It’s been a while since we had a discussion, so I thought I’d kick one off for you to ruminate on over the weekend.
No, I’m not having an existential crisis (well, not right this second anyway), what I want to know is:
Why do you create?
This is something that I’ve been analysing a lot in myself recently as I looked at my different creative outlets and worked out why I did each one, and where in my life I was with them. To start with though, I needed to look at why I was creative at all. I’m a very logical and analytical person by nature, I work in the technical world of IT, relish the complexities of server design, software interaction and trying to work out just why throwing 6,000 logins at a database causes it to fall over and whether, like the proverbial tree in the forest, you can hear it do so. I think I have to be creative so that the right side of my brain doesn’t wither and die, so that I can get something out of my head in a material that I can touch, such as fabric or paper rather than enclosed in plastic and metal like my day job. The side that wants to render something tangible is a wee bit more dominant these days, but it’s always been there.
So now I know why I like to create in general, but why do I use particular creative mediums?
Where it started:
When I was at school I loved to draw and paint, but I was very much grounded in realism – I am not someone that is able to spontaneously draw a cartoon elephant with fairy wings, for example, but can do a not bad facsimile of something that I can see in real life. I get frustrated by things that I draw that don’t come out perfectly though, so for the most part, I stopped (who has time for that level of OCD?!) I also did a lot of music at school – I have passed numerous exams in both the harp and singing, and performed in some fairly spectacular locations, but I hate orchestral harp music and there’s not really a lot of demand for harpists outside that (save, perhaps, for the pearly gates and I have serious doubts about reaching them!). With singing I’m not a classical/religious music fan, and that has been the only type of choir that I have ever seen advertised in Glasgow (I’m sure there are other options, but they’re either keeping them secret or have yet to find out how the internet works) So I stopped being involved in music, barring the occasional class at the annual Celtic Connections music festival, and the odd need to belt out something in the car along with the radio.
Then there were the crafts… I think this all started in GCSE design class, playing with and making things like chicken wire and mod roc, but I spent a good chunk of my university years and early 20s experimenting with all manner of crafts, including glass painting, jewellery making and more paper crafts than you can shake a stick at – just ask my family, the only way that I could afford to experiment was if the end result was going to be a gift, whether for Christmas, birthdays or mother/father’s day, so you can track my crafting progress around their houses ;o)
Where have I got to these days?
This is an obvious one, this blog has always been about sewing in some form, whether teddy bears, clothes, bags or quilts (or any other method of cutting up a perfectly good piece of fabric and reassembling it in a different form). I enjoy sewing, it’s for the most part relaxing (we’ll gloss over the 6 times I unpicked and resewed one particular seam last night), and it gives me something practical at the end of it, whether a quilt to sleep under, a bag to carry things in, a bear to cuddle up to or, on rare occasions, something to wear. I’m also not bad at it, and it’s fun to share what you’ve made with other creative souls around the world, as well as to ooh and aah over things that they have done whilst adding them to a mental to do list that you could never actually reach the end of in 10 lifetimes. It’s inspiring though, the more fantastic things you see, the more you want to make, whether buying a pattern and copying outright, or by riffing off something you’ve seen – a shape, a colour, a construction, and let’s face it, a sewing machine and fabric can lead you in all manner of directions.
This is a tricky one. Photography has kind of filled two roles for me over the years, one to record where I’ve travelled, and the other… well the other grew out of another craft. One of my more major dalliances pre-sewing was scrapbooking, and because of that I started to take more photos. On a trip to Australia 11 years ago, I was getting frustrated with my little point and shoot camera, and when I had an overtime windfall 18 months later my dad suggested grabbing a DSLR (you can pretty much track all my photography kit acquisitions through overwork in subsequent years!) 2 years later, after living in South Africa for 6 months and using the camera entirely on auto mode, I decided I really needed to learn how to use the thing which, after joining an online group of photography nuts, started a whole new obsession with finding new and interesting angles on places, and getting out into the great outdoors to explore up hill and down dale via waterfalls, lochs and the odd trip to the beach. I’ve long since left the online group, although I remain friends with a number of people from back then, but I still love getting out with my camera, and the trip to Wales and Dublin in August where I spent nearly a week with the camera practically glued to my hand, reminded me what I’d been missing by confining myself mostly to shots for patterns or the blog for the last couple of years.
