pigeon progress and the glorious, inviting emptiness of my work table

I’ve been seeing pigeons in my dreams for weeks – not real pigeons – stitched pigeons – they insist on being made. You know how pigeons are – always insisting on things.  I have to trick myself into starting a new shape – I love the process when I’m in it but there is always anticipatory anxiety – it’s knowing I have a series of failures ahead of me. I don’t mind them as they happen – it feels like process, progress and discovery,  I get immersed in it. But still, even though I know that – starting – taking the very first step – is always hard, even for stuff I’m pretty excited about.  So I start with a baby step and it’s almost always the same. I give myself the gift of putting it off for one more day but it goes on the list for the next day – first thing. I also gather what I need to start so it is handy and ready to go.  I usually wake up ready to dive in.  Who knows what magic my subconscious works overnight or maybe just the simple acts of putting it on the list and collecting the supplies gets me past the onerous starting line.

pigeon drawing

New creatures start with a drawing. I like charcoal on drafting velum – messy and spontaneous.  From there I can trace out a profile and start to guess at gussets.  Next I sew up and stuff a series of drafts – marking them up with sharpies and making adjustments. The first draft was less pigeon and more small sad turkey with issues….. I made about a half a dozen more,  making a little progress on each and eventually getting close to the shape I want – the pigeon shape below.

pigeon progress

I’m pretty happy  with this shape – it needs a little more fullness in the breast so I’ll probably do one more draft and then try it in good fabric. Hopefully pigeons will appear over the weekend.

One more note on starting – I’ve been doing something new for a while and it’s working well for me. Historically – I have kept things on my worktable – tools, notebooks, fabrics – a perimeter of stuff.  As an experiment I got rid of it all – found other nearby  homes for everything.  I also began emptying the table of whatever I’m working on at the end of the day.  It seems counter productive if I’m just going to work on the same thing in the morning but it has a magic effect.  Emptying the table ends the day. It feels official.  And when I wake up there is just my list and an invitingly empty space.  It feels like a fresh start. I make clear and conscious choices about what to do without an overwhelm hang-over from the previous day.  I start the day more peacefully and feeling in charge and since I work by myself I am, technically, supposed to be the one in charge.  Putting the stuff away is extra work but the benefits have out weighed that.

And please meet Edmond. A contemplative rat – like his brethren the mosquitos, pigeons and spiders – one of the less loved creatures.

edmond : rat



  1. Margaret Harwood

    Ann, your pigeon shape is nearly perfect. Now this would be a homing pigeon or a feral pigeon. There are several hundred breeds of pigeons. If you are not familiar with the extensive variations there are in real pigeons, there are a few websites from which you might get ideas. They vary in color, ornamentation such as crests and feathered feet, body shapes, think pouters and croppers, size, from tiny Valencian figueritas to Hungarian House pigeons that are 3 times the size of your average pigeon, and many more in between. Being a pigeon lover of the first order, I’m really delighted you are going to do some. If you find you would like to see some of the variations, email me and I’ll send some URLs that might be relevant.

    • Hi Margaret,

      Thanks I’d love to see- I found some images at the NYC Library picture archive- I’ve gotten kind of obsessed with the huge variety.

  2. I just love your posts and your work. I stop by all the time but I rarely chat. So just wanted you to know that you are an inspiration and thank you for sharing it all with us.

  3. I have always admired your work ~ thank you for sharing your thinking and doing process. I love your idea about putting everything away to end the day!
    I tend to work amongst chaos . . . maybe you’ve found the magic formula, may need to try! Can’t wait to see the lovely pigeon.
    Happy Stitches,

    • Hi Lori,

      The chaos creeps in every day – seems to be inevitable – but putting it all away really does help refresh my brain.

  4. I love this post and the sneak peak into your work habits and workspace. Thank you for sharing this valuable insights. Can’t wait to see your pigeons come to life!

    • Thanks Nysa – I look forward to the finished pigeon too – almost there…..

  5. I love love love your birds! The pigeon is charming…can’t wait to see the final product! Keep up the wonderful work! You are an inspiration!

  6. Your pigeon is coming on so well Ann! I imagine he/she will look fantastic!

    You’re very talented and lucky to be able to use your drawing talent the way you do! I can see it would help a great deal. I can sew and I can create with mixed media etc but I can’t draw/sketch very well and I would so love to be able to sketch out the ideas I have in my head when I design projects! I suppose I should just bite the bullet and take drawing lessons. 🙂

    • Hi Pam – Even better- just start drawing and don’t worry about perfection. I promise it’s a muscle that improves with use. Also drawings from people who “can’t draw” are often wonderful.

  7. Jaimie Sander

    I love getting your emails! The fabrics are just gorgeous,a real gift to see! I can’t wait to see the pigeon,and I absolutely LOVE the rat!! I have always had a fondness for rats,mice and bats ! You would make some lovely bats,I bet!! Thanks for sharing your creative process as well,it’s always nice to see how others work.

  8. I love the rat’s expression 🙂 . Still thinking about the clean work surface. Yes – really nice to start without the clutter. But if I get my house too clean, I put off starting projects because I know it’s going to mess everything up again! I think I need to try harder to keep the clutter down though – because there is a point where the mess stops creativity as well. Currently, my dining room table and my ironing board are covered with bits and pieces of paper for a new art journal I’m making – I move back and forth trying to find a work surface that isn’t already occupied by a cat – he wants to be so close to what I’m doing that his head comes between me and what I’m trying to work with!

    • Hi Trudi – that is his professional obligation as a cat!

  9. Thank you for the glimpse into your creative process. I recently began putting my projects away at the end of the day, too and it’s made a big difference in my creativity and general happiness. I used to feel pressured and guilty by the incomplete projects in my work space even when I worked on them every day – so weird.

    • Hi Alissa,

      Same here – it has made a huge an unexpected difference in my general happiness and productivity.

  10. maureen willetts

    The rat is so atmospheric, he has an expression so inquisitively delightful.
    Love him.
    Know just how you feel about the trials and errors, but it has to be gone through, and always such wonderful results. Love your work.

    • Thanks Maureen! and PS your pattern is on the way and there’s a little something extra!

  11. Love the process narrative! Do you know of any good books (fiction or non-fiction) that are based on the history of textiles? or textile-rich themes? Learning about history through textiles is so very interesting and since you have that interest as well, I thought you might have some books to recommend….I appreciate some of your other literary recommendations.

    • Hi Laurie – super specifically no- but… I think you might like The Rings of Saturn – by Sebald it’s like a feverish dream- with some history and textiles mixed in – one of my favorite books.

  12. 6 pigeons avant d’approcher le résultat souhaiter…..Bon et bien ça me console! je ne suis pas la seule et ça m’encourage!!!!merci de partager votre expérience!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. dearest ann, i just found you & the wonderful group of “friends” you create. I also create with textiles, in spinning, felt, & weaving. But i have recently been exposed to sewing! & i love fabric! I have been collecting images of birds, cats, & other animals i love. you are my muse. i am familiar with Mr. Finch!, just looking for inspiration. Then you came into my e mail? serendipitous!
    So, i am following your site, & already learning so much. thank you for sharing all your knowledge.

  14. Great job trying something new and clearing your desk at the end of the day. Are you putting everything back into it’s place or just up and clearing the desk? Just curious, it’s something I really struggle with. Found your blog from WhileSheNaps newsletter this week. Your animals are amazing.

    • Hi Tisha,

      Welcome! I’ve been putting is all away – iI have a file box for each project i have going – it all goes back in the box at the end to the day – extra effort but it’s been super helpful.

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