Spinning a question

This little spindle will hang from the cloth book as a representation of the spinning of a dream.  It’s made from a bit of kebab stick and a flat bead, with silk thread wrapped around it.  The finger is there purely for a sense of scale!

Today there was an interesting question.  Wooni asked me why I am making the cloth book.  I replied that I am making it in cloth because I have to send the paper version away, back to the organisers of The Sketchbook Project, and I wanted to be able to keep something of it.  But that’s not the answer, because I could have just photocopied the original and kept the copy.   Then I said that it was a good portfolio sample: a representative example of my work that I could show to anyone who expressed an interest in what I do.  I sell or give away most of what I make, and have very little of my work available to anyone who asks to see it.  But why do I need to keep it, and why would I need to show it to anyone?  Then I wondered whether my ego had got the better of me, and did I really think it was so good that I ought to make the whole thing again in a different medium?  And really, what business do I have making anything at all and then showing it to people?
And after I had cleared all that out of the way, I realised that actually it’s a very good question.  Why do we make anything?  Obviously, if we make a ‘useful’ thing, like a quilt or a bag or a set of placemats, then the thing has a purpose.  But a small cloth or any decorative thing – like a cloth book, perhaps – has no function other than to be itself.  Some pieces of work exist as an expression of something, or as a form of communication.  Some exist purely to give pleasure to someone else: beauty might be perceived in an object and cherished for that reason alone.  Maybe I think that my cloth book, as a story, expresses something important enough that it should be out there in the world, existing in its own form – and isn’t that just egotism?  ‘Look at me: god-like, I have created this Great Thing.’  Is most art about the artist wanting attention, to be heard, seen and noticed?  That’s an uncomfortable truth, I think, for a person who might be described as somewhat shy.  Or is it, simply, the seemingly natural human desire to create something beautiful for its own sake and for the pure enjoyment of the process?
Thank you, Wooni, for asking the question.

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30 Responses to Spinning a question

  1. Robyn says:

    Hello :)this is a particularly beautiful post and one that rings a bell with me.I feel that the stiching life… your beautiful book is a gentle form of communication. It's a lovely language that speaks of an appreciation for beauty.I like to make things and simply enjoy the process of making them and if they have a life beyond me then that's good too.best wishes for making beautiful things.Robyn

  2. Gina says:

    Such an interesting post and lovely to read your thoughts. I'm not sure I think that making something for its own sake is necessarily egotistical. I believe there is a basic human need to create and that is why we do what we do.

  3. Karen Turner says:

    The basic need to create – to make something purely for the enjoyment of the process – is one that fascinates me too. Thank you for these heartfelt responses.

  4. kaite says:

    A lovely thoughtful post and i often ask myself the same question, esp as i don't offer much of my work for sale now. why don't i clean the house, or work in the garden more, or make my own clothes or bake my own bread or anything else that is "useful". My answer is that it is not egotistical to make a thing of beauty, or even a thing that is not yet beautiful, it is as Gina said – a basic human need to create something, and to work out if i can create what's in my mind to try, and i also do all the things listed above in their own good time, but we all need some form of creative and meditative outlet. Wooni's question was probably quite innocent, she may have wondered if you were in a cloth book group or doing it for an exhibition. ha ha – she pushed your buttons just a little i think.It happens to me all the time! k.

  5. kaite says:

    i forgot to say – i love your little spindle. k.

  6. Karen Turner says:

    Thanks, K :-)I know Wooni's question came from a good place; it just got me thinking, and I usually think far too much. I think I was trying to say it's not so much the 'making things' that involves ego, it's more the 'showing things' – ie the need to show someone else what you made. I'm not always that good at expressing my feelings in words, which I guess is why I'm a visual artist and not a writer – which brings us back to art as communication…

  7. Marti says:

    Thoughtful and insightful blog entry Karen. I think it is an instinctive feeling when the seed of an idea is planted to want to see how it will grow, "bloom" into reality in whatever creative form that takes. Whatever it is that causes a little creative spark to start flowing in our bloodstream, it just feels natural to want to take it as far as it will go. I say this as someone who never held needle and thread nor wanted to. Then, a funny thing started when I began to eco dye cloth – I felt the need to want to do more than pile up these pieces of cloth in a drawer. Friends were taking online classes and graciously sharing what they were learning. I started to read fiber blogs for the first time, and found so much more than cloth and stitching going on in the world. I felt a need to do more than touch this cloth. This need became instinctive, more like the need, as has been discussed with the previous excellent comments here, to want to make something. Slowly, that pile of dyed cloth is turning into bits of stitched cloth that now adorn our walls. I didn't do this to show off, but to see if I could. No one was more surprised than I to see that I can, no matter how very basic these pieces are; to me they are a wonder and it is a very good feeling.

