The Art of Craft

Art and Craft - Planter

I designed this to hold flowers or a plant. It has led to a whole series of different kinds of planters.

Here we look at the art of craft through projects, experiments and inspirations. We explore the world of craft and making and see how the old question of “is it art or is it craft” may not really matter. My goal isn’t to debate aesthetic terms but to encourage all of us to try out hands at new forms of making. I want to improve my art by improving my craft and vice versa. What does all that mean? Stick around and we’ll find out together…

For a start, read here about Chemo Gifts (or start below) and how to find your own intersection of passion and need.

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Creators and innovators: a meaningful trip – Part 2

Creators, innovators and a meaningful trip: San Clemente Pier

Creators and innovators: The announcement

“Congratulations! You have been selected as a finalist in the 2015 Creators and Innovators Upcycle Contest…” The words in the email to my son Connor began a series of events that led to one of the shortest, yet most meaningful trips I can remember.

Vissla, the surf clothing company sponsoring the competition, requested all the finalists ship their boards to an art gallery in San Clemente, CA where they would be put on display. In addition, Vissla invited all the finalists to attend the show opening at the gallery during which time the winners would be announced.

Vissla covered the cost of shipping the board and a hotel room for the night of the event. But Connor still had to fly down there and somehow make it to the event. I could tell this was a big deal to Connor. And since his 18th birthday was coming up right before the event, we decided to splurge.

Creators and innovators: The trip

Creators, innovators and meaningful travel: Nomad Hotel

Our room at the Nomad Hotel where Connor is going through his goodie bag from Vissla

Thus, in early October, Connor and I landed in San Diego, picked up a rental car, tooled around San Diego, had lunch out on Coronado Island, then leisurely made our way up the coast to San Clemente.

There, we checked in to the wonderful, funky, surf-themed Nomad Hotel that Vissla had arranged. On one of the beds was a bag filled with Vissla clothing and gear, all in Connor’s size. From there, we drove down to the San Clemente pier, looked around then arrived at the gallery as the opening was starting.

Creators and innovators: The event

I could write a book on the conversations that evening, but let me focus here simply on the highlights:

We met with the team from Vissla, all of whom were wonderful, welcoming and so glad we could be there.

Paul photographing Dane's board

Paul photographing Dane’s board

Vissla’s story itself is fascinating. Founded by Paul who was previously head of all the North and South American operations for Billabong, the company primarily produces surf clothing. But Paul, a former pro surfer, has a passion for “Creators and Innovators.” He honors not just those who practice the art of riding waves but also those who create the boards and equipment needed to do so.

This whole competition surprised everyone at Vissla in its popularity. Being the first time they’d done this, Vissla expected a few entries from locals. Instead, they had hundreds from all over the world.

What made the evening so fascinating was that wonderful phenomena that occurs when people of passion come together. The gallery was packed, spilling onto the sidewalk with a wide array of people, all connected by a love of the sport.

Gallery view

This is a view of the gallery from the sidewalk that ended up overflowing with people from the opening.

As we met and spoke with each of the finalists, it was clear that no one really cared who won. Everyone was just glad to be there and to share ideas with each other. Each contestant was genuinely interested in everyone else’s entry, from the functional board made of cardboard and Paper Mache (and covered in fiberglass) to the fins made from recycled plastic bottle caps melted and reformed into objects of beauty. By the end of the evening, Connor and the others were all figuring out ways to connect and work on new projects after the event.

Connor's board

Connor’s board in the longboard mode hanging in the gallery.

Eventually, a team of judges made their determinations and they announced the winners. First place went to Dane from Australia for a board that used the inner core from old doors but combined with foam and fiberglass in such a way as to be a work of art.

Second place went to a guy from Japan who made this amazing board from recycled Styrofoam cartons used in that country for transporting raw fish.

Third place went to…Connor! For that, he won one of Vissla’s cool wetsuits. Everyone agreed Connor had one of the most original ideas. They loved that even the wheels on his board were made from pallet material. They especially liked how detailed his user’s manual was. “Ikea could learn a thing or two from you,” was a common refrain that evening.

Later that evening, Vissla approached Connor and offered to buy his board for their corporate art collection. He eventually agreed to sell them the board. He plans on using the money to fund his start-up company making other kinds of long boards and surf t-shirt designs.

