Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Social Media, What is it good for?

There is a storm outside and there is a storm inside me. Everyday I log into social media sites much the way an addict practices addiction. Compulsively, with enthusiasm trailed by regret. More than a dozen times a day, I pick up my phone and make my way through my different accounts.

It's dark out all the time now, we've been through a tough fall, my husband getting used to a new job, all of us mourning the suicide of our daughters boyfriend, Paris on lock-down. White people are outraged. I watch it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

News through the filter of Facebook is contrived, let alone the media itself is so very skewed by revenue. The honest truth is that I feel better when I avoid social media all together. When I can search out information on my own, read an article or two, not just skim the headlines in my feed. I'm doing it, you're doing it. We're selling ourselves short. Facebook makes us shallow and vain.

I think it's preferable to develop ones own opinions based on facts from multiple sources rather than from the biggest group think exercise ever. Somehow the Facebook algorithm only shares news about certain topics and this troubles me. I feel like difficult subjects are less likely to be seen. I posted a Guardian article this morning and didn't get a single like. Had I posted a photo of my daughter as a baby I would have received a lot. Facebook seems to train us to share certain content by rewarding us with likes.

It is better for me to do and keep doing, rather than do, broadcast, and then check-in relentlessly to see who has approved of my doings. It's a sad empty feeling and more and more I find myself staring longingly at my device, wishing for something to happen, instead of making something happen. Constantly comparing yourself to others can be destructive and time consuming.

Overall I am trying to check in less and when I have the urge to look at my phone that is a cue for me to refocus on my work or pick up my knitting or reading. Sometimes I succeed and other days I fail, some days I bargain.

Is it all bad? Personal development done privately in quiet spaces is ideal but one cannot ignore the aspirational qualities of social media, and like it or not it exists in our society. Does this make us falsely more cautious about how we represent ourselves, or do those representations stand up as a higher view of our selves, an ideal to work toward.

I hope for the latter.

I believe strongly in the importance of daily exercise. I walk 3 miles each day, up and down my rural road. I often record observations of those daily walks to use as markers to myself and also to help inspire others in their daily practice of movement. This is one of the positive aspects of a site like Instagram, building connection and community through the use of common hashtags. In this way we connect to others and this is beneficial for creatives I believe.

I live in a place of tremendous natural beauty, I enjoy documenting my surroundings. These photos are a record and also a clue to what I am reacting to in my environment and why. Occasionally I make a good picture and I genuinely want to share it with others whose opinion matters to me.

These days, I use Facebook less and less. I rarely type in a status update any longer for fear of the resulting sidebar ads. It's bad enough that my search histories reflect what appears in my news feed.  

Instagram is charming and easy and a picture is worth a thousand words. I find the feed inspiring and my own feed has become a great archive of my daily activities which I find useful for seeing my progress. Plus, I care about posting interesting well composed photos as a part of my #dailypractice. More and more I see social media as a great archive and record of my state of mind and that is actually a useful tool for me. I look back and see difficult moments represented in photos and written clues. When I first used Facebook I suppose I might have been more direct (although restrained, as I was trained to be in public) in my expression of my feelings about things that were happening in my life. Life changes of course and I can see how my relationship to social media as it develops as a norm within our culture is changing as well.  The creepy algorithm that directs what Facebook presents to me is troubling but I accept that it exists, so I use it cautiously.

There was a time I thought I could go without social media altogether but I must be honest, there is a tiny voice in me that wants to shout out to the other humans in the universe now and then, you never know what you will get back. The feeling of being connected to others is affirming. We are all going through similar life challenges.

Moderation and self reflection go a long way when faced with how to interact with social media. This experiment whose effects—developing for a decade now—will be felt and discussed for a long time. In my opinion it is an interesting tool but it's not the whole universe. Ok, better get this on Twitter...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Crash Course in Grief

Create a space to mourn and connect

How did you tell me? 

It came gradually. The words slow from your mouth. He is dead. Car crash. I know immediately. Suicide. You blinked, and your whole life changed. Your eyes are open, readjusting to a new reality. This boy, we were just getting to know is gone, forever at 18. Your heart is broken, mine is broken for you and for Calvin.

I bang pots making noise, so you can hear me in your room, so you know I am nearby.

I don't know how to mourn the loss of this much innocence and potential, but here I am, taking a crash-course. Getting through the first few days was key, setting a pace. We eat regularly and take quiet walks. The time crawls by. We watch animated movies. Your friends come to visit. On the third day after the death I decided to make a simple alter in our living room, a special place I could connect with my feelings about the loss of Calvin. There is a candle to light and let burn out into the night. There are 18 smooth glass stepping stones, one for each year of his short life. There is a small plate for offerings of food, and a vessel for notes of comfort, and questioning.