There’s a difference between the photography and sewing though – I don’t feel the need to share, in fact I can quite cheerfully say it’s at the bottom of my list of priorities to even process the photos when I get home (sorry dad!), it can take me weeks to copy the photos off the cards that I’ve filled. It’s the process of going out and finding the photo location that I love. It’s the finding of angles and views which floats my boat. It’s not the comparison of my efforts with others who have trodden similar paths (and I will admit to having photographed a number of locations where there may well have been a sign saying ‘place feet here, point camera there’), I have been there, I have done that, I have got the awards, and I hated what it made me! The competitive part made me so hyper critical that I was disgusted with most of what I shot after a while – it turned me against what I loved and it took a long time to come back again, so there, I won’t share… well, not more than the odd one or two at least.
If you’ve lasted this long, here’s a few photos from my recent trip to London, none of them quite the tourist shots you might imagine, although I did get in the Houses of Parliament, ‘Big Ben’, the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Britain…
So go on then, why do you create?
I don’t really know why I create. I have always loved making things and have always loved color in almost any hue. However, being retired now, I am diligent about keeping myself busy because I don`t want to become a bored, boring person with no hobbies and nothing to talk about. And with hobbies (sewing/quilting in particular for me) there is so much to explore, create, collect. It is like living a fresh part of life – something I haven’t done before. Every project is like that – fresh, colorful and keeping me out of trouble.
This is an easy one for me – I create because it's a compulsion that I have never tried to shake. Making things out of other…. things is part of my DNA. My Mum's brother is the same. He's a retired art teacher but has rebuilt cars, houses, an entire toy railway in his back garden (from component parts) and took a very involved sugar crafts course just to see if he could do it. I'm the same. I don't analyse it, I just make stuff. Although if you want a cartoon elephant with fairy wings? I'm your girl. *g*
Bit heavy this is for a slightly hungover Saturday morning, but I'll give it a go. I not a sitting down doing nothing person, so I have to keep mind and body occupied. Gardening keeps the body occupied outdoors, and sewing, knitting, crochet keeps the mind entertained indoors. i also like to be pushing the boundaries of what I can do – currently trying to learn to do some basic drawing, and yes, I must get around to learning how to use my camera properly. Basically, creating is something that makes me happy! What better reason?
I like the reflection of St. Paul's! I create as its good for my soul! Have you read The Treehouse, Naomi Wolfe I think, she explains that if we don't create when we want to, the world is a sadder place!
I can relate to a lot in this post and to answer my why I think I'd have to do my own blog post.
I sew and knit and try my hand at other creative crafty outlets because when I see nice stuff, especially if it has a hefty price tag, a voice inside my head says "I could do that!". Apart from that I enjoy the challenge of learning new skills and stretching myself, in fact I get a little fidgety if I'm not doing something like that.
I think in your case genetics may have a lot to answer for!
I am totally the same with drawing- I need to look at something, and I'm the same with taking photos- I've not so much as looked at the last two trips worth of photos from two years :S I've been sewing and making things since before I started primary school, I'm not actually sure why I do, I just have a need to, I've never had a break but the crafts have changed over time.
I've never questioned why I make things, I just do… *goes off for a think*
Here I go again – I lost the first answer I put up for this by logging out 🙁
Ann is right, there must be a genetic element to your creativity. Your Mum enjoys here embroidery and knitting and can create Aran and other jumpers out of her head – wool is another option of course. She is also a very creative cook.
