Creativity and the Web

I’m thinking about all those affected by the horrific storm on the East Coast.  I have several quilty/blogger friends, as well as quite a few family members who have been affected and hope that they and their families are through the worst of it.  I’ve been on a blogging break this week from the computer (I wrote this post earlier) but I just wanted to jump in and send my thoughts to those who are dealing with this “Frankenstorm” and its aftermath.  Take care, everyone.

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In my class at school, we just completed a unit that was based on this book by Nicholas Carr, titled, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains.  We had our Discussion Panels last Wednesday, and it was fascinating that the students were fairly perceptive and able to discuss how the Internet has impacted their lives, for better or for worse.  One young man is fairly sanguine about the whole thing, saying, “Well, it’s here.  We just have to deal.”  Another pair of young women took opposite positions on the question of whether print was dead.  The internet’s main impact, that of re-wiring our brains due to neuroplasticity, was skirted around, but acknowledged when they all complained of the inability to finish a book before distractedly checking their phones for texts or messages.

And I think it’s rewired my brain as well.  Carr goes through the history of civilization’s adding of new technologies, from writing to moveable print to the typewriter and onward to clocks and the internet.  I was interested in his discussion on tools: “The tight bonds we form with our tools go both ways.  Even as our technologies become extensions of ourselves, we become extensions of our technologies.”

 I thought about how quilting has changed from the time when I used to trace a pattern onto cardboard, carefully cut it out and tape the edges for stability.  Then I’d trace it about a bazillion times in order to make a quilt, following along the pencil line for the seam.  I did use a machine for piecing, but hand-quilting was the only way to finish a quilt.  That’s why my list of 100 Quilts took so long to grow: our tools were more primitive before the advent of rulers and rotary cutters.

He also references Frederick Taylor’s Time-Motion studies and how it has changed how workers do their jobs (above: a golfer takes a swing).  Before Taylor came along, “the individual laborer, drawaing on his training, knowledge and experience, would make his own decisions about how he did his work.  He would write his own script” (218).

I think of us at work.  Some of us spread all our fabric out into a lovely mess (like mine, above).  Others fold and organize continually throughout the day.  I like to doodle around with my computer when thinking up a new quilt. Some like to start cutting, throwing the cloth up on the pin wall to see what’s going on.  Carr notes that with Taylor’s regimentation of industry’s messiness, something was lost.  “What was lost along with the messiness was personal initiative, creativity, and whim.  Conscious craft turned into unconscious routine.”

I hope I never become such a slave to a pattern or a ruler or a system of making a quilt that I can’t make  a creative and conscious detour into creativity.  But sometimes I wonder when I make a copy of another’s quilt, using one line of fabric if I’m not caught in a type of quilt-machine using Taylor’s demands for proscribed motion.   Is this creativity?  Am I being creative, or just following someone else’s script and benefitting from their decisions?

And like many of you, I’ve been following #quiltmarket on Instagram.  Carr said more than once, and I’m paraphrasing here, that trying to control the flow of information from the internet is like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant at full blast.  The internet caters to the new! unique! amazing! as we all know.

I also have Pinterest boards full of ideas, most are quilts which I’ll never make, but pin them up there nonetheless.   Can we be creative 24/7, or is that too exhausting?  Has the Internet made better quilting possible?  More interesting quilting?  Given us an access to a wider range of styles and types?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I only know that sometimes the Internet affects us quilters, too.

So my question now, is how has the Internet affected you?  And has it been for better. . . or for worse?

On Blogging, Part 3 (final)

Now about this wonderful monstrous hydra we’ve created: blogging.  If not conquered, or at least managed, it will sink us all.  First some thoughts from others.

Rachel of Stitched in Color writes a fine post aimed at new bloggers, with her own list of Readers’ Pet Peeves.  I laughed when I saw two of mine on there: “blurry photos” and “people’s feet” (I get tired of seeing pedicured toes, so thought it amusing that others have the same reaction).

Ez of Creature Comforts gives her advice for blogging:

“Be passionate. Blog about something that truly matters to you. Believe in yourself and be an active and friendly member of the blogging community. Oh, and have patience! It might take a while before anyone knows you exist, but keep at it and never be afraid to ask for help when it is needed.”

