Monday, January 13, 2014

You Must Have Tools


I remember in third grade making things.

For christmas we made stockings out of construction paper. The pattern was just two flat stocking shapes that were glued together. They were very two dimensional. I thought it was a stupid design since it would be difficult to fit much of anything in them. Fabric would have been more accommodating with that pattern because of its flexibility, but the paper was rigid. I (silly child that I was) expected it to be stuffed full of goodies, so wanted to maximize the amount of space that could be filled. I added a pocket to the front. But I made a pocket with dimension. Instead of just gluing a flat piece of paper to the front, I notched, folded and glued the corners so that the pocket had depth. I made tabs to attach the pocket to the stocking. They folded inwards so that they were hidden. I had some attention to detail.

Another time in third grade—while not paying attention like I should have been—I made a hand puppet out of tissues and perhaps scraps of construction paper that I had saved. I don't really remember, but I do know it had color on it. I may have just drawn on it. At the beginning of every year everybody brought in a box of tissues that were then used generally by the class. I never used them and it seemed like the same snot nose kids used them all, so I figured I had a right to use them (even if not for their primary function). I remember being challenged with how to make a design that open and closed better. I couldn't figure it out. I think we had made puppets not long before, and that is why they were on my mind. We probably used brown paper lunch bags as a base and then glued faces to them. The bags have a design that is conducive to that. But it wasn't til later that I really understood how that kind of bag was folded. My teacher was annoyed when she found out what I had made. I think is was the misuse of materials that most annoyed her.

In college I designed a backpack that fit my needs perfectly. The bag had a simple layout, fit all of the things that I carried and had pockets set low to give it a solid base so it would stand upright. (It bothers me that backpacks often have pockets that sit high so as to put the bag off balance and hinder it from standing up.) It was the perfect bag for my needs.

For as long as I can remember I have been creative. It is natural for me. I am sure that making the backpack would have been easy for me.

But I never made it.

I didn't have the tools. I didn't have a sewing machine.

I knew people that had them. My mom had one (and I was living at home at the time). But I wasn't really comfortable using her machine, it was hers and I needed help. I had used it in the past on some simple sewing things, but I din't have a sense of ownership (not in the sense of it belonging to me but as in feeling natural with it).

Many things went unmade because I didn't own a sewing machine, even though I was capable.

A few years ago (and a few years after designing that backpack) I was given a machine. It is an old work horse from the early 20th century. It's pretty basic with only a straight stitch. But because it was mine and I could experiment without fear of breaking someone else's machine. I could experiment at my own pace. I could get a feel for it. I could experiment. And I could do it with nobody looking over my shoulder. I had time to gain ownership.

It wasn't long before I was making things. I made a shower curtain. I made a nylon sail bag for our sailboat with a customized logo on it for flair. I sewed fitted slip covers for my dining room chairs.

It wasn't long before I was made a backpack. I didn't stop at one either. I have more packs than I need and I'm still designing and making more.

I am naturally creative. But that isn't enough.

Without the tools and the freedom to experiment, I wouldn't be where I am. I would still be drawing things that would never get made.

How can we get tools to where they can be used? What is the world missing out on because ready minds don't have the tools they need?