Grief is a mental and physical experience. I remember this from when my mother died 18 yrs ago. I know we will need time to think deeply about what has happened, so I have decided that we should observe a 49 day period of mourning. I am borrowing the time frame from a Buddhist tradition. They believe it takes these days for the soul to be reincarnated. We will take these 7 weeks to be purposeful in our grieving, and ever gentle with ourselves in these fragile times. I am determined that we can grow through this experience, that there will be something positive that comes from it. We have passed through the first week already.

A difficult farewell

I added pictures of Calvin to his alter after the Memorial today. It was wonderful to see how many friends he had and how supported his family will be. I have never felt so sad though, it is hard to see so many broken-hearted people. Among them, my one and only child. I will not rush this time. I will savor the humanness I feel. I will hold Calvin in my heart. I will speak his name. From this emotional chaos we will make order. We will make a circle around each other. We will weave this lost boy into our soft tissue. And carry him along.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Week 2, October 5-11: SMALL

handmade / living with less / quality over quantity / capsule wardrobe / indie fashion / small-batch makers / sustainability

When we make our own things the activity feeds us, slows us down and puts us in touch with a slower pace. For me, breaking things into tasks helps me move multiple projects along in a manageable way. I tend to sew in drips and drabs, sewing a seam here and there throughout a day. It is a pleasant and simple activity when broken into it's component parts.

When I look at the clothes I wear regularly, most of them are made by me, in fact as I make a mental list, it's impressive how many items I have produced over the years that I still wear. (taking a moment for small pat on back). This gives me impetus to try a little harder and add some new items.

This dress is part of a capsule wardrobe I'm developing for myself. The first one was made from a home made pattern based on a beloved J.Jill linen dress in black. I wore it to death. I have also worn the top two of these dresses more than is reasonable. I should really lengthen the pattern at the waist and spend more time finishing the garment. The top right is the one that I have been relying on for layering up over pants, with long sleeves underneath, or little button up shirts over top. These are mostly linen and cotton. I have considered making a version in Ponte de Roma or something a bit warmer for winter. You get a lot of bang for your buck in a simple dress, that is for sure.

So far this month I have finished the Miette Skirt in brown corduroy but honestly the fabric is way too heavy. I am thinking of deconstructing it and making it smaller, all the way around and then find some better weight fabric for the waste band and ties. Ah the joy of remaking...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Slow Fashion October

 I came across this on the internet last week and decided I would join in on Slow Fashion October, since it's something I am already doing, basically every month is a slow fashion month for me. 
The following prompt accompanied the post, so here goes.

Week 1,  October 1-4: YOU
First let’s introduce ourselves: Where are you at with all this / What first got you interested in Slow Fashion / What are your skills / What do you hope to get out of Slow Fashion October / What are your personal goals for the month / Do you have a special project you plan to tackle this month? 

Hi I'm Rowan, I am a 51yr old graphic designer and artist. I've made my own clothes on and off since I was in middle school. My mom always sewed her own clothes and also made things for us until we were at that regretful age when you suddenly can't tolerate home-made.  Obviously this is a generational thing. I was never a killer seamstress, tending toward lovely fabrics and super simple patterns that occasionally came across as dowdy but I have persevered and feel like I have a better grasp of how to make things fit better and of course my style has evolved over time.

Slow Fashion for me is becoming a political statement. More and more I feel I want to reject what fashion tells me I should like and buy. I hate how cheap everything has become. I want to dress practically for my lifestyle. I want my clothes to fit my body. I'm amazed by how long some clothes can stay in my wardrobe and be in service for years while others lose their usefulness. When I bought clothes I tried to adopt the spend more less often approach. 

My skills are varied. I sew, knit and felt. I am curious and will try just about anything once. My dad bought me a sewing machine when I graduated from high school and I still sew with it today. I just bought myself a used serger this spring, I'm super stoked about it. I am not the best crafts person but I am always trying to improve.

I hope to get inspiration to chip away at my sewing projects all month and into the future. I'm slowly formulating my wardrobe plan, taking note of what I like to make and wear and what looks good on. 

My personal goals are to finish a few projects already on the go and start a few more. 

No special goals to be stated, I just want to keep on making things. I'm excited to see what other folks are making.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Typical get up.

Sensible working outfit. Needs to be comfortable and durable in case I want to run my chainsaw. Pockets are a must. Large jewelry takes attention away from wear and tear on basic pieces of; pullover top, criss cross linen apron, second hand guess jeans. And boots! Of which there are many pairs to choose. Depending on weather and activity and ground to be covered on any given day. For a person who whines constantly about a lack of access to cute shoes, I sure have a lot of footwear.

