Digital-IRL Balance

At this point, I’m not entirely sure what to do with my online presence. There is something both deceptive and addictive about social media, including blogging. To be honest, outside of very close relationships, extended family, a couple of themed social groups, and work, my primary social interactions are online.

I know this is double-edged: it’s possible to find people who support you across the world, but at the same time, that information you put out is available to anyone and everyone with a reasonably functional internet connection. Unfortunately, that leaves one open to judgment, drama, harassment, and exploitation, also from anyone around the world…not to mention gaining a high from being friended by a computer program.

I spoke with family today about this. The issue I can see is that meeting online gives people too much information, too early; before they’ve proven themselves a worthy recipient of that information, or more to the point, without requiring they do so.

Also, dealing with making things — In Real Life — and dealing with digital surrogates of reality, often unnecessary digital surrogates…it contributes to an awareness of a sense of artificiality. There is the question of why a person would play a cross-stitch game when they could actually cross-stitch, and have something at the end of it, for example. In this particular instance, I would see the game as clearly inferior, unless there are issues of accessibility remedied by the game (for example, enlarged graphs which eliminate the need for magnifying gear).

I was also talking with someone about the difference between using a digital tablet to make art, and actually doing so without the computer as an intermediary. It’s evident to me that if one is not making professional illustrations, it may not be desirable — in my case, isn’t desirable — to go completely digital. However, I wouldn’t know this without having had the experience of both making art IRL, and making digital compositions.

Also, having studied online, and having primarily aimed for a Technical Services position, the underlying digital architecture of the systems I use has become clearer to me, even if I’ve only seen just the beginning of it. There are restrictions in a digital environment (the exceptions to which are called affordances), which do not necessarily exist, off of the computer.

So the question is one of digital/IRL: how do we retain the benefits of the reach a digital presence allows, and the sophistication of information provision it affords; at the same time as we balance our life so that the necessary restrictions of a digital environment do not dominate and restrict our creativity, and so we are still able to live a life of the quality that existed prior to ARPANET?

It’s a question I’ve been dealing with, recently. As I’ve begun to get some distance from my studies, I find myself experimenting with — and using — tools to practice arts and crafts, which I have not prior had the free time to use. It’s nice, I mean, to be able to do things and not be tracked or observed while doing them. It’s like an extension of the realization that I don’t have to worry if a paper book is watching me back, as I read it.

Over the years, I’ve put a lot of information about myself online, not all of it reliable. 😉 The truth of the matter seems to be, though, that people only know as much information about me as I allow them to know. However: for me, the main issue is being known as versus being unknown.

I went through the first part of my life believing — perhaps falsely — that I was unknown. If no one knows anything about you, that is, it’s much harder for them to accurately and specifically target you. (Of course, though, then; as humans are wont to do, they tend to make up information about why they [and others] should hate you so that they can feel justified in doing so.) The major problem with checking out of the game this way, though, is that your impact on the world, as regards your thoughts and perspective, is minimized. You stop being a participant, that is.

Is it possible to make things better while not engaging with problems? The answer I immediately jump to is, “no,” but I’m not sure that’s accurate. If I am being a good person and quietly living my best life given the circumstances, am I making the world better, just by existing? By setting an example? I (truly) don’t know.

For about the last decade, I’ve been out in the world more than I had been at any time prior. I’ve gotten to the point of actually being able to feel like I have a voice and place in society, and that it doesn’t have to be what other people say — or think — it should be. This is primarily because I have a private life and a public one, and people from the latter (IRL) often do not (and should not) make it into the sphere of the former.

With social media, and even with Web search, the public and private spheres tend to collapse. At least that is so, with me. (Or should online be considered a hybrid environment?) At some point, I become irritated that I can’t say what I actually want to say; I question why it is that I am stopping myself from saying it; and sometimes, I just go ahead and break that barrier. Anonymity, although illusory, lowers the threshold of that barrier.

The problem is that once something is said (or done), it tends to stick around for a while, and can follow one for a while — even if it is obvious that saying or doing it was a mistake. I’m going to be gracious here and say that I don’t think anyone really would want to make mistakes (and then be held responsible for those mistakes, at least; there often is the lure of doing something “wrong”, at the time).

