Learning, the act of gaining knowledge, is a craft unto itself. It starts with questions - the what ifs, how abouts, whys, . . . leading from the unknown to the known, through inquiry, experimentation, travel, and of course pure accident.

This is about how it happens in my life.

Curiosity and Craft

Yup, I like to make stuff.*  It's a very experimental process for me - a chance to explore, to exercise my curiosity physically.  The combination of question and creation has led to a lifetime of learning in all sorts of interesting ways. 
When it comes to many types of art and craft, access to materials along with uncertainty about how to use them are equally large barriers. The first has always been and still is primarily a question of cost; the second would often be bridged with knowledge passed along via family and community.  For the most part neither factor was an issue in my youth. Both my parents created and crafted, shared knowledge and did their best to provide opportunities for my sister and I.

I've learned from my experiences with curiosity and craft.

I remember what I guess you could call my first experiment. We still lived in Kelowna, up the hill above the highway, so I was no older than 4.
I took a small paper bag and filled it with water in the bathroom.  With surprise I walked out to the kitchen and announced to my dad that paper bags held water! just as the paper gave way and water splashed all over the floor.
 Sometimes it isn't clear what the outcome will be. That's okay.

I learned to sew before it was a subject in school because my mother sewed. Mom has an amazing eye for pattern and colour, and has made amazing things over the years from every day clothes to holiday outfits for us kids to amazing curtains and slipcovers for a sofa.  She'd turn every day plain into something unique, crafted with care. Long before I was sitting at the machine myself I remember going to the fabric store with her to pick patterns and fabrics; then I watched, and some times helped, as my Mom wrangled the pattern and fabric and pins and thread into some thing new for me.   I remember her frustration when I crouched down to experiment with the foot pedal, making the machine go unexpectedly faster . . .
Sometimes its best to go slow on purpose.
The first time I made a pair of shorts for myself I used the same pattern than my mom had used many times before. I followed along, but somewhere along the line I decided that the pockets should be lower.  Mom tried to convince me otherwise, but I proceeded with my plan.  When I was done the shorts fit just fine, hemmed evenly, and with functioning pockets.  Of course, I had to do a side bend to get my hand down to near my knee to get something out of them.  I never tried that particular experiment again.  I've made enough things now that I know what I can tweak and how I can tweak it.
Sometimes curiosity gets ahead of the craft.  
Process has to be honoured before it can be challenged.

My first exposure to water colours was self-directed. I would sit on my bedroom floor with the kit I received for Christmas one year. .  There might have been some kind of booklet along with the paper, paints and portable easel/portfolio; I'd like to think I'd have looked through it if it existed.  The short story is that I didn't take to water colour painting at first. I wasn't keen on, well, the watery-ness of it all. I wanted the vibrancy of colour I saw right from the tube, not the thinned out hint of colour when used "as directed". Colour bleeding into the wrong places and endless drying time?  There is so much of leaving space empty just so it would be white. Ugh!  (You can imagine my the depth of my envy at the acrylic painting set my sis received that same Christmas.)
Sometimes it's what's not there that matters. Sometimes it's what you leave out.

My Dad was happiest when working with his hands. He worked on projects like the Revelstoke Dam, the Railway Museum (including a mock up of a rail car - engine, maybe?) and the Gift Shoppe out at Craigellachie, at least one house in town,  a heli-skiing lodge in the Bugaboos. . . But my first experience with my dad's ingenuity was when he made beds for my sister and I. There were decorative knobs on each post, and to paint them my dad attached the threaded metal that would go into post to his drill and dipped the knob into the paint and out again. Using some kind of shield for spatter, he turned the drill on for just a few seconds. This avoided any blobby drips as it dried by eliminating excess paint.  One thing is for sure: he took pride in his work, in his ability to figure things out, in being part of something that will last.  He shared this enthusiasm in many ways over the years. What I remember most are trips up to the Dam construction site with ice cream cones in hand, to watch the overhead cable crane deposit concrete or other materials, or better yet see the huge earth movers up close. He'd point to where he'd been working, explain what was going on . . .  
Sometimes just sharing your passion is enough to create big change.

I figure that living things are either growing or dying. There is no stasis, no steady state.  For humans, growth comes in the form of learning, exploring, creating, sharing.   So, ask yourself these 2 questions: 
What do I want to learn?
What can I share with others?

Just think of what we can achieve!

*And indulgence, if you will: I've created a Picasa web album of various and sundry creations (although one is certainly not my doing, but it seems fitting to the theme, and took some doing to snap).  It can be found here, and as a slide show in the side bar to the right of this blog.  It will continue to grow with current, future and older projects.  I'm motivated by the memory of the tremendous number of works my Gran did over the years - constantly sketching and painting - which we didn't know of until we cleaned out her house in 2010.   All the family and friends who came to celebrate her life were able to leave with some memento from my Gran's own hand.   It's not that she didn't share what she'd created - she did. A few wonderful pieces she framed and hung on her walls.  Having lived a life of making do, moving constantly until age 13, as the middle child of what, 17 kids? she was clever and crafty with crochet, gardening, sewing and cooking as well; practical stuff, for others.  The sketching and painting? I think Gran pursued that for herself, it was just a part of her.

The pursuit of craft, the exploration and work it requires is it's own reward.


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