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Definition of artist

I was talking about card-making recently and someone asked me if I was an artist because they knew someone who made beautiful watercolor cards.  I quickly said “no, I’m not an artist” and then paused, and said “well, maybe”, and then finished lamely, just to explain the cards, “I make cute cards with paper cutouts and stamps from kits and such”.

When did I stop thinking of myself as an artist?

My best definition of artist is “a person who makes art”.  So maybe I stopped being an artist when I stopped making art.  I make time for crafts, and sometimes artistic crafts.  I am creative, I create things.  I don’t make most things from a kit, though I do like kits for notching quick handmade projects.  Do I make time for “art”?  I really don’t.  I still have ideas, but I don’t take the time to practice creating.

Art is that it’s a skill that gets rusty.  Not just the fine motor control, but the mental muscle that allows you to feel natural playing with your chosen media to get visual ideas out there.  Just knowing what makes good composition isn’t enough, practicing creating compositions is necessary to create good compositions.  Getting your hand to do what your mind’s eye envisions takes practice, practice, practice.

I’ve had lots of big ideas in the past few years, but I can’t execute because I’ve let the skills grow rusty.  My kiddo is big enough now that I can squeeze in 10 or 15 min of practice in a day while he plays, after work, before I’m completely wiped out and just want to sit on the couch.

I hereby challenge myself to an any-art-a-day.  I’m a mixed media person, so anything can count as practice, as long as I’m creating/sketching/doodling/photographing something that does not lead to a gift, memory-keeping, or other practical “craft” item.  We’ll see how this goes!  I’ve also challenged myself to a 10 min yoga per day routine.  Time to get that back on track too.

What is your definition of art?  What is your definition of craft?  Have you tried both?  Has life or an internal pendulum swung you one way or another?

To check out some of my related unravellings on the definition of art, I posted some thoughts in March of 2014.

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Is this thing still on? And updated thoughts on double pointed needles

When I started this blog I promised myself I wouldn’t make posts that made excuses for being back from a long hiatus. So I won’t. It has been about two years since my last post though, so it seems silly not to acknowledge that.

Here are some random things I have finished in that absence:

Border Socks pattern by Mary Jane Mucklestone, finished 2/18/18

My first “spinner” card

Some Stampin’ Up dies and my quirky sense of humor

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My first attempt in a really long time to do fancy decorations on a cake, February 2018

Liege Waffles from Smitten Kitchen recipe… I’m drooling just looking at the photo

Star bread from King Arthur Flour recipe… no more difficult than regular cinnamon bread, but so fancy-looking!

Holiday decorations

An experiment with my kiddo comparing leavening in pancakes:  baking soda vs yeast

Edith’s Secret, pattern by Kristen Ashbaugh-Helmreich, I added beads, finished 7/10/17

Black raspberry pie, made from black raspberries that we picked

I might even make time to talk about some of these projects along the way.  If you’re on Ravelry, you can at least see details about the knitting projects by visiting my Projects page.

Double Pointed Needles – Unravellings updated:

Waaaaaay back in May of 2009, I wrote a love note to DPNs for socks.  I lambasted the endless scooching of 2-at-a-time-magic-loop methods…  See the photo at the top of this post?  The lovely grey socks with the fair isle details?  The final iteration took over 4 years to complete – in part because of 1-at-a-time sock methods… So maybe I was wrong.  Maybe there is a place for 2-at-a-time-magic-loop methods for people like me who have too much going on in life to dedicate real time to one knitting project.

Why am I condemning the method and not just my questionable crafting-time-management?  Because with all the stops and starts of this project I would forget important details of what I did in the first sock, and my gauge would change, and, possibly worst of all, because they discontinued two of the colors of yarn in that long time (and I lost one ball for a while), I was perilously close to having to complete one sock in a totally different color.  The result of some of these hangups was that I had to rip back the second sock from half-way down the sole allllllll the way back to the cuff twice in those four years.  If I would have been doing two at a time, I would not have had some of those problems and color match issues could have been mitigated by design changes.

At first, I vowed that I’d only do 2-at-a-time socks from now on… but then my Mom got me a pair of Addi Flexi Flips, sooooooo, maybe there are more singleton socks in my future after all.  I’ll just have to solemnly swear to work on them with more dedication!  Or maybe a series of one-off socks would be appropriate, fraternal twins and such…

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Birthday Philosophy

It’s that time of year again, which make me feel reflective.  I thought I would share the following navel-gazing thoughts about birthdays, my “birthday philosophy” if you will.