  8. Trudis Felt says:

    I think anyone who has read this blogpost will think about this question now. We all want recognition on one way or another and with our expressions of what we making or thinking we can show the world a little bit of ourselves. It is a kind of communication, without that my head can not rest.Lovely post, it made us think about it.Cariños de Trudis

  9. That is a really interesting post and follows a conversation with a friend this morning about the drive to make things and why we have it. I do not have much drive to sell my work but I do need to show other people. Ego? soul searching, I think I had better stop there!

  10. maggi says:

    A really interesting post. I don't feel that ego has much to do with either creating or sharing your work. You obviously enjoy the process, create beautiful things and are generous enough to put that beauty out there for all to share.

  11. thinking about this, Karen.

  12. right after i posted the above iwent to sit where i can see a lotof the pieces that i have postedin various states of becoming.they are on my big wall. why do I want to show them to"You?" (the all inclusive You)?am i saying: "see what amazingthing i did?" (which may or maynot be amazing to anyone else, butDID amaze me)i don't think so.i'm thinking in this moment thati show You things because i wantto show youme.i am wanting you to come toknow me.and i love looking at people'swork that they share because i learn about that particular person.i have 3 Karens in my home. allvery different, but all distinctlyKaren Turner.someone asked me about one and iwent on and on about Karen Turnerand they got the impression thatyou lived nearby and we were goodfriends.well….

  13. Karen Turner says:

    I do so wish that Blogger would let us do wordpress-type 'reply to comments'. I've been replying to each of you individually, but would love to have had everyone here able to discuss it together.Thank you, everyone who has taken the time to share thoughts, for your wisdom. The world is a small place: we do all live nearby, and we are good friends.

  14. now i am having a little worryabout being understood as i meantit (not you karen, but whoeverelse)what i mean by i want You to knowme:sometimes people here wonder whyi spend so much time alone at home.what IS she doing?and they ask why i don't do things"socially" ie: with themand i say i am sewing. on occasion, they see what i amsewing and it clearly has NOmeaning or interest for them, butwhen i talk about all the womeni "keep track of" in this clothworld, they invariably say"it sounds like you actually KNOWthem".and i think it's that i know whatthey LOVE, because i see what theycreate. what i create, is themost central "me". not the onewho shops or dusts or …..i am my cloth. and it's This methat seeks communion/communication.

  15. Wooni says:

    I began to read your post and thought "Oh my I did not mean to offend her in the least bit." They i continued to read on and understood. My question was one that I make to myself whenever i make something that does not have an obvious purpose. I question what it is for and why I make things all the time, partly because I am very shy and self conscious, and another pat because I wonder in a some what philosophical manner why I had to create such a thing. It is because of doubt. I doubt myself, my abilities, because I everyone else does. Thus, I wanted to ask someone who is clearly talented why they create. In hopes that I would find my own answer. I am honored that my question was given so much thought. That means the world to me. Thank you Karen

  16. Deborah says:

    I often ponder this also. Mostly I think that for many people there is just a great need to create, possibly for the process and not necessarily just for the product.

  17. Karen Turner says:

    Not offended at all, not in the least bit, Wooni – it was a really great question.Thanks for expanding, Grace.

  18. Sandra says:

    Hi Karen: what a wonderful, magical world we have here in this "stitching/bloging" place. I love everyone's response and agree with most if not all. I truly love & believe your ?/statement – "Or is it, simply, the seemingly natural human desire to create something beautiful for its own sake and for the pure enjoyment of the process?" I believe this to be 100% true – this is why we create and this is how we coummunicate : ) beautiful – isn't it ?? : ) thanks for this very intense and self analytical post, lots of fooood for thought(s), ha : )Blessings, Sandra in AZ, USA

  19. Serena says:

    there's definitely some ego involved. there has to beand i'll freely admit iti have ego about not just what i createbut sharing it but there's also as grace said the need to be not just seen but felt. it is complicated isn't it. this crazy mix. but isn't that why some get dressed up when we go out, and why some manicure their lawns, their cars, etc. to deny that there is something showy in us is to deny a large part of us that is human. we're by nature a pack animal.we're all specialwe're all giftedbut is there something wrong with desiring to be admired for our own uniqueness. and isn't art simply a reflection of us. but again i come back to grace's statementi'd like to connect…why i have posted my thoughtsand my creations because i'd like to not feel so alone. just some random thoughts on it all.as they came.