The problem is that there are still people who are shocked that other people are different or fallible. If we all expected that there are going to be things we don’t like on virtually any person we select — that no one is 100% morally guarded, ideal, and superior at all times — we wouldn’t be surprised when evidence to the contrary comes up, and maybe we would be able to stop living in fear of it coming up.

That is in no way to condone shaming, but that is to say that everyone makes mistakes; in the Digital Age, however, those mistakes tend to be recorded and replayable.

But do we check out because of the possibility that we may one day be seen by others as imperfect?

Right now I am taking a needed break from pushing myself to write, here. But you see, something still got written. When I was training to be a writer, the mantra was basically to write every day, even if I didn’t think I had anything to write about.

I think I can stop doing that, now — at least, in public. There’s more to life than reading and writing, that is…

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Mild breakthrough

Tonight, I harnessed the supernal power of my inner color daemon, to accomplish something not attempted for months.

I used my watercolors. 😛 Haa ha ha. (Okay, you probably won’t get the joke if you weren’t around for my magic phase [or have never tried to read works out of the Western Mystery Tradition])

More to the point, I actually identified the source of every color that’s in my palette, and removed five blocks of color which I had identified as inferior-quality. Because I have a Mijello palette without standard removable full- or half-pans, but simply wells, this meant that I had to soak and then wedge out blocks of dried color, using an acrylic paintbrush handle.

But, it’s done. It needed to be done a long time ago. The fact that it wasn’t done, had been discouraging me from using my colors.

I’ve also identified five other major pigments I could put into their place, but I should probably let the palette dry out first, yes?

:D:D:D


“What they expect us to want”

Maybe I’ll have to keep better daily records about what I’m doing. It would have helped if I had been cognizant enough this afternoon to realize that I could have read, or worked on in-process jewelry, or something, instead of ignoring these at first and messing around with Derwent Drawing Pencils (capitalized because “Drawing” apparently means something special to Derwent; these aren’t regular pencils; more like really soft, really waxy colored pencils) on top of tinted paper.

I’ve also been looking for books on what I would presently call the process or psychology of art (what we’re doing on a cognitive level, when we make art; not just the physical motions). However, I don’t know the key terms to search (on top of my normal OPAC [Online Public Access Catalog] being notoriously difficult to navigate), and will probably need a librarian’s help.

I found one book yesterday and realized upon trying to read it tonight that it focuses on portraits…which is REALLY not what I need to know about. I have a strong urge not to do portraits, though I can make them well enough. The aversion even has begun to extend to disliking making cartoon faces; I don’t know why, unless it seems too “basic” for me.

Not to disparage people who do make portraits; I understand that it takes a lot of practice to make faces look right and to make expressions look as intended. It’s just not my thing. My thoughts go to the place where you can see a circle and put two dots and a mouth on it (I’m thinking of, “Annoying Orange,” a kids’ Graphic Novel series, or the Ed Emberley “Funprint” books) and then suddenly it’s imbued with, “humanity,” and people feel empathy toward it. WHY.

For one thing, what makes “humanity” so especially important, and what is this thing about faces? (Then again, you’re listening to someone who takes into account the way a person physically conducts themselves, behaves, sounds, and smells, before noting the finer details of their faces or hair or clothes.)

It doesn’t help that the Derwent Drawing Pencil range, and Strathmore tan paper, seem to be primarily made for portraits. It’s like, “hey, if I wanted to draw people’s faces, this would be great…not like I particularly do, but hey.”

I guess it’s kind of like women’s underwear always being available in pink. (“Hey, if I wanted to wear pink underwear…”) Not to mention that I have had an aversion to the Barbie aisle for years. Kind of parallels it, I guess.

Or it could be like my aversion to taking photos of displays in Las Vegas because it’s so obviously human-centered (“what they expect us to want”) and artificial. Or my more recent aversion to drawing cut flowers, as versus living ones (even though the latter means getting out of the house). Or the aversion to department-store jewelry (though that’s probably because all my favorite pieces are by craftspeople).

Yeah, maybe I just have a lot of aversions (no, I don’t expect you to agree with me, I’m just trying to figure out what’s behind all this).

Maybe I’ll work on a “portrait” of one of my plants, as I intended when I first got them. I don’t have an aversion to them. The reason I haven’t done it is that they have weathered…my overwatering them. Or not watering them, in one case. (Maidenhair Ferns always sound good, in theory…until the SOIL WON’T HOLD ANY WATER…okay, I’m going to stop there.)

