room in your schedule. Pick a project that can work for your lifestyle. Are you often traveling? Probably painting a mural isn't going to work for you. Do you have absolutely no more than ten minutes a day to devote to this project? Pick something you can complete in ten minute chunks. Be honest here with your time and space. Work within your constraints. Constraints do not have to equal weaknesses! They can help you make magic.
Tell everyone you know you're working on this project and ask them to respect it. Both years I had to set aside time on vacation, on work trips and on weekends and on weekdays to fit in my work for this project. I had to stay up late or wake up early. I had to step away from family visits. I had to bring the project out in front of friends. "This is important to me. This is what I am working on." That's what you have to say to yourself and those around you for 100 days. Life goes on...let it go on AROUND your project. Bring your project into the mix with you (and the people you know).
Pick a timeline that you can complete. 100 days is a really long time. It's not always going to be realistic for every person in every life season. That's okay! Don't do 100 then. Do something for 50 days. Or 30 days. Or ten days. But pick a challenge. Set a time frame. And don't stop. Do the thing. Do the thing over and over again. There is something so powerful about setting a goal, committing to yourself and then delivering for yourself.
And at the end of the project I stitched my days together to create a quilt! The entire project was centered around these 6.5x6.5 inch squares and of course they had to be a quilt. I kept a tight color scheme (green, tan, white, blue, yellow) on purpose so the pieces would all "match" at the end. On the quilt, the squares go in order of the days they were created. I hated 5 of the original squares and replaced them with something similarly inspired about halfway through the project. I backed my quilt with a large piece of tan cotton and a strip of some of my mistakes and experiments that didn't make the final cut each day.
This project was so fun to work on. I loved the challenge. I loved experimenting. I love that somehow it all comes together. I LOVE that I can look at it and remember where I was and what I was thinking (and in some cases what podcast I was listening to) when I worked on each square. This is an endlessly powerful challenge. 100 days is a long time. 100 ideas are a lot of ideas. But after you complete something like this, after you immerse yourself so deeply in something like this, anything feels possible creatively. I highly recommend. I'm already letting ideas for next year simmer in my head...
EXTRA STUFF: I talked about this project on a few podcasts. You can listen to Allie Lehman and I chat at the start and at the end. I was also a guest on 100 Creatives (episode 50) about halfway through the project. You can see all the squares here.
PRODUCT LINKS: I discovered some really cool fabric tools and techniques through this project. Below are some links to stuff I used often.