Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The desire to create things - Tabula Rasa guest post by Steel&Stitch



Today’s guest post on Tabula Rasa comes from the fantabulicious Emma from Steel&Stitch, who is the crochety and crafty goddess and overall a luscious person. Her designs are colourful, fun and begging to be made. 



Well howdy y’all!  This is Emma from Steel&Stitch here to talk to you today about tabula rasa (don’t worry, when I first heard this phrase I thought it was a roasted aubergine dip, turns out it’s actually the theory that human’s are born with a mind that is a ‘blank slate’ and then informed by life’s experiences) and creative ability.  I would like to put it out there right now that I am not an authority on this (remember the aubergine thing), but I have been doing a little research in to creativity in humans for my MA in Sustainable Design, and will happily contribute my tuppence-worth.  Oh, and this really isn’t going to be too heavy, in fact it’s going to be very unacademic and light (yep, the aubergine thing), so don’t worry. 

Where to start?  I’m mainly going to talk about this in relation to creativity, but this is one of those massive subjects that everybody has an opinion about, mostly informed by personal experience (which is exactly how I’ve formed my own opinion; as an identical twin, a mother and a person). That, and a tiny bit of research that was recently done by Harvard University.  Those Clever Clogs have discovered that there are certain patterns that light up in the neural network when creative people come up with ideas.  Some people have brains that do this very easily, and some people don’t.  (This very interesting piece of research was in an abandoned copy of the Guardian that I found on 16.1.18 on the 16.54 from Victoria to Ore, very much worth a read if you want to find out about it properly).  It would seem reasonable to assume that this is the case for other things too, like maths or combining flavours or singing.
What it proves is that some people are much more creative than others.  But were they born that way, or did they become that way by having encouraging parents, or by being forced to live on their wits, or by being sent to a Steiner School?  As an identical twin, we were each brought up with a designated identity.  I was the Clever One and she was the Outgoing One.  For years we subscribed to these roles, I rarely spoke to anyone, spent too much time trying to read the classics and mooning over Pre-Raphaelite art.  She was wildly gregarious, kissed lots of boys and wrote her fashion dissertation on Barbie.
  

What was interesting was that for various reasons we ended up at different schools in different counties, and for all of those ideas about how differently our brains worked, we got identical results for our GCSE’s.  Even now, as adults, we still marvel at how I ended up being the clothes designer in spite of studying philosophy at uni (I’ve just been working on a mini collection of patterns for Scheepjes J), and she has ended up as a lecturer working on a phd.  So while we were unconsciously encouraged to study and engage in different things, our brains clearly have their own ideas about what they are able to do; which is pretty much the same as each other.  We are both very creative, have a compulsion to make stuff and love doing a bit of research.

Another case study (this is just to make things sound fancy, what I could actually put is ‘thing I’ve seen’) is the difference in my boys.  They are two years apart, have had the same access and been around the same amount of paint, paper, pens, glue guns, scissors, air brushes, you name it, and the youngest, Creative Boy, while seeming to have an innate ability when it comes to drawing, has very little interest in making stuff.  The big one, loves it.  What’s also interesting is the big one is Maths Boy.  Always has been, so we’ve heartily encouraged him and worked with him to further this aspect of himself.   Didn’t really notice it in the littlest so didn’t do anything special with him.  Started school, turns out he is also Maths Boy, we just hadn’t given him that identity.  So Maths Boy and Creative Boy are actually interchangeable, their brains have a similar default setting. 


Having said all that, I just want to go back to that point about some people being more creative than others.  Me and my twin were set on different paths but both have a deep love and connection with making things.  My boys are being brought up in a creative environment and only one of them chooses to take of advantage of it.  I think maybe we all have a desire to create things, just sometimes it may take a bit of encouragement to find the confidence to do it.  And while there may be some of us that are hard wired to be good at it, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all take enjoyment from just playing and doing it.  My goodness, I can’t sing for toffee, but give me a hairbrush and an empty house and I can have an absolute party.