On top of that, my succulents (I’m pretty sure) need more light than they’re getting. The little one in the front yard (from a leaf that dropped off a different one and fell into a crack from which I couldn’t recover it) still has its maroon color; I can’t say the same for the indoor ones, which were variously maroon and violet and blue and yellow, as babies. They’re pretty much, “green,” and leggy, now.

I didn’t really become alert today until about 4:30 PM. I think it’s likely due to taking medication too late. I had hoped to work on cleaning up my stuff…there are three areas which need to be helped: the craft area, my bedroom, and my office. All of these have needed it since before Winter Break. But…well, looking forward to cleaning things doesn’t really encourage me to get out of bed…

Anyhow. I’m thinking of restarting the rose-colored bracelet I was working on (now that I know and have graphed the pattern repeats). And I’m thinking of wholly disassembling the pearl necklace. I can do something better than just stringing and knotting them…but I’ve got to get some modular components (e.g. Quadra Lentils) to figure out, how.

In the meantime, I’ve got fine-gauge copper wire and now some gold-fill wire. (28 gauge!) I can do something with these, especially if I want to make that drop necklace…unstringing the pearls will free up the grey AB firepolished glass beads.

I should take some photos first, though…

Non-digital media.

I’m going to be art journaling more. I was cleaning my craft area and had the strong urge to rearrange things, which led, of course, to playing with art tools: those less familiar (Poscas) and those well worn-in (a range of graphite and carbon pencils).

In the process I realized that, having intended and neglected to post here all night, I have been spending so much time on the computer that I’ve begun to lose touch with living…or at least, what life must have been like before the computer.

Really…there was life before the computer?

I actually wrote out something that I now realize was a poem that related the above. I’m not posting it, because there has to be some part of my life that I’m not putting online. I’m just surprised it came out of me, though. I don’t generally expect this brain to generate poems. It really sounded more like a notation, though…combined with paying attention to my lettering and spacing, on unlined paper. So…like a mixture of art and writing, in which I relax the rules of writing.

I should really mention that some of what I was messing around with in my art journal was another design for a linocut (cut linoleum block for printing)…which is something both unusual for me to do at this point in time (though I’ve both wanted and prepared for it), and something I was introduced to at least 20 years ago.

For some reason I like the idea of doing activities in which I can accidentally wound myself: linocuts obviously involve the use of ultra-sharp knives, like sewing and beadwork involve sharp pointed objects. At one time I intended to try woodcuts, but…linocuts are a bit more familiar…even if I did get the rice-starch glue, and I have the gouache.

And I still need to test out the Sennelier Prussian Blue watercolor I got, however long ago. I’ve wanted to view the quality and lightfastness next to Daniel Smith Prussian Blue, which I know fades slightly in color intensity after months in direct sunlight (it was at least six months; checking now would require untaping the thing from the window).

I did get discouraged after seeing the performance of some of my watercolor paints over time in direct sunlight…but dealing with brushes is a logical extension of my skills, where I could grow. (I can see the point now that some of my Art teachers emphasized, in never becoming stagnant in one’s practice.) Because I think I’m getting a little closer to even-keeled at this point, I’m thinking that I probably shouldn’t hold to, “sewing and beading only,” as a guide toward further art or craft practice, as I put forth recently.

Intimidation at the toxicity of pigments and paints (ironic); the trouble of finding well-performing quality brushes in large sizes and at reasonable prices; the cost of large sheets of watercolor paper; and the fact that I normally have trouble discerning subject matter for paintings; have all contributed to my being held up in progress with watercolor.

But: if I did want to be a subject specialist in an Academic setting…would I really want to take Art classes at the Master’s level? If I got the opportunity to focus not only on art production, but on what I’m actually mentally doing? I can see that.

Tired.

Today has been spent doing things which needed to be done (immunization, blood work, food shopping). Right now, it’s fairly cold — enough so, that I do want to just get back under the covers. I just checked, and at this point, we only have half an hour of sunlight left (as I write the beginning of this post).