The photography is definitely a family thing. Your great uncle Neil was a mad keen photographer from the 1930s on, even through the war and the shortages of materials. Grandad was a good if somewhat lazy photographer, and he enjoyed it when he could be bothered.
you know me. I have had a camera since my teens and I've enjoyed photography ever since. When I had a daughter to bring up the money wan't there for the film I wanted to use, but as you grew, time came when I built the darkroom, though I never was one of those people who talked about the magic of an image appearing. It's just a chemical reaction, but one the darkroom worker used to create the effects he wanted. By then I was shooting what people thought was a crazy amount of film for a holiday – 10 rolls of slides! I was really pushing the boat out in 2004 when we went to OZ – I shot 43 rolls of Ektachrome, or 1600 pictures in 4 weeks. Now I happily shoot 2500 images in three weeks. I shot 1600 in four days at the Spa weekend in May – though half went in the trash.
I'm not so obsessive as you, so I'm still a member of a camera club, though it's really only to see other people's work, though I enter the competitions to be seen to participate. I like sharing, and that's why I've joined the Royal Photographic Society Contemporary Group. It's made up of a group of people who like to share, but who don't care for competition. I enjoy putting together my books when I get the time, and of course sharing with your Gran when we're on holiday. It really is a pleasure processing the images and creating an on-line album that she can see and follow our progress.
Nono of that addresses the WHY question. I think the why is because of my excessively visual memory. I read and enjoy books, though the plots are soon forgotten. Not so with photo books, of which I have plenty. I love looking at the photographic styles and placing the images in their historical as well as artistic context. The likes of Lee Miller, Don McCullen, George Rodger, Tom Stoddart and Lindsay Addario provide photographic context to my fascination with military history. Ansel Adams, Charlie Waite and Joe Cornish deliver fabulous landscapes. Jane Bown, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, Martin Parr and other Magnum photographers have produced news documentary photography that gives me an insight into other people's lives, and some books such as Red-Color News Soldier provide a deep and disturbing view of the excesses of some regimes (Maoist Chine in his case).
So I guess the why for me is linked to obtaining a view on the world and creating my own.
Reading your father's wonderful account resonates with me and for you I guess Big Ben is ringing! Being part of a family with creative interests and passions is a huge boost to creativity and the need to do something and share rather the passivity of just being a onlooker is very strong. I encourage my kids to get involved as much as possible even if my favourite fabrics get used or my daughter chooses just about the most vile backing fabric possible for her latest quilt, it is her creative choice and why should I stifle it? Mind you I would have drawn the line if it were for the top….
There are a number reasons I create aside from being part of a creative family firstly it is one of the very few things I do in both my family and professional life which has a defined end product that doesn't get undone or have to be redone. The fact that it is functional and beautiful is a large part of its appeal. I like the fact it can give comfort and be gifted and shared in the wonderfully generous and engaged quilting community. And there is one huge hidden benefit for me – I can work guilt free with inches!!
Sorry I meant to mention I loved your pictures particularly of the Rising Tide installation. It looked amazing and a quick google search revealed some half submerged ' rising tide' pics and its meaning which for once was very clear and graphic. Why does London get the best of these installations and why oh why was it for only one month….
I so enjoyed your pictures. I create because it returns me to a place of magic and fantasy and stretches me in ways nothing else does. The joy of being in the moment while creating something entirely new or working out the problem in hard materials is what keeps me going through The more mundane parts of quitting. Xxx
It's interesting what you said about being creative so that the right side of your brain doesn't wither and die. My two favourite subjects in school were Maths and Art. I have probably always been better at numbers, and things with black and white answers, but I have always felt a NEED to be creative. When I'm not using my brain and hands to do something creative I feel like I'm dying, like I'm becoming less and less me. On the other hand, I feel like I am wasting time and money, so I have to push myself to believe that it is OK to sometimes do the things I love – but I always feel significantly better afterwards.