Here’s mine:

No guilt.  No apologies if you don’t blog, but do give us an explanation if you’ve been away for an interesting reason, like you went to Australia, or had a class in color theory, or just spent time walking the beach with your children.  We do want to know how you recharge your batteries, and we might follow your lead.  I always love those posts about trips, esp. to New York’s fabric district!

Decide whether you are a “commercial” quilt blogger, or a “personal” quilt blogger.  While we’re happy to have both, it’s sometime irritating to have a personal quilt blogger suddenly start pitching a product or an online fabric shop in that “advertising” way.  I’m always happy to learn about new products from the bloggy world, but we readers recognize that those who take money from their enterprises have an obligation to sell.  And you know quilters: we love to buy, but hate to be sold. (And this includes Too Many Giveaways!!)

Blog only when you want to. While they say the muse inspiring writing only comes if you apply your backside to a chair, sometimes it’s better wait a day or two for an interesting idea than to force your blogging to a schedule.  Caveat: if you are blogging as a line of work, then you have to treat it like work.  You know, show up with interesting content, a new idea.  It’s about the showing up part that’s important (but be aware of the previous idea of commercial vs. personal). Which leads me to my last idea:

Avoid too much secondary content on your quilt blog.  This falls into two categories:
1) personal stuff that overwhelms the quilting stuff. Moderation in all things–open another blog for yourself if you find that most of your posts are about your cat.  Or kids.  Or whatever; and,
2) importing from others to fill your own blog space.  While those who run design blogs do this quite frequently (you can only redo your own house so many times), I think that we as quilters have many things we can write about as we sew.  And while a nod to inspiration is good, I like seeing all topics of the sewing universe on quilt blogs, from the new trend of sewing clothing (all things Old are New again) to how you like to put on your binding.  There’s also the technical aspect: too many videos is a drag on our bandwidth.  Again, moderation in all things other than quilting.

Be a blog reader and commenter.  We can’t read all the blogs all the time.  Choose a few of your favorites and read fairly regularly. I’ve made some great friends by doing this, and they have widened my circle as well.  Think of it as the new pen-pal system.  Follow some links occasionally to gain new inspiration.  But perhaps a time limit for  computer viewing is a good idea, as we all know we have quilting to do!

Forgiveness and Fun.  I’ve tresspassed just about all of the above listed pieces of advice at one time or another, and we should have a bit of forgiveness tucked away for bloggers, just like we do for when we stitch in a tuck and hope no one notices.  And FUN!  Yes, hopefully blogging is enjoyable.

Above all, write what interests you.  Be yourself.  Share with us your struggles.  Avoid cattiness, but healthy dose of snark can be fun.

Be true to yourself.  E. B. White, a famous essayist, noted that “Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself . . . the true writer always plays to an audience of one.”  But if you write it, we’ll read it!

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Coming Wednesday!

Project Gingham Reveal!

On Blogging, Part 2

Recently on Creature Comforts, Ez wrote “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You,” a discussion about life behind the blogging curtain.  Leave yourself some time, if you want to hop over there and read. One salient quote:

“However as time has gone on, and with the ever-expanding roster of blogs that are out there showcasing pretty thing after pretty thing, I’ve come to realize that all this beauty can actually have the opposite effect. The always-nice that we see on constant display everywhere we look (from blogs to magazines, etc) becomes frustrating because it doesn’t really look like how our life looks, right? Instead of visiting a blog and feeling inspired, we quite often leave feeling less than, and like our life can never really match up to what we see.

“As a long-time contributor to this trend of pretty-everything I should know better, but even I get sucked up in feeling like other bloggers are more successful, have better wardrobes, perfectly behaved children, gourmet meals pre-made weeks in advance…they host fabulous parties with every last detail glittered and festooned to perfection, take lavish vacations, sign book deals in their sleep and pose for photo shoots in their immaculately clean designer-decorated homes. Please can I at least get a raised hand if you’re feeling me on this.”

I’ve heard too many blogging friends say that they recently have come to a point where they hate blogging, that they just want to sew and walk away from the other part of having to put up photos and commentary on what they do at the sewing machine.

I graduated with an MFA in Writing, and this idea, that our private selves–or what we do when we create and spend time thinking about while move around our bits of cloth–can be in opposition to our public self, is not a new one.  Cezanne was famous for this, often packing up his paints and easel and leaving if he thought someone was watching him.  But even he participated in gallery shows, presenting his work for his audiences when he was finished with it.  The difference between us and Cezanne, is that blogs are DAILY (or at least WEEKLY) and are giant content sucking machines.  And usually that content comes from us.

