A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


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Friday, April 28, 2006

Learning to Make Art

I spent some time getting oriented to my new teaching job this afternoon, with Anita, who is the administrator in charge of the various alternative education programs including Adult Education and GED. As we were reviewing her list of important things to tell me, she apologetically said that she would probably overwhelm me with details because of her "sequential" learning style. Later in the conversation, I revealed that I had to work to be organized because I was an "abstract-random". For those not familiar with education jargonese, take a moment to read this article about the Gregorc learning styles model, and how these learning styles make a difference in how of us processes information throughout our lives. I promise, there IS a relevance here to what I am about to discuss.

Driving home, I got to pondering how working in education had taught me a lot about myself, and how much being abstract-random affects the way I go about creating art. If you were to walk up my stairs and into my studio right now, it would look pretty organized, as I just spent some spring-cleaning time bonding with my stash and putting my tools in order. I even set up a countertop, actually an antique treadle sewing machine with the zigzag machine removed and in storage (I have TWO other machines, so probably won't be treadling unless electricity goes away for good), and attached my circular sock machine to the counter. This is actually deceptive though, a temporary sense of order to the usual chaotic methods I live with.

One of the issues for people who are abstract-random is that of getting easily scattered. My dearest colleague, Chgeryl, from years of teaching (she is also my neighbor at the high country house) was the only other abstract-random when we did a group exercise with our school team and several other schools at a conference about five years ago. We realized that we were the most artistic on the staff, and that our type of learning style played a rather narrow role in being educators; most people transmitting information are much more linear (sequential) and need things to be solid (concrete). Cheryl's elementary classroom, where all four of our children spent their youth, was one giant art studio, with lots of experiential learning happening. Oh, there were desks and chairs, and math with manipulatives as well as reading lessons, but there was also a kitchen and lots of cooking activities, and art materials lining almost every square inch. I set up my two rigid heddle looms for her in the hallway, and there was a huge box of yarn for students to use in practicing the weaving process. There were bottles of paint and easels, and when the school diminished in size because of lowered enrollment, she spilled over across the hall, where students learned science by planting seeds, and later sorting and drying ones from the school garden.

This is a common feature of the abstract-random mind... we jump from thing to thing, are intuitive in our ideas and understanding, and, at least for me, need to have everything in sight to "remember" that it exists, what it looks like, and where it is located. I spin a lot of pictures (and word pictures) in my mind, which in part is how I became a strong writer, doing lots of advance pre-writing.

However, when I am developing a quilt or a knitting project, I need to have all the components I am considering out in plain sight, where I can walk by them regularly, and touch and more the colors around in order to visualize what the project will develop into.. especially when I am using multiple colors of yarn or pieces of fabric. It is a bit easier when there is just one color of yarn; then, I pick up and fondle the yarn as I go by, each time imprinting into my consciousness the feel, weight, texture, and re-examining whether I am heading in the right direction with my ideas. I can usually look at a photo of an existing pattern and decide rather quickly these days if it will look good on me (after many past mistakes, both in handmade and purchased clothing), so I have often determined already what I am heading towards making. Not always, though, and sometimes that repeated imprinting is helping me to hear what the yarn wants to be. That is what it feels like when the inspiration finally strikes.

How do you go about choosing your next project? What did considering these different learning styles say to you about your own methods of creating and how you personally learn? I am finding that the more I respect this part of my individual nature, the more I nurture the artist within. I am eager to hear how other people address these issues in their work.

4 Comments:

Blogger Jennifer said...

I'm an abstract sequential which explains my love and study of ethics and philosophy! When I choose and work on a project, I use this style as well. Before I start a project, I research the skills and materials I will need to complete it. I can spend a lot of time thinking about subbing yarn, and mods that I'd like to make. I like to think of the project as a whole before starting it, imagining how I could change it. It's actually how I approach my beadwork too. I've got a ton of books on both subjects, but have made little out of any although I've read most of them. It's more about the possibilities and what I could do to change or tweak things to make them my own.

6:22 AM  
Blogger KnitNana said...

Geesh. I'm two of them, which isn't too big a surprise - and I swear I'm a Cancer, not a Gemini!
I'm Abstract/Random but I'm also Concrete/Sequential. I'm an accountant so the second one should be understandable...But the first describes the much more artistic side of me - like you Birdsong! But then, when we talked in my graduate education classes back in the 90's about learning styles, I discovered that I'm best able to learn using ALL three of the major skill sets - audio, visual, and tactile! (Hands-on works the best of all...but I learned to be very present to hear and see what was going on and as long as I was PRESENT in class and not sick, I learned and remembered). I think I had learning disabilities as a child, back before anyone had a name for them, and I was fortunately able to adjust and morph into whatever was needed just to survive in school...thank goodness! My mom was also a very good teacher, and helped me get through almost everything except math! :)
Algebra took me 3 tries to figure out, but then it clicked and - WATCH OUT! Now I'm an accountant! lololol

3:30 PM  
Blogger lucette said...

Hi from the elc website. I took a look at the article and found that I'm abstract-random as well. Maybe I'll put it on a T-shirt!
I teach also, and I've noticed these learning style clashes w/o having a name for them--very interesting.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Marguerite said...

What an interesting post. I'm off to read the article.

I know I'm sequential. It was a talent that came in very handy in my profession - first computer programming and then systems analyst and project manager. In everyday life being sequential can be very paralyzing when trying to get something done. I'm only moderately successful at being spontaneous, but it's better now that I'm retired.

6:29 AM  

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