  20. Trudi says:

    How very thought provoking, and it's really made me think about why I show my work. I am definitely driven to create, for me there is no doubt on that. but to show my work, I thinks it's such a fascinating mix of self doubt and ego both hand in hand. A fantastic post, with such a strong response Karen, what a great question Wooni. 🙂

  21. I think your cloth book is glorious – it sings from the screen of my computer. I go through all the same angsts as you and my answers vary from day to day but I have to say your posts give ME, at least, great pleasure.

  22. Karen Turner says:

    These thoughts are all very reassuring; thank you so much for sharing so generously.

  23. karen says:

    we make for enjoyment, pleasure, to make a living but more imprtantly we make to leave something of ourselves, to share a part of ourselves and ultimately to say we were here.

  24. Barbara says:

    Hi Karen,
    I have read this post over and over again … and thank you for putting it out there. It is also a question I ask myself over and over again, why am I doing this? And the whole difference between something that has a purpose and something that has the purpose of being beautiful sometimes eludes me. Your work is so beautiful and obviously speaks to so many people on so many levels … there is definately a beautiful purpose to your art.
    So I think we create because it comes from within and somehow we can’t help ourselves but use that form of communication … I know that I struggle though when someone asks me those questions. Like “what are you doing?’, “what is it?”, and “what is it for?”. Sometimes, I just have to say … “it’s a piece of artwork that I am making” … and then often I am uncomfortable. Funny, I never get those questions when I am making a scarf or quilt. Just my thoughts …
    Very best wishes,

  25. Lyn Lewis says:

    What an interesting question and link up of like minded folks.
    It must be an individual thing I suppose for each of us, but for me, I wouldnt care if nothing sold that I made or if no one ever saw them. I HAVE to make. I have to touch and stroke textures, be they fabrics or wood………..velevts, silk, lace, modern woods, old hand worn woods, natural bark, whatever.
    I used to pour over The Arthur Mees Encyclopaedia for Children as a child and was desperate to have the items listed on the make and do pages, to make the whatever it was they showed you how to make…………but we rarely had them all so I was mostly dispointed lol
    I suppose it was the Blue Peter of its day!
    Ive made things Ive not shown anyone, the making it is the important thing for me and its, if anything, an extention of ME? Its my personal expression of whats really me, the person hidden away within the public face? Its like baring my soul and allowing my mistakes to be seen if anyone sees whats made! But if they dont like it, thats fine cos its not made for anyone but me lol
    I have some things for sale locally but they are not the most elaborate of my work, thats interesting in itself! Do I not want anyone else to have them? Are they to be heirlooms? My children wont value them Im sure, come the day they sort the house out! Do I think they are too valuable a partt of me to let go of?
    What Ive made or stitched – beyond my daily work cos thats for viusally impaired kids – well, its done so I can use my hands, my mind and mark make I think. Its that basic for me. Id be drawing in sand or carving on trees maybe in another life time lol
    karen you made us all thinki and what a cracking question in the first place Wooni, nice one!

  26. julochka says:

    i read this in my reader and even thought i commented on it, but apparently i only composed a comment in my head. 🙂 what i wanted to say is that while sometimes creativity for creativity’s sake is a selfish act – who says one shouldn’t be selfish and just create for the sake of it. it’s why i love the russian symbolists, they were all about art for art’s sake. there’s something healthy and mindful in the act of creating, especially in the kind of beautiful, hand-stitched pieces you make. and whether it’s for sale or for yourself shouldn’t matter at all. sometimes we create just because we NEED to. and we don’t always need to explain (or even know) why.

    keep stitching.

  27. Susan says:

    I have read the responses here and so many thoughts are swirling around in my head at the moment…..Why do we create, for what purpose, to what gain?
    We were all born with a gift for something in this life, but it is with our own free will/choice in how we use those gifts. In all of the things we do and create in this world as human beings we are reponsible for those gifts that we have been given, and how we choose to use those gifts is the important matter.
    The choice to make things and to create beauty in this world and to share of ourselves to one another is a wonderful gift. There are so many lovely people that I have met here in blogland and often thought what a wonderful world it would be if we could All give the gift of sharing and friendship to each other “throughout this world”…I believe our world would indeed be a more peaceful place with more love and understanding for each other. For me creating things to share and to give away
    is sending love out into a world that should have more than it does already.

    Love to All,

  28. Karen Turner says:

    I like your world view very much, Susan. Thanks for stopping by with these thoughts.

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