And we all know you have to have generate content to blog.  And if you don’t have content, you have nothing to write.  And if you don’t write, then you don’t have a blog, which many quilters use as a tool to decrease the isolation as well as foster a conversation of sharing.

Bridging this innate tension between wanting to create privately, with sharing what you are doing with the public, is a constant.

I have one more post about this.

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On Blogging

Do you like to blog?  The previous post discussed audience, and how we find our audience for our quilting and our art through some linky parties.  But this one is more about the blogging–the writing, the putting down of our thoughts and our ideas, the putting down of ourselves for others to see and (hopefully) comment on.

When I sit and read through lots of blog posts, like on a Linky Day, I am overwhelmed by how underwhelming my work is. I feel like I produce nothing, while all of you are out there with Bigger!  Better!  More Colorful! and looking like Jennifer Lopez or Jackie Kennedy (pick your icon) and I’m just sitting at my sewing machine/computer with unwashed hair in my slouchy pajamas.

I believe one place this feeling of inadequacy comes from is the deluge of interesting projects and quilts that I click through in short order.  It’s like going to a quilt show, with multiple projects all out there for you to see.  However, when we are in a giant hall, with loads of hanging quilts all around us, we recognize that we are at a quilt show and are there to gather ideas and inspiration.  But when we’re home breezing through blogs, we think we are looking at someone’s real life–that they are endlessly pulling quilt rabbits out of hats and never have a bad day, or one that they’ll write about.  I’ve been reading in Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, and he notes that when we gorge on internet reading, we become “mindless consumers of data.”   He continues, “Our ability to learn suffers, and our understanding remains shallow. . . we’re unable to retain the information or to draw connections.”

Perhaps at this point, we need to push back from the computer and realize we aren’t looking at quilts. We’re looking at a “blog”– a constructed persona, full of sunshine, happiness and perfectly pieced points.  I love the following quote on how we portray ourselves on Web 2.0, the internet:

“That kind of thinking is precisely what I’m talking about, what lies behind the bland, inoffensive, smile-and-a-shoeshine personality — the stay-positive, other-directed, I’ll-be-whoever-you-want-me-to-be personality — that everybody has today. Yes, we’re vicious, anonymously, on the comment threads of public Web sites [I think of the recent brouhaha between Kate Spain and Emily Cier], but when we speak in our own names, on Facebook and so forth, we’re strenuously cheerful, conciliatory, well-groomed. (In fact, one of the reasons we’re so vicious, I’m convinced, is to relieve the psychic pressure of all that affability.) . . .

“Well, we’re all in showbiz now, walking on eggshells, relentlessly tending our customer base. We’re all selling something today, because even if we aren’t literally selling something (though thanks to the Internet as well as the entrepreneurial ideal, more and more of us are), we’re always selling ourselves. We use social media to create a product — to create a brand — and the product is us. We treat ourselves like little businesses, something to be managed and promoted.

“The self today is an entrepreneurial self, a self that’s packaged to be sold.”

Do you ever feel like this–that we package ourselves to “sell?”  More on this in next post.

Linky Party for Quilting, or Link-Ups

Linky Parties, or Link-Ups seem to be everywhere.  I’ve seen them oriented to crafting, to quilting, to cooking, to thrifting, as as the above image illustrates, fonts, teachery things and One Tough Mother.  The list goes on and on.  Below are some quilt links that I’ve collected.  But first here’s a lovely quote about why we love those linky parties, from Vincent van Gogh:

One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever comes to sit by it. Passersby see only a whisp of smoke rising from the chimney and continue on their way. 

I guess this is a way to share our blazing, quilty, hearths.  I didn’t include buttons of these linky parties, in order to streamline this post.

