Thirty Days of Making: Stave-Book, Finished.

I’m in Day 30 of a short series: Thirty Days of Making. Every day for the next thirty days, I intend to make something, anything, that is in some way connected to school. There won’t always be pictures, and I reserve the right to credit myself for things that I help my kids make. But I’ve decided that I need thirty days of maker success and maker failure under my belt to be a better designer.

I’ve decided that artwork counts, but not writing (unless it’s part of the art, like calligraphy). Digital work counts, but it has to be useful or publishable.

Some days there will be pictures, some days there won’t be. Each blog entry will contain a list of some of the materials and tools, a quick review of the success or failure of the Making, and a reflection on what I think I learned from the endeavor. (My friend Alicia is beginning a new series along these lines, 12 weeks of the Artist’s Way — I wish her well in her process, go check her out!).  Also, there was a technical glitch with Day 24, which is now posted.

Reason for the Project:

Yesterday, while I was searching Andrew Carle’s website for a specific article to reference in yesterday’s Thirty Days of Making article, I came across Bre Pettis‘s “The Cult of Done” Manifesto:

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
  5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  13. Done is the engine of more.

And I realized that I really wanted to finish some of the projects that I’d started but not finished in this thirty days. The four big ones were my shirt, and the last few detail stitches on my pencil case, the stave-book, and a lotus wand.  There was also a gauntlet-glove to assemble, although that didn’t turn out so well. So I devoted today to “Done”.

Process and Results:

A lot of these projects were finished (or at least chivvied along toward finished) in ten and twenty-minute blocks of time throughout the day.  I needed to wait for the drama teacher to finish one appointment, so I sewed the bottom hem of my shirt in place while I waited. Thank goodness the sewing machine didn’t break like yesterday.

Thirty days of making: pencil case details
only one, pink zipper left in the drawer… oh well.

I was waiting for my class this morning, while they finished a math test.  So I put in the final stitches in my pencil case, which was admired several times throughout the day.  I was really pleased with the reaction to it; I think I need to make a dozen more or so, and distribute them as rewards for project completion in other parts of the school.  They’ll attract notice, and draw some new kids into the programs I’m running.

Thirty days of making: gauntlet gloves
I like the left-hand pattern more than the right-hand one.

The gauntlet needed four minutes with a glue gun.  So I did that during a math class that was meeting in the Design Lab.  I’m not sure anyone in the class realized that I’d done the work while they worked on building a triangular truss bridge out of popsicle sticks. Another project, completed. How many projects can be moved along the curve to “complete” in a single day, at the end of a month of preparation and forward-leaning intention? Quite a lot, it turns out. I couldn’t put the cuffs on the sleeves of my shirt, unfortunately, but I could finish these two projects — and I also had enough time in that math class to build a small section of a truss bridge all by my lonesome. Building some small projects gives you the creative confidence to attempt more, and succeed. The math students were all stressed out about perfection. I knew mine wasn’t going to be perfect — so it gave me the go-ahead to do mediocre work as a learning exercise.

Thirty days of making: geomancy stave book.
kids lit up today when I said, “the lab has a pyrographer now.” They were disappointed when it turned out to be a wood-burner.

And mediocre work, or even terrible work, is the first step toward making great work.  The great work does not come at the beginning of the effort, but at the end.  Therefore, make the first few mistakes, and then a few more, and then a few more yet beyond that.  The great work emerges from the mediocre, and the Great Work emerges from the great work which precedes it.

The completion of the stave-book with my poem, Quatrains on Geomancy, took the longest. Maybe most of an hour.  I was working on other stuff in the lab, so I would scribe a line, putter in the lab for a bit while the fine tip re-heated, and then do another line, and so on.  THis was the most tedious part of the day’s work — not so much creative work, as deliberate carrying-out of a creative vision already decided upon. Sometimes “Done” means executing an existing plan, regardless of whether it’s the right plan or not.

Thirty days of making: geomancy stave book.
the completed book

On the other hand, the results seem to live up to my intention.  I have a book of eight staves or wooden panels. Each panel has two quatrains on it, each of which takes as its topic or theme one of the sixteen characters of geomancy.  The result is a small, ceremonial-style book that explains some aspect of the sixteen signs.  This is by no means the most-complete text on geomancy ever written, nor even the most accurate; but it is at the least a useful introduction to the subject.

Done.

Four projects (one not shown here, because I’d forgotten my phone up in my classroom when I was down in the costume shop waiting for a colleague, and using the sewing machine).  Four projects that are off my to-do list.

Thirty days of making, completed.    All in all, a very productive October.  The whole collection of Thirty Days of Making entries can be viewed here.

There are still projects to finish. The Mercury book, for example, and the geometry textbook. Even a page of those two projects is a couple of hours apiece.  I’ll have a good program in place to finish those two projects, but that’s not what this was about. Which brings me to…

Reflection on My Learning:

I’m a lot better at architecture, sewing, graphic design, and general creativity after thirty days of this stuff.  I’ll be better after sixty days, or a hundred days, or a year… but I don’t think I could sustain this level of attention to the writing about my creative process for more than thirty days at a time.  It’s often been an hour for the creative process, and an hour for the reflection upon it.

All the same, I’ve learned a lot from the process, I think.  I’m a lot better than I used to be about just starting, and just keeping going.  I don’t let myself get bogged down in mistakes — it’s not going to be perfect anyway, so keep moving. Get the thing done, get it finished, get it on someone else’s plate to consider and think on and reflect upon, and make it happen.  Then do the next thing.

Reflection on General Learning:

Do you find that other people always seem to be standing still?  I find that I feel that way now.  The more creative projects I do, the more skilled I am in other areas.  I met with a colleague today about Keynote, the presentation software from Apple Computer.  I showed her how to use the color-picker function, which allows you to click on an existing color and transfer the color from one photograph or object to another.  She’s a creative type, so she immediately saw its usefulness.  In a short while, after I’d shown her two or three things that she could do, she took over from me, and made a much more beautiful project than I’d ever have believed possible for a beginner.  Creative people learn new creative skills faster.

There’s more to say about that someday, but not today.  The big takeaway for me is that if you want to be creative, you compel yourself to be creative with a challenge that you must meet, in a public and obvious way. The results pay dividends which are unexpected but useful.

Rating:

Five of five stars.  It doesn’t matter that some of the projects are bad — they all taught valuable lessons that established my skills and helped me deepen my own creative confidence.  Sooner or later I’m going to be able to stand tall and claim that October 2013 was a major milestone for my work as a designer — it’s where I established my own confidence in my abilities, and decided to take the necessary command over my desire to do, to make and to build, instead of merely to dream.

2 comments

  1. […] Once completed, I’ll weight them: they’ll rest under a stack of books for three or four days, maybe as much as five or six weeks, until I’m ready to bind the books in new covers.  I’ve not decided if the cover will be leather, and the binding long-stitch; or if the covers will be paper-covered boards, and the binding coptic.  It will be easier than the book of the Geomancy poem that I did with wooden pages, and fire. […]

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