Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Roll Your Own

I’m convinced that pretty much all creative work is derivative. You see something you like that someone else made and you want something like that. They say that publishers of pattern books and knitting magazines have to be careful when they make the model garments because many people are so influenced by what they see that they can’t envision it even in a different colour. I find that kind of dedication interesting because I’ve never been afraid to change things to make it my own. Even if I follow a pattern exactly the yarn will be different. I think I’ve just discussed myself into a circle: make it the same, but different.

If we’re going to avoid that old demon copyright problems, I prefer to change things up a lot. I think it’s much more fun to carve your own stamps, for instance. They are funky and imperfect and less detailed but so much more personal. You don’t have to get permission to use them or to publish works including them. They are all yours.

The same for photographs. Take your own. Take lots! Pixels are there for your use and megabytes are cheap these days. Your photo skills will improve: your eye for line and composition, your colour sense, even your ability to use your photo editor of choice. Then you can use your own images for anything you like with no restrictions.

D3_03 C Lookout beach rocks

(That’s the photo I’ve been using as computer wallpaper lately. It’s from our coastal vacation last autumn: beach rocks at Cape Lookout, Oregon.)

I know I’ve said this before but I feel so strongly that it bears repeating. If I want to develop a style or “voice” of my own, although it builds on things I’ve seen or learned from others work, then I really have to go back to the basic levels and work from there in a more personal way. As a beginner I might benefit with a more “paint-by-number” approach but as my skills improve, I can begin much further back in the process.

This search for the exact right place to begin is something I’ve been pondering lately. It’s part of the reason that I get frustrated with books and magazines that call for specific tools and materials and expect you to make something that looks exactly or almost exactly like the model. That’s merely the leaping off point, in my opinion. But then I’m one who prefers a class on a technique rather than a project. A technique can be used and adapted in many ways but a project is just one thing. You might learn techniques from doing the project but they are subservient to the goal of completing the project. If you begin the project with a kit of supplies, your options even more limited. That’s not to say I haven’t both taught and taken classes like that. I just prefer to do things differently now.

I remember once at a textile retreat going into a classroom of needlework students. They were all working with the same kit using the exact same design. I was shocked! I’m sure it was excellent for skill building but how regimented. How boring! I would be hunting down ways to change something in my piece right quick! And probably earn the disapproval of the instructor. But I’m a rebel like that. Must have something to do with my Catholic school upbringing. I’m making up in later life for all that conformity the nuns tried to drill in to me. But I digress.

Recently, one of my friends showed me a journal she had made awhile back and I immediately recognized a stamp I had carved that she used in it. It was a little thrill! I doubt it would have felt the same if she had borrowed a commercial stamp from me. My leaf stamp is a part of me in a way. Just like the socks I keep knitting for my family or the paper stole for exhibit. A gift from me to the world. Am I making any sense here?

Probably not. Nevermind.

So the sun is out today. It hopefully will be warm enough this afternoon so that I can sit in the sunshine on the deck and transplant seedlings. Keeps the dirt outside where it belongs! I just vacuumed the basement entry by the “grow-op” yesterday and have no desire to do it again so soon. I also bravely left the seedlings outside in the greenhouse last night. They survived just fine. Hmmm…maybe I can get my peas planted today too! It’s late but the ground is still wet and cold so they would be the same size in a couple of weeks anyhow. No point trying to rush the season. It turns in its own time.

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