So, what have we learned here?  I don’t know the difference between an East African dip and a theory proposed by a 17th century Philosopher (in spite of having a philosophy degree).  Surprising things can be learned from abandoned newspapers.  Reading the classics when you’re 12 has very little bearing on your future career.  Also that I think that we are born with a certain amount of pre-programming.  We are not a clean slate.  But whether we’re good at something or not, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy it and we can still do it just because it brings us pleasure and maybe a sense of connecting with something beyond ourselves.  I don’t know the name for that something, maybe it also sounds like something you can dip a carrot in, but whatever it is, I’d definitely encourage you to try it.






Emma x

Monday, 29 January 2018

The potential to do remarkable things - Tabula Rasa guest post by Anneknitty





Today guest blog is by my incredibly good friend Annette, who is the bestest friend anyone could ever ask for and I love her to the moon and back. Annette is a seriously amazing knitter, with a vast knowledge of the craft to match, and if that wasn't enough she also is pretty awesome at sketching, in fact it was her who designed my logo :). Onto Annette's thoughts on Tabula Rasa......


How have you ended up reading my writing on my friend’s website? My Friend, Crochet queen, and
knitting star, Anna, designed a Shawl and named it ‘De Anima’. I was intrigued where this name came from. Anna explained, then me, not being very philosophically minded – was mind blown. This conversation led to me writing a guest blog about this idea.

The brief I was given is as follows:
De Anima or On the Soul – the treatise of Aristotle, in which the concept of Tabula Rasa in Western philosophy originated.
Tabula Rasa refers to the idea that we are born without built-in content and that all we know comes from experience and perception.
It is a truly fascinating concept, and I (Anna) very often ponder it when teaching knit and crochet. We acquire skills through practice. Some of us are taught those skills at an early age, but do we possess them already in our unconscious mind? The same can be said for talent… do we acquire it or are we simply born with it?  

I think honestly that everyone is born with the potential to do remarkable things, but the skills come with practice. When you’re a baby, then a toddler, life is just thrown at you. A bottle is put at your mouth – you drink it. A crayon is put into your hand, you realise it makes colourful marks, you start scribbling colours everywhere. Then you become a child, a little more dextrous, a little more sophisticated in reasoning. The crayon in your hand is now making recognisable shapes, the ‘Adult fear’ hasn’t yet appeared, so you’re still happy making these shapes and not worried that they don’t look perfect. (That bottle is still a bottle, or maybe a cup… but now you can decide when you would like to drink it. But that is me digressing) The child age is the perfect time to take that potential you were born with and absorb new skills easily. You’re not afraid of getting things wrong, or at least looking back on it – you don’t remember having any fear.


As an adult it’s becoming harder and you can now be tentative towards learning new skills. Negative feelings can take control. Fear of getting it wrong, fear of looking stupid, that you’re not good enough from the start. You start thinking you can’t do this new skill, so you stop even before you’ve given it a good go.

On a personal note, I’ve been trying to draw for as long as I can remember. I was given many sketchbooks as a child. I don’t recall being very good at it in the beginning, however, I found a lot of joy in it, so I continued to practise. Eventually, with a lot of repetition and joy, the scribbles became objects, and some could say, ‘artwork’. 

My knitting adventure also started when I was young. It began back in my Brownie troop, I needed to get my Knitting badge and I didn’t know how to start. This led to me being taught by my Nana. Now this is quite a few years ago, but I don’t remember being good straight from the start. I vaguely recollect getting things wrong but not being worried about it – I kept trying till I got it right. Basically, there were a lot of holes, missed stitches and the like. What I think I’m getting at is – I wasn’t born with the skill, I had to work at it. I’m still working on it to this day. What I was born with was the notion to try. I’ve now been knitting for, let’s just say many years and I’m still learning new techniques. If I get something wrong, I work at it till I get it right.

My crochet journey was a little different. Learning crochet started as an adult. This was after I’d said goodbye to my Nana, but before You Tube tutorials were everywhere. So, I had to teach myself from books. As an adult, learning is a little different. You see other adults (even kids) crocheting with ease, and here you are, all fingers and thumbs. The link from your brain to your fingers holding the yarn and the hook, doesn’t flow freely. You start thinking – I can knit well, why can’t I crochet yet? You’ve forgotten that it took time to learn to knit – it wasn’t instantaneous. This is that ‘Adult Fear’ I mentioned earlier. You’re afraid of looking stupid, but usually you must get things wrong before you get it right. So, I decided to ignore these feelings after a while and I stuck at it. I may now crochet like a knitter, but it works for me. 