Monday:
Manic Monday Linky Party — Jenna at SewHappyGeek–sewhappygeek.co.uk

{Sew} Modern Monday from Canoe Ridge Creations  at www.canoeridgecreations.com

Little Quilt Monday–piecefullife-elizabeth.blogspot.com

Tuesday:
Quilt Story–Fabric Tuesday–quiltstory.blogspot.com

Tuesday Treasures from House on the Side of the Hill– thehouseonthesideofthehill.blogspot.com.au

Wednesday:
Lee, Freshly Pieced–WIP Wednesday–freshlypieced.blogspot.com

Esther’s WOW (WIP on Wednesday)–www.estheraliu.blogspot.com

Sew Much Ado We Did It! Wednesday–www.sew-much-ado.com

WIP Wednesday for Canadian Quilters Only—needleandthreadnetwork.blogspot.com

Thursday:

Think Tank Thursday, from making rebecca lynne–makingrebeccalynne.blogspot.com

Friday:
TGIFF on Quokka Quilts — quokkaquilts.blogspot.ca

Show Off Friday–from pieceful life at piecefullife-elizabeth.blogspot.com/

Finish It Friday is in hiatus (Crazy Mom Quilts)

Monthly:
Such a Sew and Sew—emsewandsew.blogspot.com
For this linky party, post what you’ve finished within that month.  See the buttons on her sidebar.

Lily’s Quilts: Fresh Sewing Day and Small Blog Meet, hosts on the first of each month at lilysquilts.blogspot.com

I’m sure there are others.  Leave the info in a comment if you have other linky parties to share.

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Coming Soon!

iPad Quilt Drawings

I’ve been quite curious to see if I could use any of the iPad’s apps to draw quilts, or even attempt to draw anything.  I had fallen in love with the press for Pages, and spent quite a bit of time looking at reviews of that.  I also typed in Penultimate vs. Noteshelf (mainly because I kept seeing that app mentioned) and to find a review that talked about the latest upgrade, I had to keep clicking away.

I have the following productivity apps, as they are called sometimes, because you’re supposed to be productive when you use them (links are to websites that reviewed them or to the developer’s site):

Pages–used mainly for word processing documents; can be sent to your email as a PDF or Word document
Cloud-on–have not even opened it up yet, but it’s supposed to function like Pages, yet you can save documents to a Dropbox folder (one drawback of Pages is that you cannot save to Dropbox)
Notability–I have no clue how to use this yet, but an up-and-coming young man at church recommended it; he uses it all the time in his business
Penultimate–I purchased this because they talked about its ability to draw and to use it like one of the Moleskin notebooks.  I envisioned sitting under a tree with a great landscape in the distance, sketching away.  Right.
Noteshelf--has more pens, more papers, and the possibility of buying more papers.  I liked that they had different thicknesses of pens (one is a marker-tip and one is a fine-tip), and more colors.  The use was fairly intuitive for me, but I’m pretty used to Macs, Apple machines and their programs, having had a Mac around the house since the mid-1980s (yes, I’m that much of an Apple geek).

But even though I’m supposed to be “productive” I was more interested in the play aspect, specifically for quilting.  Here’s my first attempt:

Hmmm. New frontier, indeed.  In the above image, I drew shapes with a fine-tip pen, colored them in with a marker, took a photo of my iPad cover and popped it down into the image (resizing it to the size of one of my “blocks”) and then handwrote some notes as I was sitting in the airplane on the way to see my parents; it was turbulent all the way.  Yes, I used a stylus–went to Wal-Mart and picked one up–and I like the way it writes.

This visual is from Beautiful Designs/Gadget Tech website, which has a fairly in-depth comparison of the three programs, but here you can see that the same person produces three different types of script, depending on the program.

But on the way home, the plane ride was more smooth and I had about 90 minutes to really play around.  I needed it to be WAAAAY more capable than the silly sketch above, because although messiness has its virtues, I needed precision.

So I loaded up a grid paper (be sure to take the time to do the tutorial–it’s seventeen pages, but you’ll need all that info to even get started) and tried to draw a representation of the windows of the Ogden City Hall–an interesting proportion.  Then I “drew” a rectangle around it, copied it and became an object I could paste anywhere on the page.  Using the little buttons on the side of the object, I could rotate it and set it into place.

When you have no idea where you’re going, anywhere will do.  I practiced this technique, varying where I put the quilt block/object until I’d built myself a “quilt.”  Since my quilt block was uneven, I left some spaces in places for interest.  I haven’t figured out much since I arrived home as I plowed into grading pretty heavily, but I have to admit I was fairly encouraged by this initial foray into trying to draw a quilt.

Obviously the lines are a bit wobbly as the pen can’t “snap” to the grid like it can in my quilt program, and there’s no preset templates for triangles, etc.  But I feel I could make a reasonable stab at this.  And if I were a programmer, I’d try to develop a quilting app that actually drew quilts, not just told me about how much yardage I need to buy.

Have any of you experimented with this?  What have you come up with?