Creators and innovators: The takeaway

To me, a conversation I had with the board designer/shaper Donald Brinks epitomized the evening. Donnie and I got to talking about creativity and the design process and how everything is connected. How you learn something in a seemingly unrelated area, and it sparks an idea that would seem completely unconnected but makes total sense once you put the two together.

Creators, innovators and meaningful trips - Connor, Dane and Eric

Connor (left), Dane (center) and Eric from Vissla.

He commented on how you know a surfboard is right when you pick it up. I likened it to choosing a guitar. You can’t explain why, but you just know it is the right one by the way it feels or sounds or some other inexplicable factor. All the “data” you’ve spent a lifetime collecting suddenly connects in that moment and you know beyond doubt that this is the right one.

That’s the way this evening – this whole trip – felt. A vast array of interests and unlikely connections came together and worked in ways that amazed Connor and me because they were so unexpected and yet, so perfect.

In all, the entire trip was just over 24 hours. But it is one that will likely last a lifetime.

 

If you haven’t done so yet, you can read Part 1 here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creators, innovators and a meaningful trip – Part 1

The meaning of a trip is not measured by distance or duration. The true significance of a meaningful trip lies in the difference it makes in your life long after you return.

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The contest was simple: for any and all creators and innovators, create an object made from recycled materials that could be used to ride a wave. Vissla, the surf apparel company sponsoring the contest, provided a deadline, a vague reference to prizes and some brief guidelines regarding posting your submission on Instagram. That was all they stated.

That was all my son Connor, 17, needed.

So began the journey.

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Some trips are discrete entities in themselves. They have a clear beginning and end. You go, you come back. End of story.

Other journeys consist of multiple ventures, a collection of small trips we may not even think of as being part of a larger narrative until later when we look back and realize the inter-connectedness of the adventure.

Connor’s journey began not with a meaningful trip but with a series of short forays into an industrial park a 15-minute drive from our home. His objective: obtain a number of wooden pallets that could be foraged to produce a small surfboard, a paipo to be precise, more like a wooden version of a Boogie Board. He found the appropriate pallets, dissected them, harvested the best parts and created a small wonder.

A meaningful trip: The Octo as a longboardNot content to make a common paipo, Connor spent weeks working out the details for an innovative approach to his board. His vision was a surf and turf affair: A longboard complete with wooden wheels and trucks (the supporting pieces that hold the axels) which converted to a paipo. Ride it to the beach, pop off the wheels, unfold the top, tighten the bolts and out into the waves you go. Brilliant. At least in theory.

The second small trip occurred when Connor needed to test out his creation and video it for the Creators and Innovators competition submission. We live in the Seattle area. And yes, you can surf in the Seattle area. You just need to wait for a large container ship to sail down the Puget Sound so you catch the waves of its wake. Seriously. Some people do that. For the rest of us, we head a few hours south and west to the Pacific Coast.

A meaningful trip: Connor and the Octo in paipo modeOn the morning the day before the contest submission was due, Connor headed out to the beach with me in tow (after all, he needed a cameraman to record his test). We didn’t get far before the math set in: This was a Friday. I had a conference call at 2:00 p.m. Given a later departure than planned, we’d have about 25 minutes once we arrived at the beach for Connor to don his wetsuit, put together the longboard, ride and video that, convert it to the paipo and then video him surfing on it. Not enough time we realized. Enter Plan B.

Instead of the ocean, we headed to a beach on the Puget Sound less than a half hour from home. Connor got his wetsuit on, assembled the board and then – Action! I videoed as he rode the board about 20 feet in the beach parking lot and then…snap. One of his wooden trucks broke. Thankfully, we had enough video for the submission (and Connor later made a design change to improve the truck). I then filmed him walking to the beach, converting the longboard into a paipo and heading out into the water.

The problem was, the Puget Sound makes a great harbor precisely because it rarely gets large waves. No worries. I filmed Connor as he paddled and splashed furiously in the water. It may not work as a scene from Endless Summer but it was enough. We had what we needed.

He edited the footage and made the submission in time. You can see the more detailed version of his video below. “Octo,” by the way, is the name he gave it based on the octopus graphic he created for the board.

And then he waited.

Until the day he received an email.

To be continued…

 

 

Hair fairies and how it works

Chemo Gifts - Cancer is a WordOn Thursday evening, some friends of mine were asking about Chemo Gifts and how this whole thing works. They wondered how they could be more involved. I told them of having distributed most of the bags of encouraging quotes and the cotton gloves to the chemo treatment centers where my wife had been.

