Well, there was such a lot in this one, it’s taken me a while to process it, and to do some thinking about it. I thought perhaps I wouldn’t manage to post anything this week, and I wonder if others feel this reluctance for the same reason – there’s just so much you could say, and no hope of producing a comprehensive response. Having said that, others have obviously put a lot of effort into this and have produced incredibly complex, thoughtful and thorough responses (I’m looking at you, Kate H, and Janis D, particularly, in this respect). So perhaps I’d better not wimp out, just get on with it.
Inventory of skill set
I think I’ve got a bit of a cultural problem with this. If you’re British and especially older British, it isn’t quite done to show off about what you can do. There’s a bias towards underplaying abilities and being modest and self-deprecating. So, please understand, the following is produced through gritted teeth.
What are my skills? Professional work-related skills are perhaps the easiest to deal with:
- I’m very good at completion (I’ve been involved in several research studies, and have completed them and seen the resultant papers through to publication. I’ve edited a book, and have written a large textbook on my own).
- I’m good at typing. I know this seems a bit trivial but it actually has helped enormously with getting material ready for publication. And it makes writing this much easier. I’ve tried sitting down in a cosy chair in front of the fire to write longhand in a book, but for me that just doesn’t work. All the writing I’ve done for these posts has been done on the computer, and I find that writing this way really helps me to think.
- Thinking analytically. I’m a chartered accountant (CPA if you’re in the USA) and am good at understanding the structure of e.g. complex documents. Sometimes, but not always, these things involve numbers. Sometimes they involve interaction with people, or the actions of people in organisations. I don’t intrinsically have much in the way of people skills (that’s why I’m an accountant, I suppose), but I’ve got better.
- Planning and organising time. While doing this course, and maybe as a result of it, I’ve suddenly, properly and thoroughly, realised that I can organise my time spent in making things in the same way as I organise my professional work. Durr. Not much of a revelation, really, but you have to realise and internalise these things for them to make any difference to your life. I suppose what I’m talking about here is alignment as defined by Jane. So, just recently, when I wake up in the morning and I’m drinking my tea in bed as I think about the day ahead, I’ve started to consider not just what I’ll do for the day job type of work, but also what I’m going to do about making. I think about the time I’m going to spend on each type of commitment and about what I’m going to do. And I’m making a big effort to follow it through. Although I’ve had a lot of other things going on in my life recently, I’ve found that this new approach to organising time is actually working well. If I don’t get the day job under tight control, the making tends to take second place. Which is just wrong.
- I’m good at working with the computer. I established my own website and blog. Designed it and made it myself a couple of years ago. I’d do it differently now, and if I can plan in the time, I’ll update its look and design, but I’m still proud of the fact that I did it.
Making skills are more difficult to talk about perhaps because I’ve got less confidence about what I can do.
- I’m quite good at stitching creatively. I think I’m good at, and getting better at, composition and colour. I’m getting better at producing a range of colours through dyeing, especially natural dyeing.
- I’m fairly good at knitting and crochet, although I always use other peoples’ patterns. I don’t see this as part of being creative, but it does me good to be using my hands, and to get some meditative headspace for thinking about other things.
- I think I’ve learned how to look at other peoples’ art and to talk about it and to write about it in a way that conveys my ideas and responses. I’ve still got a long way to go on this, but I’m much more articulate than I used to be.
- I’m quite good at drawing, although I could be better if I built in more time for practice.
Skills I’d like to have
Some of the things I’ve written down above are tentative and hesitant because in a lot of these points I feel there’s room for improvement. And in some cases I don’t think there’s ever any end to finding out and improving. For example, the study of colour which I think may be the main making-related enterprise that I’m engaged on – well, how would that ever end, except with the end of life? I’m constantly intrigued and surprised by colour and I don’t want ever to feel that I know it all. But, by contrast, I know that if I spent enough time on it, I could get better at drawing. Maybe it’s not even helpful to think about exploring the use of colour as a skill (whereas by contrast I think drawing is a skill up to a point).
I’d like to understand better what I’m doing creatively. I really related to what Jane was saying about personal style and the story of Beth. Oddly (or maybe not oddly at all) I only started to understand what I was doing when I had to start writing artists’ statements. I really didn’t want to do it and had to make myself sit down and get on with it, but to my surprise I found it a really useful process. Perhaps I’d been thinking that the exploration of principally colour, but also shape texture and line, that I was engaged on was somehow of less worth than something with more overt meaning. Well, if that’s what I was thinking I can now tell myself that I was wrong. It is not trivial. It has meaning for me and for many others. So there.
I do like the idea of keeping a list of things I’d like to learn.
What would perfection look like?
I can’t imagine, I really can’t imagine, producing a piece of work and being completely satisfied with it. I’m happy to think that I’m taking steps along a road. Perhaps I’m being naive but I don’t think I need to understand what perfection would look like in order to keep improving. Sarah S said here that to set out to try to attain perfection is way too much pressure. I think that’s how I feel, too.
Well, I think that’s enough. Or possibly far too much. I was going to critique a piece of work and had even chosen the piece, but not today. Actually, I want to get on and do some stitching before it gets dark.