Saturday, August 22, 2009

Crafting as a Walkabout

For nearly two years, I've included a "walkabout" in my weekly schedule. It's an idea I adapted from a colleague's description of an Australian aboriginal practice of taking off from regular work for a short period of living in the bush. We were discussing it in the context of my up-coming sabbatical, because at the time I was trying to find a balance between setting up a rigid work schedule and wanting to have the time and mental space to "wander". I decided to experiment with weekly "walkabouts" -- days when I would let go of my work routine. I've stuck with the practice because it works. My productivity hasn't suffered, and the "walkabout" itself has resisted routinization.

When the weather is fine, I escape to the outdoors. I board the Metro at my local station; I have no idea where I'll get off, and sometimes I have ridden to the end of the line and part of the way back before deciding. While I ride, I listen to music. Sometimes I go to a garden, sometimes to zoo, sometimes a museum. if a work idea pops into my head, I write it down and let it go.

The weather was decidedly NOT fine this week; Friday was hot, humid and stormy. So I used crafting as my walkabout. Reaching into my stack of commenced projects, I spent the day making a simple shell in an autumn-hued paisley challis. Crafting lets me gather information through unused senses: feeling the soft drape of the fabric, listening to the clattering hum of my sewing machine, watching carefully as I sew each seam.  Crafting challenges me; challis loves to ravel, and I needed to figure out how to prevent that. Michael Pollan recently suggested that we have replaced cooking with watching other people cook on television. I wonder if our rich media culture hasn't done the same with gardening, carpentry and other crafts. My crafting walkabout was to a sewing show what my kitchen efforts are to Gina De Laurentis' creations. What is the advantage to working with my own hands, head and senses, instead of watching someone else? What synapses are being connected in my brain? What do I learn? How does it affect my relationship to the product of my effort? To be continued.


Anonymous said...

The Swampland thread was dead, Joyo, but I did want to compliment on your great birthday tattoo! Stunning and magnificent! Congrats.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Have you read the Songlines?

Or the Situationist International? They believed that wandering was a specific and potentially revolutionary psychological state. They called it the "derive."