Monday, September 7, 2015

See you in September

She's starting the 12th grade. Speaking strictly in cliches, I don't know where the time went. It's been interesting recently, dealing with a teen age brain while also dealing with my own changing brain. The difference in our ages is so ironic, she is in post puberty, I am in peri-menopause. She is ramping up, I am winding down. As an older mother I can see why people have kids in their twenties. We are both working to find ourselves and there are clashes and moments that leave me perplexed and worried about the future. It's a strange time. Sometimes I look at her and see this capable young woman on the cusp of her life and other times I see my 4 yr old kid screaming because I got too many steps ahead of her on the path we are both taking. It a push-me-pull-you situation, on an Olympic level. As with other stages of parenting there are moments of profound questioning and routine attitude readjustment. A constant letting go, while still holding firm.

She came home Wednesday from her first day of school and talked my ear off for almost an hour about her classes, her friends, her new teachers. It was a welcome change from the usual one word answers spoken with an attitude of contempt.

Parenting has been a challenge for my husband and I lately but we are in the home stretch and we must stick to our principles for her sake. I can see how teenagers end up out of the house. Their parents are exhausted and fed-up and the solution seems to be to kick them out. Show them what it is like to be on their on own. I am not saying we have come anywhere near that point but I can see how it happens. I see us a bunch of birds in a small nest, she is experimenting with new things all the time and we have to be the sounding boards, reflecting back to her what she needs to know but it's not always magical or even comfortable. Occasionally one of us gets a wing in the face, growing pains, space constraints and we feel like we'll fly apart or fall out of the safety of our tree. We haven't fallen yet and ruffled feathers soon settle down and smooth out and there are moments of brilliance woven into all of it.

Here she is in our campsite at Golden Ears Park. This was our 12th year there and I was struck that it might be the last one as next year she'll have graduated and be on to other things, her things. I suggested this to her and she gave me the 5 yr old face, oh mom don't be silly, we'll do this always. A part of her wants to stay this way forever, but we both know it won't.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

This week

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21)
In some phases of your life, you have been a wanderer. You've had a fuzzy sense of where you belong. It has been a challenge to know which target you should aim your arrows at. During those times, you may have been forceful but not as productive as you'd like to be; you may have been energetic but a bit too inefficient to accomplish wonders and marvels. From what I can tell, one of those wandering seasons is now coming to a close. In the months ahead, you will have a growing clarity about where your future power spot is located -- and may even find the elusive sanctuary called "home." Here's a good way to prepare for this transition: Spend a few hours telling yourself the story of your origins. Remember all the major events of your life as if you were watching a movie.

from Freewill Astrology.

I am moving forward, always moving, even though my direction is unknown, and my movements at times are imperceptible, I am moving forward.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Me now

My dad somehow saw this picture of me on LinkedIn and sent me the following note via email:

Well its a good photo of a serious professional like you see on Linkedin.
Bears little resemblance to the Rowan we raised through all those years.
Just your professional visage facing the market place.
Evolution I guess.
Love Dad. 

 I think this is who he remembers. I'm on the right. : )

Monday, June 8, 2015


Everything is awesome. Summer has suddenly arrived. I'm working harder than I have in a long time which has been informative. Peonies are everywhere. Ladies of late spring with their lace edges and indeterminate scents. Who can say what comes next. I just hope it's more of the same.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Animated thought

Just wondering about what easing restrictions on weed means to society. More slacking, more woodwork, more obesity? Only time will tell. I'm not sure what goes on in this "lounge" I spied on Broadway in Vancouver the other day. Pot is still illegal here but the cops maybe look the other way. In Washington pot shops are popping up everywhere but it still feels like an underground society to me. Business conducted behind frosted windows under plentiful surveillance. The distinction between recreational and medicinal use is blurry as you'd imagine.

Click on the gif to make it play.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

No one's gonna love you (quite like I do).

I heard Jenn Grant perform this song live on the radio the other day as I was waiting in my car in the border line-up. This song was written after the death of her mother and so it struck a chord with me. I had a good deep cry as I sat there, inching forward in the pouring down rain.

It was 17 years on March 3, since my dear mother died. Amazing how it can be so long ago since I saw her. She is with me always.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Art and Commerce

I had a story that I was telling myself about making art. It was told to me by someone who influenced my life at an early age. The story goes like this. To be an artist you must not do anything else to earn a living. You can only make art and that is it, nothing else, you will suffer because no one really understands an artist's life but you will be superior because you have made this ultimate sacrifice in the name of art.

