Friday, March 22, 2019

Wrestling with myself, and an exemplar to admire

One of the aspects of my creative output which causes me guilt is that it adds stuff to an already overburdened planet.  At my most depressed moments I think that my self-fulfillment is otherwise simply creating more landfill in the long term, and causing me storage problems in the short term. 
My husband's photographs are mostly stored digitally, and thank goodness most of my own designs similarly never get beyond the digital.   And recently I came across a wondrous artist's book which is digital - so appropriate as litter is its subject.
Caroline Fraser: page from On the moon (image from here where the book is explained)
I had no idea that the astronauts who visited the moon left behind such litter - I am appalled, but certainly not surprised.  I am so cheered, however by Caroline Fraser's book pointing out the thoughtless trail of detritus.

I think that with my own work, at present I cannot stop the physical manifestation because the feel, the stitching, the display are all part of what I need for myself.  But I shall try to cut down as much as possible the creation of detritus, and perhaps think more about digital projects.


  1. Thank you for the share, Olga. I don't think we should stop making physical work; it is part of a creative need. But for this project I felt digital was the right way to go. I still prefer a paper book that can be held in the hand, and the turning of the pages makes the read more meaningful. There will always be a dilemma about waste, but my main desire is to keep a discussion going, and you have contributed to that!

    thank you

    1. I agree Caroline, we shouldn't stop making work as long as we are always aware - and keep communicating.

  2. Olga, I agree with Caroline. Completely. You must not stop creating work. I have cut down on buying things as much as I can, with the exception of books and ceramics, and I don't feel guilty about those at all: they are different to the mindless, compulsive consumerism that we are constantly pushed towards.

    1. Eirene, I don't think that I can stop creating in some way or other. I so agree about buying books, though!

  3. What a shame you are feeling this way. Digital is no substitute for an object or sound you can see, feel, hear in the same space you are existing in. I think of the mantra "Live music is best" and it is true. Even the finest recordings played on the most technically advanced equipment cannot reproduce the same experience as sitting in front of a live orchestra or even a solitary musician or vocalist.

    Digital is great for storage, for working out ideas, for tweaking and developing, for gathering inspiration and information. And there is a legitimate niche for true digital art which translates well on the screen as well as printed out and framed. I love much of the digital work you show us as you doodle and layer and play on the computer. But it takes on a different life when you print it out, even if just on paper, but especially on fabric where you add your signature with stitch. No photograph of that product nor an attempt to digitally add stitches in a computer program can capture that unique experience.

    Yes, I am pretty passionate about this. And I am heartened by the responses here and your replies. I know it is disheartening to think of what might become of our work once we're gone, that it may indeed end up in a landfill. But I simply can't believe that there won't be someone somewhere that will appreciate and want for their own most of what I produce. I make for me, but I also make as a sort of legacy and also for the enjoyment of others.

  4. Sheila, I completely agree about real art: live music, seeing actual paintings, like breathing fresh air and touching leaves etc. What I worry about is the proliferation of the throw-away. As I say, I am not about to give up making, but I am very conscious that I must not create too much waste.
    I do believe that communication and distribution of information and understanding are important, and that digital means of doing this achieves even more by not creating material waste so I was delighted to see Caroline Fraser's book which presents evidence and promotes food for thought so eloquently. The elegance of it made me stop to consider my own littering inadequacies.
    Unlike you I have no thoughts of creating a legacy. I am delighted, and it boosts my self confidence when others like some of my output - a bonus on top of my own satisfaction if I manage to produce work which has that elusive and questionable quality of being worthwhile.

    1. The legacy part for me comes from years ago, as I saw what others devoted their time to in an effort to leave a lasting impression once gone from this earth. Most people that I knew saw their children as their legacy, or work that they were doing for various charities, or leadership positions they'd risen to in their employment. All I need do was read obituaries to see what people thought was important about their time on earth. All that rang hollow for me, so I was putting a lot of thought into what I wanted to be remembered for, what someone long after I was gone would come across and be intrigued or inspired by. I eventually came back to the thing that had enthralled me since a little girl, working with textiles and specifically making quilts. That thought of some unknown, perhaps even yet unborn person, coming across one of my quilts in wonder, fingering the stitches, studying the play of shapes and colors, in some cases, sleeping under it, felt like the best legacy I could leave behind, even if my name or other particulars about me got lost along the way. And that is what I mean by creating a legacy. Your definition surely will vary. :-)

      All these years later, I still feel the quilts I leave behind will be the best testament to who I was, but there are others too, tied to my love of history and writing. I feel the writing has a better chance of ending up unread in a landfill, although I have a niece who insists she wants them all when I'm gone. I have no faith that the thoughts kept in digital form will be found and still feel the need to print things out as a permanent record. That's just the way I am.

      I did follow the link to Caroline's book and had a different response than yours. I thought of all that was left on the moon will some day be a great archeological treasure, a window into our early space explorations. One man's graffiti that must be squelched and removed is another man's insight into the past that must be preserved. This irony struck me when viewing rocks that early expeditions to what is now the American west had carved their names and dates into, and not far away, faint images native Americans had painted on rock faces. These are historical artifacts that have to be preserved for posterity. But woe to the current park visitor who wants to do the same. The thought made me smile.

    2. Sheila, I am interested in your take on the detritus left on the moon. It is true that we have learned so much from the rubbish left behind by generations well before us - especially before writing was universal - as well as learning from marks made by early peoples. In extremis also what in other circumstances would be described as vandalism becomes a historical document if it notes the thoughts and terrors of prisoners of war, for instance. As you imply, lines cannot be drawn clearly, and it is good to be made to stop and think beyond one's instinctive response.

      I have thought about legacy a great deal, not least because a very good friend with whom I used to work at my design and stitching very closely had a very different view from my own. She was keen to date and sign as much as possible to inform in future.

      My legacy was not something I'd really thought about before that, and so did ponder the question. I came to the conclusion that what I would want my legacy to be derives from the work I did commissioning and publishing books, and from my work as a teacher. If I stimulated curiosity, sparked interest, and/or helped to inform, then I am happy. And it does not matter to me if they remember whence that stimulation came.
      It does please me if anyone likes my designs or stitchings; but their great worth to me is as a kind of personal emotional therapy. Had I been a professional artist right from the beginning of my career, perhaps I would feel otherwise. Now I am one of my jugglers: enjoying the activity, but hoping that others also derive pleasure in passing.

    3. Thanks for this additional clarity on your thoughts. I've really enjoyed this opportunity to think about and discuss these matters from different viewpoints. I think it is very true that at some point in life, probably most likely in our later life, how we spend our time really does come down to enjoying the activity on a totally personal level (as opposed to doing it because of some internal or external goal driven prod, say), and deriving perhaps an extra bit of pleasure when it touches beyond us. I know that's where I am at the moment. I'm finally letting those external pressures drop away.