I should not be writing this post

This morning at 5:30 a.m. when in the grips of an insomnia so irritating as to actually get me out of my warm bed, I decided that I would swear off the internet forever.  I was going to delete every vestige of all my online accounts, and erase every bit of me in the ether!

I think it goes without saying that I am not very at all rational in the early morning before noon. I’m still not really sure why I thought this was a good idea, other than that I was exhausted, grumpy and needed a nice hot shower and a cuppa joe.

I’m not yet over conference-malaise, and I should just go to bed, and that’s not really too far off.  I just want to go to bed late enough that I can sleep for a good 11 hours tonight straight through.

So in this week’s now-typical style, I present various things running through my head:

1)  Remember that picture I showed you of the woman knitting socks in the SXSW panel? Well, I posted that picture to Flickr, and lo and behold she left a comment!  It’s Julia aka Yarn Maven from Bastrop, Texas.  I didn’t get a chance to get her name in the panel because I got caught up talking to the two founders of BurdaStyle, but I’m so glad to meet her. :)

2)  I do yammer on sometimes about advocating buying handmade stuff.  But it’s only because I really like it.  Fun thing about buying things I might make myself – still useful, but this way I get to enjoy others’ design aesthetics as well.  Here’s my latest purchases.

On the left is the orange Bouquet wall clock for Jeff’s study from Decoy Lab.  He’s been on an orange thing recently, looking for accessories.  Orange is a great accent.  As seen on February’s Poppytalk selections.

On the right is a sewing case I bought for taking embroidery stuff along with me.  It’s from Blue Banana Shop in Singapore, whose stuff is very bright and cheery.

New Etsy purchases - sewing case and clock

Pay no attention to my strange collection of books there.  I just realized what those were.  This is part of my collection of academic books on the old Testament.  The one on the far left, Paul the Convert, was written by a professor for whom I was a teaching assistant, my favorite professor from grad school, the inimitable Alan Segal.

Random Ideas

Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 9:29 am in Craft Fairs & Conferences, Inspiration | 2 Comments

$%*$($* Spammers

I’ve noticed my website getting “scraped” more often lately, and my text ending up in random places.  The most recent one, however, sent me to a page that said this!

The website you are trying to view has been suspended due to a breach of our Acceptable Use Policy.

That’s pretty cool.  I report these fake blogs and spammers whenever I see them, and if you see your stuff getting scraped, you should report them as well to the blog owners (Google for Blogger, 6Apart for Typepad, etc.).  These people take a good thing and abuse it, and I can’t stand it!

A couple of follow-up crazy ideas I got from listening to crafters who like to try to electrocute themselves circuits and motors :) :

1)  The use of heat-sensitive fabrics was covered in the SXSW panel, fabrics that change color next to body heat.  I thought this was very interesting.  My dad makes some ink with some strange properties I can’t tell you about (he’s a biochemist, he makes lots of stuff with strange properties) and I started wondering what I could do with it.  It’s very cool stuff.

2)  I contemplated using LEDs with a hat – my brain came up with the name “halo hat.” Could I crochet them in like beads?  What effect would this give?  Seems like I’m always trying to read/crochet in the dark, and I don’t like spotlights or reading lights – they’re too small and/or too focused on an area.  What if I could create a more diffuse glow?  Would it be too wrong to make a halo out of my head?  I’m not particularly angelic :)

And a follow-up note:

I think a lot of people don’t think they’re that crafty when they are.  I think a lot of people don’t have the foggiest idea what crafting is.

Why do I consistently run into the idea that crafters are busy little homemakers in their cheery little vintage homes with two sunny kids?  Why do people think of crafting as  kids’ projects with glue, construction paper, macaroni and safety scissors?

Crafting isn’t apparently for normal folks – crafting is the province of primary school art teachers, housewife moms with young children, and midwestern women with chintz aprons.  There’s a lot of stigma in those assumptions, a lot of cliches, and a lot of irritating gross generalizations. First of all, I see nothing wrong with being any of those things and resent the value judgments I know are implied.  But it’s still wrong to assume that’s what and who crafting represents.

Often folks don’t want to associate themselves with craft at all because of the perceived “style” of crafters.  Doilies, cabbage roses on curtains, dainty teacups and the like – it’s all well and good, but I’m more of a Design Within Reach style person myself, and I know lots of crafters who are too, and these generalizations and prejudices don’t apply too well.

