Learning to Make Art
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.