I understood that I needed to make a living and I chose graphic design and that is what I have been doing since I set foot on the pavement outside my college. Internally I made the distinction between art and design. Design was a living, art was uncertain. I chose a life with some certainty of an income and for many years I supported myself and my artist husband while he suffered along making art but very little money. We both suffered and I think art suffered too.

What I now understand about art is that it's a practice, and in the 29 years since I graduated from my college with a degree in Fine Art, I have been practicing my craft and my craft is art. I feel a sense of relief at this revelation. There was no time wasted—as I had thought—not making art because I was making art, and I was living a life that I had solely created for myself. In the 29 years since graduation I have been  honing my visual acuity and my discipline toward art making and art theory.

Lately I am working on projects that seem to blur the lines, or bridge the gap between art and design. I am supporting myself and my child by working hard at what I know and love and I am challenging myself all the while enjoying the life I have created for us.

I will always work. I think working in collaboration with others is what really makes us whole. I am sorry for those who lock themselves up in their suffering and superiority in the name of art. Art doesn't ask that of you. Ultimately being self supporting is the most freeing of all things. To be an independent person, a free thinker, unencumbered seems a good goal to me and the right thing to do to really begin to explore creativity.

There is a subtext here about the person who told me this story. We have to pay in this life. We either work and pay our own way and carve out time for what we love, or we find a way to integrate work and art, or we siphon our living off the backs of others, our spouses, parents, the government. Whatever you choose you have to eat and keep the lights on and someone has to pay those bills. Someone has to get up everyday and have a plan for how you are going to eat and I think it's reasonable that everyone who is eating is contributing something in some way, artist or not.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Cowichan Sweater

I had this whole post planned. Several weeks ago now I heard a story on the radio that got me thinking about my Cowichan sweater and my west coast roots, and I thought I would write about it. Sadly it was not very interesting writing and I have come back to it today to finish it up and discovered that my uninspired writings were not saved. Well dear reader, you have been saved.

In the meantime I am picking up clues, like stitches. Did you know you can start making something and in the end it can be much larger than where you started? Thinking about art all the time is like this and that is what I have been doing. Thinking about art is an odd activity, I guess it's similar to thinking about enlightenment, maybe they are the same thing. I am trying to see what is unseen and make an opinion about that. I am trying to hang onto the opinion just long enough for it to be shot down by some other observation and subsequent opinion that has formed. It's like watching the tide come in and go out, like watching the day pass, minute by minute, the light changes, the trees move. It is a symphony. It goes on without any input form me. My role is inconsequential but I am so fascinated to watch.

I am waiting for something to emerge. Last week I suddenly understood a series of dreams I've had over the years. The dreams were uncomfortable and odd and I could never see what they meant at the time but now I can see more clearly what they were about. The common theme was deep dark spaces that I was required to go into. In almost every dream I was surprised at the existence of the dark space, down a hall, behind a room, under the stairs. These were dark spaces with no head room and I never went in. They were close spaces with cold dry walls. Out in the open of my yard it struck me that these dreams were about this work. The deep work, the unknown knowing that goes on during exploration and reflection. I never wanted to fall into those spaces afraid of what I might find and fearing getting stuck in there. Now I think I am beginning to scratch into those deep places, put my fingertips on them, feel the rough edges of what could come to be known.

Maybe you are curious about the sweater. It was a gift from one of my brothers. It is a classic west coast design and it is one of my most cherished belongings. Here are some links to the original DNTO story that inspired me, a film about the history of the Coast Salish knitting, and the writer whose thesis inspired the film.

All for now. Keep on making, keep on seeking.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hello 2015

January 2015 selfie

In classic style I have missed making a big statement at the beginning of the year. Here it is a few weeks in and I have had some time to think about what I might attempt to achieve this year. And let's not forget things happen. I have come to expect this. Sometimes the thing is predicted or suspected, sometimes it's a complete surprise. Since I cannot control such happenings I am dedicated to making good use of change because it seems to be plentiful.  Every change is an opportunity to work harder, try a new approach, change my mind, be happy.

I began 2014 thinking I might die shortly but it turns out I likely have a way to go on this earth. Realizing that, I have made a list for 2015:

Keep on going as I have been only more so

Go to the dentist

Keep thoughts organized through daily journaling

Do more cardio

Use the internet for more productive things than browsing social media

Swear less

3D print a pair of shoes

Write an artists statement

Plant an herb garden

Write 12 letters to 12 people about art making

Consider blurring the line between art and design

See more art/theater/film

Write a memoir

Make more clothes

Travel somewhere in a plane

Celebrate birthdays of friends and family with more gusto

Preserve food

Read more

Watch TV less

Post signs

Embrace my mammalian existence

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