Fun Zipper Pouches and Paper Party Supplies, Handmade in Montclair, NJ by Claire Cohen.
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On The Passage of Time

1 Minute Read

Like the consistent use of text as a design element in all my creations, marking anniversaries or special dates has become a familiar characteristic of my products. 

For example, the bird ornaments I make from vintage calendar tea towels can be customized with an embroidered circle around the date on one wing and the month on the other.

Apart from marking an occasion, I often consider the duration of time that goes into making something. I was recently confronted with an alarming reminder of how long it's taken me to complete a project I started in 2019 - how has it taken me 2 years to make a batch of Tshirt backpacks?

Personal struggles were prioritized over my own projects a year ago, food had to be hoarded, and beers needed to be procured and consumed. I may or may not have evolved. But in the meantime, I was also hoarding materials. Bins and bags full of fabric, denim jeans, Tshirts, and old projects were overflowing in my basement storage unit, and blue Ikea bags of clothes I no longer wore were stuffed in my solitary closet. Most of the materials came to me as donations from old friends and fans of what I do, but a fair amount of Tshirts were conscientiously chosen from racks at second-hand clothing stores or the community swap, explaining the geographic clusters of designs. 

A gathering of some of the Tshirts I had been collecting...

Then I started making masks
I had completed a batch of kids size backpacks and immediately pivoted to making masks. I never would have made a single mask if it wasn't for my best friend's encouragement. My business was focused on masks for most of 2020 and I'm grateful I had the ability to make them and that I could meet the demand.
Eventually the Tshirts needed to be washed. This wasn't fully realized until last summer when I finally sorted my vast Tshirt collection in an effort to clean and organize them. Which doesn't explain why I was dumbfounded when I recently opened a large contractor bag and found dozens of clean and folded Tshirts- I was amazed! I had completely forgotten how much progress I had made!

Only now, I find myself in the right space, with the time I need to lay out all these beautiful materials, and fulfill the vision I had in 2019, almost to the day. 

Which brings me back to marking, or not marking, the passage of time as it relates to being an artist. In answer to my question - how could it take me 2 years to make a batch of Tshirt backpacks? The answer is that it just doesn't matter. The fact is that the process takes a long time, I needed enough shirts to pull from to create all the elements of the backpacks, and that didn't happen overnight. So I can relax and just be proud of the results of my efforts. It didn't occur to me how long it was taking until I saw those pics of the shirts piled up on my work table and realized it was 2 years ago. That's because I was inside the flow. Now I can step back and acknowledge that time, that time I made the backpacks when life was happening all around me.

Making other people's visions

Many custom orders I make end up as regular products because customers have the best ideas! People often make suggestions for products I should make, like making masks last year, or kids aprons, another suggestion made by my best friend. I never made one until, like the Tshirt backpacks, the space and time to do it finally flowed together. And it wasn't until after I finished the first one the other day that I realized the date, 4 months since my best friend had passed away. So making that apron had transcended the technicalities of cutting and sewing and became a symbol of a dream becoming a reality. It had become a tribute, because the dreamer was gone, and all I had was the product of his vision, and that is bittersweet. 


My tribute 



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  • Mujju! on

    Claire! You should write more often. Enjoyed reading this passage of time. It took me more than a minute…….I wanted to absorb it…


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