Oy veh was the short text message I sent my art partner when she asked how the morning had gone at the Lighthouse. Struggling with a bad back, she opted out of our Friday therapeutic art workshop because of a chiropractor appointment. While sorry for her suffering I knew she’d probably be relieved to miss the fabric face activity the women would be working on. Lee’s the first to admit fabric’s not her thing – even if it’s mine. Surely everyone would enjoy this as much as I did. Smiley face, right?

Recently a box arrived from my cyber fiber friend in the mid-west chockablock full of novelty fabrics. Just the wild variety of fabrics needed for this “fanciful fabric face” activity. Mounting this activity presented all sorts of technical choices with accompanying pros and cons. I lost a fair amount of sleep one night dreaming/working out my various options. Rather than adhere the fabric with Elmer’s glue to the Bristol board, I decided we’d use fusible webbing, a paper packed glue ironed onto the wrong side of fabric. It has many advantages – it stabilizes the fabric making it easier to scissor cut, it CAN be less messy, and there’s no drying time necessary. It’s disadvantage – it’s a fairly costly product, people not familiar with it can find it a challenge to use correctly, too much used on a fabric is a hassle to store and limits it use for other projects. AND if instructions are not followed, typically someone irons the wrong side of the fusible webbing with a hot iron and you guessed it – the sole of the iron becomes a huge gluey mess. Majorly annoyed face.

I maintained control of the iron and the fusing process while the ladies were choosing, fusing and cutting out the fabrics for their faces. But then we got to the little bits – the eyes, noses, mouths, ears, necks, hair – whatever each one wanted to add to her fabric face. No matter how many times I told them they needed to add the fusible webbing to the fabric BEFORE they cut it out, they NEVER EVER got the concept. For some, this was a challenging creative process requiring lots of one-on-one help. Without my partner Lee, I completely lost control of the ironing process. Double yikes! By the end of morning, the iron no longer smoothly glided across any fabric surface.  It was a huge, hot, gummy, gluey mess! Sigh!!! Frustrated face inside my head.

Nevertheless, we persevered. AND THEN it dawned on me. Their NEVER EVER getting that they need to fuse the webbing on the fabric FIRST wasn’t really the wisest way to do this project. We wound up using lots less of the expensive fusible webbing by placing all the small cuts on a small piece of webbing and ironing them all at once. A much better idea….AS LONG as they placed a piece of paper as a pressing clothing between the webbing and the iron. My way wasn’t the most logical way for the women, nor the most economical. And because it wasn’t, I hadn’t brought enough pressing papers thus leading to a badly gunk-ed up iron. It was something that seemed obvious after the fact, but wasn’t in my planning. No duh face.

I love how I’m always learning how to do something better because of these wonderful women who are deeply engaged in their recovery from substance abuse in this fifteen-month, faith-based residential treatment program. And I love how through our mutual frustration and struggle with a challenging art project we could come to end of it and exclaim as Trisha did of her dual portrait, “I love it!” Lotsa smiley faces all around!

If you’ve tried to get someone do something a certain way and they NEVER EVER got it, what did your face look like? What was unique about how they did it, and what did you learn from that experience?

BTW – my seriously messed up work horse of an iron has been pretty well renewed with a good scrubbing using a combination of white vinegar and salt. Really relieved face.

4 comments to Faces

  • Maureen

    Smiley face. : )

  • Judy Siudara

    That’s my nickname- Smiley! This is a fascinating idea I am hoping to adopt for 2-3 graders . they did their first painting on Monday, so are venturing out into creativity. Thanks and Happy T-Day. I’m thankful for you and your work too! J.

  • Erin Thomas


    Can relate in more ways than one.

    The result of everyone’s perseverance is beautiful!!


  • I’m learning to see things through the eyes of my son, Samuel I’ve seen his face of unbelief when I told him I knew more than he about doing a certain thing a certain way. I’ve also seen my look of frustration and disapproval when he does not see things the way I see them.

    When I stop and watch, my perspective grows . He sees the world in a way that I can never imagine and when I begin to see things through his perspective, I too get lots of smilely faces.

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