Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Scissor Struggle: When to Cut Loose

Copy, Paste. Copy, Paste. CTRL C, CTRL V, it's what I do. All Day. I'm an Accountant, inundated with spreadsheet maintenance and the "office guru" when it comes to Excel, no less. It's monotonous, all the copying and the pasting but it's necessary and makes my job easier.  It also requires no thought, no technique, no need for questioning if it's right or will work. At the end of the day, it's finished and I don't go back over it and wonder if there was a better way to do it. It is just simply copy and paste. When I go home at night I don't think about it, I focus on my family, my chores, my means for keeping my house from collapsing. Then I focus on what shouldn't require Copy and Paste: Creating.
I've thought a lot about why and how that outlet for creativity has changed and evolved over my crafty lifetime.  I've dove deep and headlong into what I call 'Scissor Crafts': crochet, embroidery, card making, mixed media, scrapbooking, quilting, art journaling, and sewing. I've spent countless hours reading books, blogs, magazines, and anything I could get my hands on regarding the minutia of a new craft. I've learned the techniques, the terms, the tricks, built the stash that goes along with it and occasionally turned out something for the world to see. People ask if I do 'X' other craft and I say 'No, not yet' and in the back of my mind I try to convince myself that  'X' craft won't be the next thing I fall into which finally causes the stacks of supplies in my stash to topple and drown me while searching for a missing pair of scissors.
So, why do I do it? Why do I keep bouncing to new crafts?
Why do I fretfully wander into a new section of the craft supply store, feeling like an outsider; like I'm a lost tourist, hoping that no one will see me peeking into the next aisle, not yet a member of that craft's secret clubhouse. Why do I make my head spin the first time I read 'A Beginner's Guide to 'X Craft' and when I've plowed through the sixth version of the same basic how-to, and spent well over what I make in a month on supplies, and then spent a week obsessing on how I can possibly re-arrange my already too small room to fit these in, do I then realize that now I have to actually create.
Or do I?
Reading how is easy, making the supply list is easy, swiping my credit card is easy, opening packages, plugging things in, and sorting things into storage tubs is easy. It's the same process every time for everyone. Copy. Paste. So why is is so hard to make that first scissor cut?

I believe that there exists a spectrum in creating. At one end are the basic techniques you use over and over. Ink and stamp, sharpen a pencil and draw a line, cut out a square and sew it to another square. Copy. Paste. As you move across, there are harder techniques and more advanced versions of the basics that require more skill, more time, and more supplies but you're still copying and pasting until you reach the point where the crafting hits an advanced, recreating the wheel, genius kind of level. Maybe I'm naive, but to me, every craft in the 'at-home' industry has a settling point on that spectrum for the masses and the elite - that accepted point, and its distance from the copy paste stage, where people like me and people who are instructors, authors, and lead bloggers are producing their day to day body of work.

This is why I've stopped paper crafting. I can't copy and paste.
This is why I've started sewing. I can copy and paste.
This is why I kept cycling through crafts.

A sewing blogger can take a bolt of fabric, notions, and a vintage pattern book and make a dress and a blog post every day. I can take a bolt of fabric, notions and a vintage pattern book and make a dress and blog post it every day.
A card making blogger can take the stamp set she was sent three months before its release, and various other supplies from her sponsored stash and make a card from her original design and blog about it as part of a sponsored blog hop. I can take a stamp set, paper, ink, scissors, and a tape runner from my local craft store and create the exact same card and blog it and I'm a copy cat and I feel icky.

Maybe its because sewing, quilting, crochet, and embroidery are such vintage crafts with such functional applications that it's all been done. Fashion and trends change but at the end of the day you're still creating a nine patch or a pair of pants. Mixed media, scrap booking, and card making are relatively new crafts with much less practical applications. It hasn't all been done and unless you're recreating the wheel every time you post, it's not interesting and no one in the industry wants to see a copy and you better not enter it in a challenge. I can't expect myself to invent a new technique or start with a blank slate every day and create a masterpiece in the hour I have at night to craft to be on level with the industry. But, I can expect myself to follow directions and produce a button up shirt that in most aspects is a copy and for some reason I'm on level with the lead designer of a pattern company.

So, now what do I do? Should I haul all my paper crafting supplies to the to curb or set up a yard sale and pawn it off to the next person who will feel let down every time they pick up my old ink pad because its not the newest release and they can't use it to copy a card they saw on a blog post? Do I just say screw it, and start making replicas to give to my parents for their birthdays? I bought the stuff, right? My parents will never know I didn't really design it even though I have 'designed by' stamped on the back of every card just above where I sign my name. Or do I continue to beat myself up every time I stare at a blank sheet of A4 cardstock because I expect myself to be a creative genius like the bloggers I follow? Or, should I just keep sewing dresses from patterns already made and accept the fact that all I really need to satisfy my need to create is copying and pasting? It sure makes it all a hell of a lot easier and picking out my outfit in the morning for work is a snap.

Even better? Where does the paper crafting industry go from here? We all know that it has taken a dive, local shops are all but gone and I think it is due to the simple fact that the barrier to entry for Betty Doe who wants to start making scrapbooks is set too high. There isn't a single industry blog remaining that isn't at an unattainable level of genius. There's no place for new entrants to start and be allowed to feel any level of success by just making something with limited supplies from her local big box store. She simply cannot copy and paste. So, she doesn't bother with that aisle or she stops shopping there and goes to a different one. It's what I've done and once I finish the hem on the dress I'm making, I'll know what I'm wearing to work tomorrow.
And I'll bet you I'll get a few compliments on my copy.