I hope I’ve stuck to my brief and haven’t rambled on too much. Looking over my few words, my philosophy agrees with Tabula Rasa. We’re not born with talent, that all we know comes from experience and perception. If you’re trying a new skill or craft and feeling some self-doubt, stick at it. Practice some more, tell that Adult fear to get lost. Pretty soon, you’ll end up producing a fab design like Anna’s ‘De Anima’.


 Annette x

Are we born with creativity? - Tabula Rasa guest post by GamerCrafting



To celebrate the release of De Anima shawl I have asked some superb crafters and bloggers to write a guest blog for me on Tabula Rasa.

De Anima or On the Soul - the treatise of Aristotle, in which the concept of Tabula Rasa in Western philosophy originated. 
Tabula Rasa refers to the idea that we are born without built-in content and that all we know comes from experience and perception. It is a truly fascinating concept, and I very often ponder it when I teach knit and crochet. We acquire skills through practice. Some of us are taught those skills at a young age, but do we possess them already in our unconscious mind? The same can be said for talent… do we acquire it or are we simply born with it?
 
Today guest blog is by my very good friend and fellow crafter Ange the creator of GamerCrafting. Ange is not only a fab knitter and yarn dyer but also an amazing musician. Who better to talk about talent than her.


Are we born with creativity, or is it a learned skill?

For people like us, creativity is as important as the air we breathe. Without new ideas and inspirations, the world around us feels dull and grey. But what made us like this? Are we born creative, or do we learn it the same way we learned to read and write?

Tabula Rasa is the idea that we’re all born as a blank slate - an empty mind to be filled up with learned experiences, new ideas, and information. Aristotle compared us to new characters in a play, who are nothing but blank slates until the author gives them a personality and a purpose. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said that wars are the result of social conditioning, and never an innately human condition. I’d like to think that he’s right, and maybe someday we’ll all learn to embrace the humanity of others.

If we are born as blank slates, then what makes us creative? Do we chase activities and ideas that we received positive feedback on as children, or is it as simple as a chemical reaction in the brain, with concoctions of hormones and endorphins that make us feel emotion?

Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The trouble is remaining an artist once we grow up.” Maybe as we grow and observe the world around us, and we start comparing our work to others, we start to doubt our own creativity. Maybe your finger painting wasn’t as “good” as someone else’s, and so you deemed yourself “not artistic.” Maybe we just tell stories about ourselves so often that we begin to believe them. I’m not artistic, I’m bad at math, I’m shy, I’m too aggressive. Maybe we are more than the two dimensional versions of ourselves that strangers see. Allow yourself to be three dimensional and explore every inch of your creative mind; after all, life is short. No one on their deathbed has ever said, “Man, I really wish I had been less creative.”

 I have a theory that everyone is creative, but in different ways. An engineer who invents a new machine is creative, but in a vastly different way to an experimental contemporary musician who uses sound samples of a cityscape to weave an auditory tapestry of exploration. You just have to figure out how to tap into that creativity to make it shine. If we’re born as blank slates, then it’s up to us to write our own creative stories.

Sometimes, a blank slate needs new inspiration. Take a walk in the world around you to find inspiration in the smallest places. A crack in an old tile, a flower growing through concrete, or frost on an early morning. We’re responsible for growing ourselves and our creativity, no one can do it for you. Listen to music you’ve never heard before - in fact, listen to the piece titled Tabula Rasa, written by the Estonian composer Arvo P√§rt. I promise it will make you feel something. I can’t say what that something is, because I’m not you; I feel a deep sense of “hiraeth,” a Welsh word which means homesickness for a time or a place that you can’t return to.

I leave you with a challenge: do something, anything this week that ignites your creativity. Allow yourself the space to be creative and give yourself permission to write on your own blank slate.

                                                       Some of Ange's delicious yarns