When it came to how they could help, I mentioned that life has a way of producing opportunities. I’ve had some friends over the last month who have friends of theirs or family members with cancer. And so I reach out and provide them with these Chemo Gifts as well. I said I’d continue to do that as needs arise but we all agreed we’d be on the lookout for other ways we could each use our own interests and talents to help those around us.

Then, two days later, out of the blue I get this email from an old college friend of mine, Carole:

“Well, I launched a kickstarter this week to help fund a project that is near and dear to my heart.  I left teaching to care for a former little preschool student of mine that got diagnosed with leukemia.  As we stepped onto this journey together,  her single mom wondered what was out there to help make so much of the scary business of getting her daughter Eva healthy again a little less scary.  She came up empty handed.  She wanted a story about dealing with hair loss and couldn’t find one.  So, I wrote one.  Now we have a brilliant illustrator burning the midnight oil to finish the illustrations.  That is what the kickstarter is for.  If we go over our goal, we can print the first run of this story and hand them to the kids affected by cancer treatment for free.  It is our promise to give these to families at no cost ever to them.”

Here’s the Kickstarter link if you’d like to help out. Even if you don’t want to donate, check out the video about Carole’s story regarding Eva and the hair fairies:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/738775374/the-legend-of-the-hair-fairies

The wonder of this is not just the timing, but how Carole is doing exactly what we were discussing: using her creative abilities to do something meaningful and useful for someone else.

Losing hair due to chemo seems, if you haven’t been through it, like a minor issue. After all, you’re battling for your life. Why worry about superficials like your hair? Except it isn’t just superficial. Your hair is part of you. Part of your identity. And to have it gone almost overnight can be devastating. Plus it signals to the world that you have cancer: It’s the first visual cue to others of your disease. And for both adults and little kids losing your hair can be scary, like an amputation, a part of yourself now detached.

We can explain the scientific reasons for losing your hair to chemo, but more comforting — more helpful — is the power of story. That’s what Carole has done. And as a result of her using a passion for writing for a little girl in need, she not only is touching the lives of Eva and her mother, but all the others who are now involved in this project.

That’s how it works.

 

Chemo Gifts: When delight and need intersect

Chemo Gifts

This is a painting I did for the nurses surrounded by the bags with encouraging verses and the gloves for chemo patients. The rest are the medical supplies there in the treatment center.

Lately I’ve realized that things which interest me most deal with the head, heart, hands and feet. Creativity, for example, does involve our head, our thinking. In the best cases, however, our creative efforts stem from and touch our hearts (and those of others) as well. Art, craft or the act of making usually requires using our hands. And travel – the simple movement from one point to another – utilizes our feet. Head, heart, hands and feet; all can be used for our own sakes. But they can also be employed to help other people.

I’ve long wrestled with this notion of using the things I love for others. It’s much easier to think about volunteering in areas of great need – homeless shelters, food banks, retirement homes, neighborhood clean-ups, mentoring, etc. – than in areas of great passion. But what if you could do both: help others and live from the place of your greatest joy?

Sometimes we find answers to such questions in the oddest places. I found my answer in a chemotherapy treatment center.

No one goes to such places for fun. In my case, it was to accompany my wife who has had to undergo both chemotherapy and radiation treatments this year due to breast cancer. She’s almost done with the year-long process and we’re incredibly grateful all has turned out well.

Yet in the midst of this, I got to know other patients going through chemotherapy. Out of that sprang the idea to create small presents – Chemo Gifts – to encourage those still in the midst of what can be quite brutal therapy. You can read about these Chemo Gifts here.

Creating these Chemo Gifts would have seemed borderline useless had we not just gone through chemo ourselves (and yes, while my wife took the brunt of it, it is a joint effort) and realized how meaningful small acts can be when life is stripped to its essentials. So I encourage you to read about my response but most of all, think about your own.

What do you love to do? How could you leverage that to help others?

These aren’t hard questions. But they are ones we often put off and never address. As we come out of Thanksgiving, it’s a good time to reflect on all we’re thankful for. It’s great to count our blessings. But even more meaningful is to be a blessing to others.

So take a minute or two and ask yourself, “What could I do? Who could I help?”

You might be amazed at what happens when you apply what brings you delight to what others need.