I’ve been attempting — consciously attempting — not to push myself as hard as I had been, at work. At this point, I believe that what happened last Saturday was sheer exhaustion. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and I wasn’t eating before going to work. I also wasn’t pacing myself, and I had not been taking breaks and measuring out my energy with a mind to maintaining my stamina over the day, or over the week.

Again, optimally I am working 18 hours a week, at this point. It’s not really a lot, but it’s several more than I had been working, and it means that I need to take care of myself better than I had been. I also have been notified that it seems I may be in the middle of a mood episode.

Although I haven’t always been aware of it, depressed mood isn’t the only thing I deal with; but also periods of elevated, expansive mood. I have to watch for this because of the fact that I have been considering restarting my jewelry business. I need to remember that wanting to succeed does not equate to a guarantee of success; and that as much as I may want to work at my jewelry now, my brain chemistry is seeming not to be quite optimal at this point, so I may not be thinking clearly.

I am pretty sure that my sleep has been disturbed recently, though a lot of that has been due to staying up late and sleeping in the daytime, meaning that my biorhythms are probably a bit thrown off. That also leaves me vulnerable to wanting to go to sleep when I should probably be awake. It wouldn’t work if I were working more days than I am.

Well, I had hoped today to look at sewing patterns, but then again, I do have an untried pattern that I had hoped to work from Folkwear — if the pattern is still big enough for me. I can’t be certain at this point. The big thing is figuring out how much batik fabric I actually have.

What seems ridiculous is that I’ve only been active for about six hours, and I’m fatigued again…and I don’t know exactly why. I would expect Seasonal Affective Disorder on top of everything else, but can’t be sure.

Natural hair.

This is a self-care post. I’ve realized that I actually need to direct more energy to this, as it’s my biggest struggle, right now. It is late, and I really should be in bed. I wanted to make a quick note, though, about using as much shampoo and conditioner tonight as my hair warranted.

Every time I’ve had my hair professionally washed, the staff use — basically — huge amounts of conditioner and detangler. Like multiple pumps of conditioner. Like, “I stopped paying attention around 7 pumps,” of conditioner.

So after washing my scalp really well with a sulfate-free shampoo and scrubbing the remnants of that shampoo into the length of it (I’ve heard I shouldn’t do the latter), then combing it, I rinsed really well. Then I put in enough conditioner (with a lot of coconut oil — I was instructed to use coconut oil, shea butter, argan oil, or possibly baobab oil for conditioning) so that my fingers stopped catching when I ran them along the length. Then I combed the conditioner through and pulled my hair back and washed my face.

After I finished washing my face, I turned the heat down, as I’d been instructed to rinse, “with as cold water as I can stand,” and rinsed my hair away from my body. Toward the end I flipped my hair forward and rinsed the underside of it, then gathered everything up and put it in a bun on top of my head, where it drained and stayed until I got out the shower…

When I got out, I took it down and it was just gorgeous, with lots of short defined waves (I have waves instead of curls…the curl just goes in an “S” pattern instead of a spiral). I’m not sure it will be this way tomorrow.

Particularly, as my hair dries, it loses its sheen and the curls separate. I didn’t use the leave-in conditioner I have, because I didn’t want to put the comb into it again and lose the curl definition. If I lose all my definition, I’ll try the leave-in conditioner next time.

I think the major problem I’m having is that the very tips of my hair are curling up (from lack of weight) and making it difficult for me to pull the comb straight through. That means a lot of breakage at the ends.

If it were warmer or earlier, I would have been able to let this air-dry all the way, but I ended up using a diffuser to dry the roots, which basically lifted the roots and made it so I probably won’t be sick, tomorrow. I’ll be sleeping with a wrap and my hair on top of my head.

More happened tonight — I decided to restart my jewelry business, I wrote an art friend, and I’ve decided to go to a convention later this month to pick up newer C-Lon, and a replacement thread burner. I hope to wear my new earrings and maybe take some stuff in to work tomorrow in the way of beading.

I also realized that I need to get ready for bed earlier, take medication earlier, get enough sleep, eat breakfast before work (even if it makes me late), take my first break before lunch, eat lunch, then take a bathroom break after lunch and drink some water at that time. (I thought I’d forget this if I didn’t write it down.)

That’s it for tonight.

Side hustle

I’m giving very heavy thought to restarting my jewelry as a, “side hustle,” regardless of the fact that no one really needs jewelry. Also regardless of the fact that I’ve known people who design with glass beads to be looked down upon by metalsmiths.

