Posted by jekagames on Aug 29, 2022

Jess here to talk to you about a yearly tradition that helps me stay creative and keep my work in perspective ever year. 

So, the Soft Chaos Cooperative shut down for the first week of August for our first ever formal summer vacation! 

Now, I've never been good at the kind of vacation where you sit down at the beach and nap while the sun caresses your face. For one, I'm really, really pale. I sunburn easily. For two, I get bored if I'm not doing something. I'm a novelty-seeker who likes making stuff.

So, since Summer 2013, I've been participating in a yearly charity scavenger hunt called GISH (formerly known as the Rhino Puzzle Hunt, GISHWHES, and GISHWhES, and other variations). GISH is a hunt where not only do you have to find unusual things, you also have to make them and make them happen. From flashmobs to voter drives, finding someone to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and pose with the statues there, to making mosaics in the bottom of your car, carving Avocado pits to look like tiny monsters, to sewing Hokkusai's The Great Wave at Kanagawa onto a patchwork jean jacket, GISH has always asked me to do some pretty wild and interesting things. Sometimes, GISH asks me to do things that feel impossible until I manage to get them done.

But with around 200 items on the list each year and a team of fifteen dedicated team members and their helpers, we've got to keep up a pretty good pace to finish the whole list in a week. My personal target is to average three items a day, while also making each item as high-quality in execution as I can. But different items are different "sizes" and take different amounts of time. 

What this means is that I have to manage my perfectionism against the time limit. It's an exercise in letting the best that I can do in the time that I have be good enough, in seeing just how much I can do when there are constraints, and, perhaps most of all, understanding that perfection is the enemy of good.

This year, I managed seventeen solo items, two team items, and assisted with two other items. My favourite item this year, and the one that broke my record for taking the longest amount of continuous time, was indeed using a Japanese embroidery technique, sashiko, to embroider the The Great Wave at Kanagawa onto a patchwork jean jacket. It took about thirty hours! 

A patchwork jean jacket with an elaborate image embroidered onto it.

Honestly, I'm looking forward to the Fall weather to be able to wear it. 

So, this is what I do, ever year. And though I don't always manage to be at peace with my perfectionist tendencies, it makes a big difference to what I consider possible in my creative practice. It makes me feel equipped to learn new skills, and not only that, I have used skills that I learned during GISH in my creative practice later. I'm very glad to have those reminders ever year.

Soft Chaos is kind of like that for me, too. Starting a worker cooperative and doing what we can to make a workplace that we can be proud of, that aligns with our values, that avoids worker exploitation and isn't beholden to shareholders... Under late capitalism, well, sometimes that feels really hard, too. But with Allison and Squinky, I feel like I can make the impossible possible. 

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