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Creativity

Silence vs. Impact

Uproar.

In the last week, this has been what I think when I log into social media. The world is struggling right now. It is angry and off-kilter and feels out of balance. Between terrorism, race and gender-based violence, offensive politicians, and the dystopian landscape of Facebook, I often acutely feel that I have nothing to contribute the noise of the internet.

But this past winter, I had the privilege to attend a workshop and talk by Baltimore’s Design Studio for Social Intervention (ds4si) in my home city of Vancouver, Canada. Ds4si’s mission is to change how social justice is imagined, developed and deployed in the United States. They create change in communities through place-making, civic engagement, interventions, writing, and play.

During the workshop A Case for Social Emergency Procedures, instructor Kenneth Bailey encouraged to think about local problems and brainstorm ideas of what small and unusual actions we could use to design citizen interventions and emergency procedures for social emergencies. While doing this, he played us a slideshow of images. Having identified Vancouver’s housing crisis as a social emergency, he juxtaposed news images of racial violence in Ferguson amid Vancouver’s shiny glass skyscrapers. Kenneth coaxed us to think about Vancouver’s dire housing situation as a “quiet violence” that was creating great harm.

I felt very uncomfortable watching images of injured black men in handcuffs amid images of newspaper clippings of million dollar houses. This is not the same. Our problem is not the same as that problem. That situation is insane and dire and unjust. Our problems are petty. Canada is a different society than the US. I don’t know how to solve that problem ran my inner monologue. I looked around the room – everyone sitting quietly in the circle around me looked equally unsettled.

Kenneth coaxed us to talk about the housing issue in the city. What began as a few gripes about finding affordable housing turned into a larger group conversation about struggle, displacement, poverty, fear, diminishing community, homelessness, lack of trust, racism, and sadness. One group member offered up that we might now be seen as the “meanest city” (rather than the city’s official slogan of greenest city). Kenneth showed us that discussing issues from a range of viewpoints moved us collectively forward towards action. Sitting in uncomfortable silence didn’t get us anywhere.

More importantly, talking about one issue does not diminish the power of another.

In my frustration with recent world events, it’s easy not to say anything in the fear that I’ll mis-step or take away from the potency of what others are trying to say, but that’s a lazy excuse. Deep down, I know that my voice, even though it is a middle-class privileged white Canadian voice, can still lend itself to amplifying a larger choir, even if the song is not my own or about events happening close to home.

Black Lives Matter.

Don’t shoot in my name.

Hate is unacceptable.

If you are feeling quiet, I hope you’ll join into the conversations that need you most.

Books, Creativity, Ecourse, Uncategorized, Writing Life

Mixing It Up in 2015

Bang by Ai Wei Wei at the Vancouver Art Gallery, December 2014. A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on

I gave up making New Years Resolutions a few years ago. Instead, I’ve adopted a theme word for each year – last year’s word was JOY (and amid the ups and downs of life, there was a lot of it) and this year’s word is STRETCH. For me this means trying new things, taking on projects that I haven’t done before, and expanding the limits of my comfort zone.

Over the next few months, I’ll be filling my time with some exciting projects, including:

  1. Changing my e-newsletters to come out every two weeks. Not on the list? You can sign up here. I started to publish to my list monthly this past fall but lost momentum over the holidays. With blogging and e-newsletter writing, my biggest hurdle is not keeping up the habit. This year I really want to prove to myself that I can do this. 35 newsletters – here we come! (the next one comes out tomorrow – January 4th!)
  2. A website redesign – my current site is not reflecting my goals and interests. I’ll be doing gradual updates over the next month. Keep your eye out for changes. While my focus has been primarily on textiles and street art, I intend to start blogging more about design, making, and the intersection of culture with all of these things that we touch and make by hand.
  3. My first e-course! Launching February 1, I’ll be sending out a weekly prompt via STITCHED STORIES to inspire stories for textiles, or textile stories (as you wish). The course will run for 12 weeks and this first session will be free. Let’s write together, it will be fun. I’m limiting this run to 50 people tops, so sign up early.
  4. An ideation class  – I’m taking a night class at a local design program on brainstorming ideas, and I’ll share what I learn as I go. I’m looking at getting a fresh perspective on how to generate new ideas. Plus, I’m super-excited to be around young graphic designers again.
  5. Sewing clothes and trying to figure out my new Serger. I may need your help figuring this one out.

It seemed like 2014 was a mixed bag for many people I know, and there is a feeling of optimism about the coming year. 2015 – I think you are going to be a good one.


Did you receive Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles as a holiday gift? Drop me a comment on this post and let me know what you think of it!