EDIT: for those who don’t know, a, “side hustle,” is something one does on the side of one’s primary employment for extra income.

We are considered, “craft jewelers,” or, “handcrafters,” or rarely, “artisans” (as I would be likely to call myself). We’re known for working hard, and being underpaid and underappreciated. Because handworked jewelry takes so long to make, in a capital-based (and not labor-based) economy with a high cost and high standard of living, the sheer cost of labor makes each piece expensive. Competition from labor-based economies outside of the U.S. drives prices for comparable items down. The lack of use of precious metals and gems leaves us without justification for price inflation. There is often no official training for any of this. All of this combines to the point that most U.S. handcrafters work hard and long for what are poverty wages in the U.S.

However, for me it is just a side hustle, for now. If I’m going to do it (or want to do it) anyway, the act of doing it could be reward in itself. I’m also getting much, much closer to having a signature style. This is why I’m going back to beading instead of metalwork or painting. It’s what I want to do. The drawback would be becoming so advanced that I am no longer able to design and make, but end up teaching and running a business rather than playing with colors and beads.

Last night and today, I’ve been working again at beaded micro-macrame. At this point, I’m very likely to get blisters if I continue knotting, so I decided to hold off on working further on my prototype, for now. (This is the project in pink and blue-green that I had mentioned in an earlier post.)

Image of a workspace and macrame pad.
Working version to the right. It’s interesting what you come up with when choosing beads for structure rather than color…like the center “Green Opal” 6/0 beads.

I have found that I prefer C-Lon cord over S-Lon. The brands are kind of hard to tell apart; according to one source, Marion Jewels In Fiber, S-Lon is likely an off-brand of C-Lon. Marion states that they seem to be the same product from different brands.

My present experience with known S-Lon shows slightly different working properties; it seems slightly stretchier (though that could just be me), and the S-Lon I’m using (pink, above) shredded lengthwise as I pulled it from the spool. This isn’t something I’ve seen at all from the C-Lon I’ve used (for example, the yellow cord on the left in the above image).

However, the color is a dustier pink than the C-Lon cord I have now, as it’s from a closer fashion season. (I don’t even remember the year — or season — in which I got most of my stock: I just recall that it was through a local bead convention.) Because of color considerations, if I re-make this in pink, I might use the same cord…though I seriously need to refresh my cord color palette.

Beaded bracelet in ice greens and pinks.
Sorry about that white pin messing up the shot. No, not the one on the left. The other one.

This kind of design is hard to do without actually playing with cords and beads, until something snaps into place like it was meant to be there. I had to mess around with knotting and re-knotting cords until I got something that looked symmetrical and regular, and just generally O.K. Even at this point, there are errors remaining, though I might be the only person to notice them.

The upshot of working with beads is that they can always be cut apart and re-strung or -knotted, though. The loss is mainly time, and whatever thread or cord or wire that was used (though that time loss can be legitimately counted as time spent in design). You can also recycle precious metal scrap, though I haven’t tried it yet (most of my precious metal is sterling silver, and it isn’t really that expensive, compared to gold). In metal shop, we also used to recycle brass and copper scrap, but I honestly don’t know where that stuff was sent.

It’s also weird how changing the stringing material affects the pattern. I tried working something in yellow cord at first, which the fuchsia beads stood out against. When using the dusty pink cord, though, the fuchsia beads fall into the background. I thought it looked kind of tacky with the yellow, but maybe it’s just a fashion risk?

I guess it just means that when I change cord colors, I need to change the bead colors, too…

It’s kind of surprising how much of an effort I had to raise in order to work with my hands today and yesterday, rather than read or work on job search or job applications. (This is a job [albeit self-employment], these are job skills.)

I’m not entirely sure what’s behind the reticence to work with my hands, kind of like I’m not entirely sure how or why there seem to be no places to learn skills like I’ve learned, outside of books and magazines and bead stores. I would think that this would be interesting to people…if I became a Public Librarian, I would really like to put on Bead Nights and stuff like this.

In comparison to knitting, I would think it would cost less. Is the interest too ethnic to be accessible to a wider audience? Do people just not like getting stabbed with needles? 😉

But really, I’ve been doing this since I was 11, so…