The long-avoided hobby assessment part one: crafting

This is going to be long and self-indulgent. Please skip if you'd rather not spend a thousand or so words inside my head.

I'm half-assedly dragging around the remnants of a lot of hobbies, interests, and side projects these days. I seek clarity about which of these are still truly of interest and value to me and therefore merit the emotional upkeep and occasional attention paid, and which among them are now just baggage and remnants of things I used to like and people I used to be. And you, Extraface, can help me prioritize. Maybe.

So I'm taking a deep breath, and at least starting the process of looking at it all with current and fresh eyes. I'll probably publish this as a fragment to get it out there, and then add to it over time or do a series of these. Thoughts and observations from Vox friends and family are welcome, as maybe you'll catch something I'm missing here. But even if nobody says nothing the exercise of writing about it will help me work through what it all means to me, and that's what I'm after.

First, Crafting.

Current positioning statement and the relevant question(s):

I like crafting, I really do. But I just haven't been doing much of it lately, so is it right that a good 1/2 of my second bedroom/work room is taken up with crafting-related stuff? What about all those RSS feeds about it that I get? And the magazines? Should I make more room for it in my spare time or completely put it away for awhile? And what should I do with tiny envelope?

The navel-gazing:

This is a tricky one to think about. I really first found myself in crafting thanks to an ex-girlfriend who obsessively made stuff to keep herself busy. This is about five years ago now, around the time of the first Boston Bazaar Bizarre. Living with her and seeing all of the neat things she made inspired me to overcome the fear of craft failure that had always kept me out of the game. I'm great at conceiving of things I want to construct and coming up with mental images of just how they should turn out ideally, but my own high expectations and perfectionism are nearly impossible for me to satisfy in most cases. I managed to overcome this for a time. My crafting has always leaned in the direction of utility and aesthetics, and I don't like overly cutesy, folksy, saccharine nostalgic, or overbearingly "artistic" projects. For a couple of years we spent the fall crafting and stockpiling in anticipation of the winter B.B. and came up with some really satisfying objet d'craft. I loved making British style Xmas crackers with real gunpowder snaps inside. Half-marble magnets with miscellaneous images inside. Strange lightswitch plates. Matchbooks and matchboxes re-wrapped with bits from vintage books and magazines. All kinds of things that fell under the category "weird shit". Making actual real physical objects is a very pleasing diversion from working with pixels, words, computer screens, and bits all the time. It saves you money, and it's always a worthy alternative to consider when you can't find exactly what you want in stores and the series of tubes.

During that time we also created a tiny brand and product line that I'm extremely proud of, tiny envelope. It avoided the aforementioned craft pitfalls and it is the closest I've ever been able to get to bringing something from my brain out into the real world exactly the way I wanted it.

When my ex- and I went our separate ways, I maintained my crafting habit for quite a while. I made things myself, and when I moved to Atlanta I tried participating in a few ad-hoc craft groups. But I never quite found the right people. Recently I went to Church of Craft Athens a couple of times, and I liked that but it's too far to drive and doesn't really have critical mass yet. For a while I was also developing a business plan to open a retail store around crafting. It's a long story and I might still do it some day so I won't get into it here. But it's not in the cards right now, and I'm not even sure it's still such a sound idea. I still have boxes and boxes of stuff I collected for the store's secondhand collection in my attic.

I kept tiny envelope going for a while, but eventually it started to feel like too much work and not enough fun for just one person. So it's sleeping right now. Along the way I've received lots of interest and encouragement from people who would like to see it up and running again. I put up a booth at the BlogHer swap meet to sell and trade tiny e's, and the reaction from people was far more enthusiastic than I expected. People really really responded to them. They even bought them. In some sort of weird cosmic coincidence, the woman I was sharing the table with happened to have 2" x 2" business cards, that fit just perfectly inside of a tiny envelope.

I haven't been part of or anywhere near the O'Reilly Make/Craft Magazine/Maker's Faire stuff, and it seems like since last I looked in the subculture has grown and grown and grown. A few people I used to hang out with are now crafting celebs in that little world. There's something distasteful to me about the "crafting scene" as it exists now — so much of it is purely decorative or cutesy or ironic. And it loses something to me when it's the foreground rather than the background of your life. Maybe I'm hitting part of my answer to myself here. Blogs and message boards about crafting no longer interest me if they ever did. Seeking ideas about what to make all the time seems bass-ackwards. It should be the other way around — you should seek to make something and then maybe do research to look for ideas about how and what specifically to do. If you're constantly on the lookout for new things to make for their own sake, you're bound to be overburdened with potential projects all the time. If crafting for its own sake is your main and only side pursuit, maybe you want this. But it just stresses me out.

Conclusions, if any:

  1. Crafting has a lot to offer. I'm not ready to sign away my rights to crafting forever. But.
  2. For some reason I'm not doing much of it lately. It would be nice to figure out why not. Not necessarily essential right now though. File under: hmm.
  3. I don't think I consider myself a "crafter" any more. I make stuff sometimes, and enjoy doing so. That's where it ends.
  4. I like tinyenvelope and (tinyenvelope dot com) lots. Still. But if I were to start it again it would need some more definition and possible help. I'd like to make a tiny envelope 2.0 someday, but I guess I'm figuring that when the right idea or way to think of it presents itself, I'll know. Right now I'm not seeing it.
  5. As an experiment, I think it would be worth my while to move all of my craft-related junk up into my attic. Get it out of my face. Offer the space in my office up to some other pursuit, or let it just be clean unused work space. If I miss it right away, or if I don't miss it at all, or if I only miss it every eighth saturday, that will tell me something important.
  6. Should I let my subscriptions lapse and can my RSS feeds? I have a hard time with this. It's silly, but I'm afraid I'll "fall behind" or something. Maybe just a planned moratorium. Three months with no specifically craft-related feeds and let the magazines pile up or expire.

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QotD: Set Your DVR

What TV show(s) will you be watching this season? Why? 
Submitted by ducnly.vox.com.

  • Lost – (but I will bail as soon as it becomes Gilligan's Island).
  • Deadwood – Season's over, but whenever those mini-movies come out I'm there.
  • The Wire – As Tom (Tom Talk tom) said earlier today, it's the best show about work in the history of television. It just happens to take place in the world of police, drug dealers, longshoremen, and politicians, but it could be about any job and any company.
  • The Sopranos – whenever the next "this season" is.

Between those and sports, I'm pretty good.

A quick programming note for our viewers at home: coming up on Extraface — the hobby roll call.

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Neologism of the weekend

"Geotard" – Someone who is hopeless with navigation, even when they have a map and/or directions. Use it in a sentence:

"I am a geotard."

I've had to drive around in a lot of unfamiliar cities lately, and I've found that my sense of direction can only come from meaningful points of reference and only when seen in the daytime. I have to figure around 3 or 4 destinations before I really know what the heck is going on. It's like I need to experience enough points on the polygon, or stars in the constellation, or something. I usually get a gestalt moment around the second day in a new place and then I'm pretty solid, but until then I'm a total mess with the driving and the navigating.

I am a geotard. I am not a lactard.

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