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  • Writer's picturesarahhawley

Sew Inspiring

Several months ago I came across an antique sewing machine that once belonged to a distant relative of mine back in the early 1900’s. I fell in love with this antique machine. It was an old Singer sewing machine. It’s incredibly heavy because it was made entirely with solid metal parts. The shape of the machine and its early design is another fine example of the level of care and pride that went into building such well-made machines of the past. It is clear by its appearance that this machine has been well used. Some of the painted areas on the machine are worn off, including parts of the decorative ornate designs that adorn the entire machine. Particularly, on the surface of the bed where the machinist’s hands would be to guide the fabric towards the feed dog that pulls the fabric past the needle, stitching it together. Besides this and a thick layer of dust, there is no rust and is in pretty good condition, considering its age.

I learned how to use a sewing machine when I was a teenager, so I understand how it works including the inner workings of a sewing machine. Unlike the modern sewing machine that I own, this Singer machine is well made - all metal, with no plastic parts. It is highly decorative with ornate and intricate patterns on the various parts of the machine and made of solid heavy duty materials making this not just a sewing machine, but quite a work horse.

For me, I was most interested in the design and shape of the machine, along with the ornate decorative patterns (of course). I was so inspired by the look of this Singer sewing machine when I first saw it, that I wanted to take close up photographs that focused on the details of this antique machine. I loved how different it looked compared to my sewing machine and that was most apparent in the details.

Unfortunately, I was unable to take on this project right away. I was already in the middle of another photo project and after that was completed, there was a number of hurdles and

events that came up in my life that had to be dealt with straight away, which prevented me from getting to this project; and it remained on the back burner for quite a while. This major delay in the planning and executing of the photoshoot for this antique Singer sewing machine turned out to be incredibly unfortunate. Life got in the way and over time I slowly lost interest in this project. What once was so inspiring and got me excited to shoot photographs again, turned into a chore that was hanging over my head.

In the end, I think the photos for this project turn out very well, however, I can’t help but think that they might have been even better, if I was able to shoot this project immediately while I was full of inspiration and intrigue. The lesson learned here and my advice to you, is strike while the iron is hot, don’t leave it until “LATER” and risk losing the inspiration and interest you felt in the moment.

To shoot this project I needed to find motivation to get back into the right mind set. Now that I had lost interest and inspiration to do this project, I needed to find a way to be interested

again or else this project would be an unpleasant waste of time and effort. I turned to experimentation and like many times before, I found something in the project that renewed my interested.

In my mind, I wanted the photographs to have a particular tone, mood and atmosphere in them that spoke to the era that this machine belonged to. Experimentation created an abstraction and a blurred exposure that added a special element to some of the photographs. Along with the colour palette chosen for the images, I feel quite good about how the photographs turned out in relation to what my initial plan was for creating them and the hurdles that I had to overcome to complete this project.

The final photographs are close up images that focus on the details of the sewing machine which was my initial intent. Some of the photographs are silhouettes of the machine or parts of the machine. Some are the same photo with a shift in focus to see different details in the same image. The experimentation that I spoke of, is in the blurred exposures, abstractions and in the selection of colour in the coloured images. The nod to the era that this machine is

from is evident in the sepia colour tones, the dark frames with rounded corners, vignettes and the slight blurring that softens an image which is an effect I used that replicates a common trait you might see in images taken from that time period. This project ended up becoming so much more than just a few close up images of an antique sewing machine. There was a larger body of work created and a valuable lesson learned.

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