A Scrap of Fabric

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Dedicated to Bunny Goode, July 13, 1945 – May 25, 2016

It was just a scrap of fabric, as best I could see. A scrap of fabric jammed into a pile of scraps on a shelf full of fabric pieces of all sizes. If the scrap had fallen to the floor I probably would have been tempted to just throw it out.

After almost 30 years together at that time, I knew better. You do not ever throw out fabric scraps, no matter how small, no matter how tattered. I still have vivid recollections of our early days together when, in an act of sheer stupidity, I tossed a bunch of little pieces of fabric into the waste basket. How was I to know that I had just ditched a complete pattern? Not only a complete pattern, but an original design pattern!

Back to the fabric scrap … I’m standing in Bunny’s studio, just shooting the breeze, when she asks me to get this scrap from the seven-foot-high bookcase with 9 shelves that served as her fabric waiting room at the time.

Obviously, I can’t find the piece at first. I mean, how am I supposed to find an 8” square amid what seems to me to be 10,000 different pieces of material? Patiently, she directed me to the proper shelf, the correct pile and the bottom 3” of the pile. And there it was, this little scrap of fabric, white-on-white with a pale design, that is smaller than a man’s handkerchief.

But I don’t think the grill decal from a Mercedes Benz sitting next to the scrap would be considered “normal’ studio contents, and that wasn’t the strangest thing you’d find in there, believe me.

And, of course, fabric was everywhere. It’s impossible to focus on any single point in the room (ceiling included) and not see fabric. So, I think you can see why I was so impressed with my ability to actually locate the scrap without Bunny having to get up and get it herself.

(For those of you who are not artists, or in a serious relationship with an artist, you’ll neverunderstand this next thing.) Bunny takes the piece of fabric and starts to stare at it. Holding it in her hands and staring at it. Like the idiot that I had, over the years, proven to be, I asked, “What are you going to use that for? A dress of something?” You could see the incredible self-restraint she exercised. You could actually see her shoulders slump down, mired deep in the knowledge that she would never be able to explain it to me, since I’m not capable of even a single creative thought … “I don’t know yet” she said. Her body language clearly suggested that I beat a hasty retreat from the studio. Wisely, I yielded to the implication and bailed out.

Over the next week or so I noticed that the scrap moved from place to place. First, it was on Bunny’s cutting table, a mandatory work surface for the serious doll artist. This table was much higher than most, designed for her 6’ frame so she didn’t have to bend over so much. Then the fabric appeared on the weirdo ironing board, made a trip to the top of the TV, back to the ironing board where it was pressed, and even went into the living room.

Bunny always had a spot in our living rooms where she would stuff assorted doll body parts while we relaxed and watched television at night. These spots would be loaded with stuffing, needles of all varieties, strange looking “stuffing tools” that included a hemostat, a screwdriver with the head broken off, dolls in various stages of creation and even a special color corrected light that cost more than a monthly mortgage payment. When friends came over they would just have to deal with the “doll spot”, and if they didn’t like it they could just go home.

At any rate, there was the fabric scrap. My first inclination was to say, “Did you ever figure out what to do with that piece of fabric?” But I had learned my lesson and just ignored the whole subject. That scrap sat on the arm of her chair for three days, and every once in a while I’d see her pick it up and stare at it. Just hold it in her hands and stare at it.

Bunny was in a blazing burst of activity. If you’re in a relationship with an artist, you know what I mean. Artists have these periods of intense productivity, where they can bury themselves in their work and produce breath-taking results. Then just as quickly, they will come to a screeching halt.

Well, this was a hot time. Bunny was absorbed in the process of creativity, and the results of her efforts were showing. Beautiful stuff, even to a lame brain like me, was appearing. I was taking some pictures of the newly created dolls when I noticed the scrap of fabric, neatly folded in a small square, strategically positioned back next to the Mercedes Benz grill decal. I could tell it wasn’t there by mistake, it was deliberately put there for a reason. But again, genius that I had become, I ignored the entire topic. No questions asked about the scrap. No questions about the Mercedes Benz decal. Nothing that could ever be construed as even the slightest interest about any of it.

The creative storm died down and she was now in a period of quiet reflection. During these times, Bunny always needed to have some motivation to spark the creativity. That motivation might be as simple as a photo in a magazine or the label on a can of paint at Home Depot. This time, though, it was the small piece of fabric.

That scrap had found its way back to the work table. I saw it lying there, perfectly flat and square, right dead smack in the middle of the table. Later that day I saw her staring at it once again, and then again later in the evening just before bedtime.

That night she was up working, she said she couldn’t sleep. By then I could recognize the beginning stages of another creative burst, and Bunny was in one of them. She said she had a new doll idea in her mind that she just couldn’t shake, and she wanted to get some of the ideas into form. She was sketching out the new design … It seemed like there were hundreds of pieces of paper all over the floor.

For the next several days, all her efforts were dedicated to this new doll. I knew enough after all those years to stay out of her way and let the creative juices flow. And then, it was done.

This doll was beautiful, in my own opinion one of the best dolls she ever designed and made. As I focused the camera to memorialize the piece, there it was … a small piece of that little scrap of fabric.  It wasn’t the main fabric in the doll, but, to my amazement, that small scrap of fabric grabbed my attention and held it. The fabric piece was just an accent to the doll, but it fit in magnificently, a soft contrast to the rest of the color scheme.

It was just a scrap of fabric, as best I could see. A scrap of fabric jammed into a pile of scraps on a shelf full of fabric pieces of all sizes. And that’s what makes the difference between an artist and the rest of the world. I would have thrown it out. Bunny created a work of art.

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