100 Days is Not Forever – But it’s a lot
by Tina Manzer
Measuring accomplishments within a 100-day timeframe is a common practice among world leaders. I think they will tell you that it has pros and cons. To learn how widely a tide can turn in just 3.28767 months, check the records of the U.S. presidents since FDR, and Napoleon Bonaparte. In 111 days, the popular military genius and former Emperor of France escaped from exile, ran off the Bourbon king, reinstated himself as the head of state, and lost it all in the Battle of Waterloo.
OR, you could participate in the annual, free, global social media event, The 100 Day Project (#the100dayproject and other hashtag variations). Even better, invite your customers to take part. It’s a win-win. Like other challenges, The 100 Day Project gives art stores the opportunity to get customers energized, creating, and shopping for supplies.
The commitment to perform the same action every day – crochet one bracelet, create a small self-portrait, paint 1/100th of a blank canvas – can be a battle. But when you do it and prove it on Instagram, it feels like you’ve won a war.
The project began as a course for students at the Yale School of Art. “For years, Michael Bierut, a designer and writer, led graduate graphic-design students in a workshop that he called The 100 Day Project. The premise was simple: each student chose one action to repeat every day for 100 days,” explains artist Elle Luna, part of the group who launched the social media version in 2014. “One student made a poster in under a minute each day, another danced in public every day and made a video; another student, Rachel Berger, picked a paint chip out of a bag and responded to it in writing for 100 days.”
Legend has it that the lecturer himself would choose a photograph from The New York Times each day and draw something based on that image.
“To be clear, you don’t have to be a visual artist to participate,” notes artist EB Hawkes, aka “Boomer,” on her website artfulpursuits.com. “Bierut famously said if you brush your teeth daily, you’ve participated in The 100 Day Project without realizing it.”
Elle Luna says that the challenge provides lessons in something everyone needs: discipline. “The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal,” she told The Great Discontent, a media company that celebrates the untold stories of artists. “It’s for anyone who is hungry to jump-start their creative practice, for people who are curious about being part of a community that celebrates process, and for those who are busy with work and family commitments but search for a bite-sized way to play, creatively.”
At the time of the 2015 interview, Elle was about to take the one-year-old project to the next level by bringing in different promotional partners: The Great Discontent community, for instance; museums around the world, and networker extraordinaire Lindsay Jean Thompson. The founder of Women Catalysts, a management consulting company in San Francisco, Lindsay Jean and her staff plan events nationwide that bring people together. “Think TEDx + Oprah + conscious guided networking,” explains a regular attendee.
“It’s very challenging to make a commitment to yourself,” Lindsay Jean said to business strategist Ellen Fondiler. “We have limited time, space and resources – many of us – and unlimited pulls on our attention. The first day of The 100 Day Project you’re kind of scared, but you’re really excited. It’s like the first day of school. Then you miss a day or two, and enthusiasm ebbs. It’s hard to pick it back up when you’ve missed a day. We learn to be gentle with ourselves. We learn to let ourselves be human.”
While it’s difficult to measure the number of people who take part in what she calls “an experiment,” Lindsay Jean reports that there are more than 1 million posts on Instagram with the hashtag #The100DayProject, not counting the posts hashtagged with other variations.
Artist Margaret Molinari (margarts.com) participated for the third time this year. In 2017, the former fashion industry surface designer demonstrated her sewing and printmaking skills by creating a quilt made from her handmade block-printed and screen-printed fabric. The next year, she used her sewing machine to free-motion-stitch a monster a day.
“Before this year’s challenge began, I was already printing with fruit, vegetables and found objects, and thought, ‘Oh this would make a perfect 100-day challenge!’” she says. Each day she posted a time-lapse video showing how she created her fabric design by inking up half a lemon, perhaps – or the cap of a glue stick, the bottom of a cut-glass plate, an artichoke chopped in half vertically, a cassette tape, a serving fork, a piece of plastic she found on a walk with her dog, feathers, the bottom of a water bottle, and 91 one other easily accessible items. The results are amazing. Who knew you could create a sophisticated pattern using only a broken twig?
From those fabrics, Margaret sewed pouches, eye pillows, needle books, eyeglass cases and more that she sold on her website. “During the project, my sales increased a lot because my following increased tremendously,” she says. “In fact, I got so many questions about my process and the supplies I used that I created a PDF booklet about it and sold that as well.”
Her video setup is simple: just a tabletop ring tripod and her phone. “I don’t have special lighting; just a floor lamp with daylight bulbs.”
For artists who want to draw attention to their work, The 100 Day Project is just the ticket. Margaret recommends choosing a theme that’s unique. “It’s the reason I had so much success with my project this year, I think. It had never been done before. When people love your art, they enjoy seeing the process that made it. That’s why my videos are such a hit. It’s also important to engage as much as possible by answering questions, responding to comments, and checking out the feeds of people who take the time to comment.”