And, thanks to the Surface Design Association for naming Strange Material a must-have book for 2014. I’m honoured!

Creativity, DIY Ideas, Textiles

Simple DIY: Six Word Short Story Bracelets

A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on

This weekend I decided to spend equal times working (e.g.: digging myself out from mountains of email) and playing (getting out my old sewing machine). While the garment that I sewed myself was not perfect (hello, wrinkly hem!), I have to say that forcing myself to try a project that stretched my boundaries in a weekend really set me on the path of wanting to sew again which is something that I haven’t spent a serious amount of time on in a few years.

Now I’m super-excited to try a bunch of new patterns, which lead me to thinking about how the writing and story process often starts the same way for me – you have to start with something small, like a sentence, to get to something much bigger, like a finished book. In the spirit of this, I thought I’d finally share the project that I designed to take to School House Craft earlier this fall – the Six Word Short Story Bracelet. If you are looking to start in textiles with story (or vice-versa), this is a very basic project that can get you started.

Can you tell a story in six words? This project is a great way to try. 

Ernest Hemingway was challenged in a bar bet to compose a story of only six words. He did: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Since this time, thousands of people have written six word stories, and you should too!

Here’s some examples of other six word stories (from the excellent website www.sixwordstories.net):

Left handed woman seeks Mr. Right (by Amber)

Nerdy Kid. Rocket Launcher. Bully Gone! (by Captain Doom)

Three Blind Mice, Cat Had Lunch (by Joe Douglas)

Sharp New Yellow Pencil, Limitless Potential (by Melissa Wilson)

Here’s How to Make It: Supplies:

    • a pen and paper
    • Cotton twill tape or a natural fibre ribbon 6-8 inches in length, 2-3 inches in width. If you will ever launder the bracelet, you should pre-wash the twill tape.
    • scissors
    • sewing needle
    • thread
    • snaps are specified in these directions, but buttons, Velcro, and jewelry clasps work well too.
    • tiny rubber alphabet stamps (smaller in size than the width of the ribbon) or fabric markers which will dye the fabric. I purchased my stamps at Michael’s in the party favours section, and each set only cost me $1.50 for the full alphabet.
    • fabric-ink (I purchased a brand called Momento Luxe, but any fabric paint will work)
    • an iron and a pressing cloth
    • pinking shears (optional)

 

A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on

 Step 1: Write your Six Word Story/Poem – Take a pen and a scrap of paper and WRITE! Don’t hesitate, just try! (turn this page over and use the back!) Write the first thing that comes out of your head. Usually we have something in our subconscious that is dying to get out. Go with it. Not sure? Read it aloud to another person  and get their feedback. There’s no right way or wrong way to write a six word short story, but it might be easier to think that your six words have a ‘beginning’, a ‘middle’, and a ‘end’. Don’t like it? Write another – just six words. Keep going until you come up with one that you like. Go as fast as you can – eliminate your inner editor! Have a story that you like? Good! Now, pick your favourite one and transform it into a bracelet! Don’t like it? Start writing again!

Step 2: Make Your Bracelet ­– Cut a length of ribbon to fit your wrist (6-8″ is standard). Pinking shears will give a semi-finished edge, but I also recommend finishing ends with binding tape, or hand sewing a finished edge. Using a flat ribbon is recommended but pieces of linen, binding tape, and twill tape, in a natural fibre, will also work for printing. Attach a clasp to the wrong (non-shiny side) of the ribbon.

Step 3: Print Your Poem – Using rubber stamps and archival ink, your poem will be stamped onto the ribbon. I suggest planning where each word will go (words longer than 10 letters may take some creative placement) before you stamp, and then stamping one letter at a time. It may be erratic and look a bit messy, but both life and stories are like that, so embrace your mistakes. Don’t have rubber stamps? Handwrite your message onto the ribbon with a fabric ink pen. Decide what kind of handwriting works best for your story – is it script or block printed? Fine penmanship, or stylistic lettering? FInished writing or stamping it out? Ta-da, you now have a six word story bracelet!  

 

A photo posted by Leanne Prain (@leanneprain) on

Step 4: After Care – For longevity, I recommend heat-setting your ink with an iron once the ink is dried. Cover your bracelet with a ‘pressing cloth’ (a scrap piece of cotton or old pillowcase will work well) and iron the right-side (the inky side) for a few minutes with an iron set to medium heat (do not use the steam setting).

Step 5: Share Your Story – Stories are meant to be seen by others. I’d love to see a photo of your finished project or hear about your experience making it! Send it to me at info@leanneprain.com or @leanneprain!