When I was younger, I felt awkward about my birthday because I didn’t see what was worth celebrating. Not that life was bad, just that “birthdays” seems like a really weird concept when you are shy and don’t want extra attention. After all, it was just the day I was born, I didn’t do anything special.

As an adult, many people find that the birthday is a bad reminder, but I have never been one to dread aging. I don’t spend enough time in front of mirrors to worry about looks, and other elements of senescence and mortality can come to the unlucky young, as well as the old.

But sometime in my late twenties I realized what it is about birthdays that I could really find worth celebrating. As an adult, birthdays become a milestone that mark an achievement: Each birthday represents another year in which I have kept my **** together. That’s super important as an adult. And sadly, not something everyone can say every year. Maybe it’s a low benchmark, but seriously, it is really worth celebrating every year. I am doing a passable job at being an adult.

And so here we are, another year as an adult, and I feel I am doing a passable job keeping it together. Go me! I have made my minimum benchmark and that is worth celebrating!

On top of that, my particular role and circumstance at this time means I am helping keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, keeping a small child out of trouble, maintaining a good relationship with my spouse, my friends and my family. And on top of that, I can make pretty things and delicious thing with my hands, which adds a lot to my life. I have so much to be grateful for throughout the years of my life so far, and this year feels like it has been an especially good one.

I have plenty of blessings that I cannot take credit for, and so much help along the way from friends and family also. So really, the one thing I can say I have truly achieved is keeping it together another year. Good job, me!

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I think I’ve finally settled on a new look for my blog.  I had kept the same style and header for about 4 years, but I was feeling like the look didn’t reflect my thematic change in the last couple of years to cover all of my crafty endeavors, and not just my knitterly ones.  I wrestled with the current WordPress setup and tried different themes until I got one that resonated.  Then I used my graphic design skills to make a background and header that pulled it all in.

I’m still Unravelling the metaphorical Argyle.  I’m still untangling techniques and improving my crafting.  But my artistic life has never been just about knitting, and I think my craft blog finally reflects that complexity.

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Sharing the journey

I went to a fiber fair today with my Mom, and on the hour long car ride our conversation covered many topics. We talked about sensitive family relationship issues. We talked about shared history. We talked about parts of our histories before our paths crossed. And of course we talked crafts, crafts, and more crafts.

This woman who has done the Mom job for me for over half my life is so like me in so many ways. As we traveled to the fiber fair together I could not help but reflect on ways she has influenced my personality for the better. I also had to reflect on the fact that we have both been a big influence on the other’s crafting personality.

In the years after we first met, the only craft that I ever saw her do was needlepoint on those plastic canvases. At the time, I’ll admit I thought it was a little lame, although I would never judge another’s craft so harshly now. I was a young teen and had dabbled with some kits, sewing, a little jewelry-making and polymer clay. As a little older teen, I got more serious about sewing.

Halfway through college, I started petitioning for a spinning wheel and she helped my Dad find me both a wheel kit and lessons. Not long after, she taught me to knit, which until that point I didn’t even realize she knew how to do.

From then on, it became a craft journey shared, although I didn’t recognize it at the time. It has helped us bond tremendously over the years. We encourage each other, share tips and processes, share equipment and stash, share laughs over the pitfalls of overcrowded craft storage. And we also seem to share a passion for dabbling, a desire to learn all the techniques, a propensity to be inspired broadly and be undaunted by the prospect of learning a new skill. Who learned that from whom?

The credit for my creative life goes to both nature and nurture. My Dad, the Mom who had the first part of my raising, and the Mom who has had the rest of my raising have all been very creative and very encouraging of my craft explorations. As an adult though, what I value most is getting to share the creative journey with the people that I love.

Until next time, keep those needle clicking…

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Limitations…

I have discovered a recurring pattern in my knitting hiatuses. Mid-semester every term, I guess I must be too overwhelmed by all the other priorities swirling around me to knit. I have a fair bit of knitting time available to me every day on my commute to and from work (usually either my husband drives or I take the bus). And I have a little tv time most days that I could be taking advantage of as well. But lately, I just sit with idle hands.

And this happens every semester, right around the middle. I have overdue gifts to knit, and fun, easy novelty projects as well, but I guess there’s only so much activity I can handle. Sometimes people see my finished projects and ask “How do you have time to do it all?” The answer is that I really don’t, and sometimes those limitations catch up to me.