I think crafting is about skill and creativity and art. Making stuff, for me, is all about practicing something, about putting in the time and effort to learn a technical skill, it’s satisfying because I’m always learning. It’s about expressing myself and exploring my imaginative, creative side.  And every once in a while I apply myself to making something I truly like, or something I think is pretty and useful, and that’s great.  And I like that I’ve done more with my spare time than wasted it staring at the TV.

Things learned at SXSW Interactive

Sat Mar 8, 2008 at 11:49 pm in Craft Fairs & Conferences, Nerd + Tech | 4 Comments

One.

I haven’t switched personalities. I went to the exact sort of tech panels at today’s conference that one might expect me to go to: accessibility, communities, mobilization, crafting and feminism. SO PREDICTABLE.

Two.

The younger folks always swear more than the older folks. And there are lots of younger folks at SXSW.

Ambiance

Three.

I’m a big fan of tapas. And sauternes. And I should have more of both. Also, I should just go to Spain. Or Europe, generally. Or anywhere. I should just travel and eat more interesting food.

Four.

I’ve never been anywhere with such a large collection of nerdery/geekery/etc. in one place. Perhaps only a Star Trek Convention could compete with this. This is the one arena in which I feel totally safe to use my cell phone to Twitter and text madly. Because everyone just assumes you’re live blogging, and that’s cool. I got into one conversation today with someone about what we were going to blog about this event. Madness!

Five.

KnittingThe crafting panel: okay, first, there was a woman knitting, which is cool at a tech conference. Second, I met the BurdaStyle folks, and that was awesome.

[Note: The woman who was knitting found me! Her name is Julia - see comments :) ]

The panel, well, it was interesting, but I was hoping for something more provocative. The folks were interesting – they talked about uses of technology in crafting – adding diodes and lights to things, experimenting with hi-tech fabrics in sewing, etc. etc. The idea was to experiment with new mediums and new methods of expression, with the idea of not being afraid to venture out into things usually left to engineers. And I think the project of pushing boundaries beyond traditional craft materials and concepts is great. Crafters absolutely should explore new mediums for expression.

But in the end, I wish this panel had relied a bit less on what I thought were some cliche ideas. Their definition of technology … well, technology isn’t math or futuristic electronics or wires or diodes. It isn’t a useless gadget you superimpose onto a thing like taping a light bulb to a dress. It’s not an awkward, inexplicable addition to a traditional craft.

The best technology is always integrated – it’s not the end product, it’s actually part of the process. Technology is how we use what we have, how we make our lives better, how we add meaning, how we improve – it’s innovation, new tools, new processes, new ways to do things. Technology isn’t the future, technology is here, it’s in our everyday lives.

I really missed a recognition that crafters are already huge into technology, not just getting started. In fact, given the innovation and creativity I see from fellow crafters, in a lot of cases I’d say craft IS technology.

Think about tech crafters use already: my sewing machine is a damn fine piece of technology (they did mention this). The blended fabrics we use are the product of technology, and so are most micro-knits, milled fabrics and prints – like cotton quilting prints. Even the plastic rulers and plastic zippers I use are chemistry tech. The metal pins and needles we all use are amazing technology – how do you think those pins got standardized to such precisely correct diameters? There are so many ways beyond these that technology that has already been molded into our crafting lives.

More of my 2 cents.

I’d really hoped that they’d look at crafting and technology from a new media standpoint – crafters have taken a real interest in online interactive technology to explore, invent, open source, trade, experiment, connect and commercialize.

Crafters more than many groups have really embraced what this techie conference is all about – interaction and conversation. Crafters belong here, they should be a part of this conversation about interactivity. I’ve personally seen and met crafters of all ages, from many countries, many socio-economic groups, doing many crafts. But they’re all participating in the same circles, reading the same blogs and magazines, keeping up with crafting trends, and making friends. I think it’s an incredible phenomenon, and worth a serious look.

On a personal level, technology is YOU, dear readers, through this blog. I value all of you and my conversations with you. I try to say hi when you stop by, and read what you have to say too, and it makes my day to get comments and feel like I’m not talking to myself or the wall :) And I think that’s the technology I wanted to talk about today, this extraordinary phenomenon of all of us – it shows so well that technology is necessarily an end in itself, it’s a means to an end, and the end is human interaction.

Craft panel

Panel “Why Sewing and Knitting Still Matter” – about mixing “technology” with “traditional” crafts to create new things and push boundaries. From left that’s Mouna Andraos of Electronic Crafts, Alison Lewis of IHeartSwitch, Syuzi Pakhchyan of SparkLab, Diana Eng the fashion designer (hidden) and Natalie Zee Drieu of Craft