I find that a lot of my maturity as an artistic, creative person has come from subtle realizations about how I interact with the world. It’s the stuff that you don’t even realize it’s there until you see it. Like how a fish is unaware of water. Here is one that came out of a conversation with my husband this morning when he was surprised that an online coworker asked for clarity rather than looking up a word she didn’t know. Research has shown that children who work to please their parents learn better and more deeply than children working merely to please the teacher. This is one reason why parental involvement in education is so crucial to a child’s success. Kids who believe that learning “big words” and “fancy grammar” and “boring algebra” is something that is imposed upon them from outside the family unit don’t feel invested in learning these types of things. It’s for “other people,” and they comply as long as they feel that they’re “supposed to” or even “forced to” do it. Because it’s not important in the family culture, these kids feel that these things are merely important for getting a good grade. It’s external. This is evidenced in the reality that nearly 40% of adults don’t read books. In short, once there’s no longer anyone pushing them, many people stop pursuing structured, intentional learning. On the other hand, as we move from being children to being adults, we gradually stop doing things because
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Category: Ginger’s Musings
Know thyself. I’m a huge fan of understanding your natural, default human personality “settings” so that you can learn to use them effectively and also to learn to work around them when they trip you up. We’ve all heard of introverts and extroverts. Thinkers and feelers. Optimists and pessimists. But one you may not have heard of is convergent and divergent thinkers. Convergent and divergent thinking are thinking styles that describe the way someone comes to conclusions. Convergent Thinking Do you take ideas and CONVERGE them into a single answer? Convergent thinking works well when you’re trying to simplify something or when there needs to be a single, definite answer. This thinking style takes a cluster of various pieces of information and brings them together toward a specific solution. This a powerful skill when a group needs to come to a consensus. Even making a simple decision, such as what to cook for dinner, requires convergent thinking. Divergent Thinking Or do you DIVERGE and go off in a bunch of directions? Divergent thinking is best when you are brainstorming complex problems or when there is no correct solution. With this style of thinking, you see each problem as a starting point and move away from the problem, often in several directions at once, to find possibilities. Divergent thinking helps others in your group discover new ways to see a problem and see what could be possible. When planning dinner, a divergent thinker might consider having a rotating dinner with friends
While some of us loved our time at school, I think that the term “education” often conjures up negative feelings as can be evidenced in the line from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. That kind of education is imposed upon people and is more akin to indoctrination. But education doesn’t have to be like that! I like to think of education as a process where you understand a concept and then can apply it in a real-life situation. It’s not just something you witnessed, memorized, or “just learned for the test”. I think we all know that kind of learning doesn’t get you anywhere. Education, properly done, gives you ample opportunity to apply what you’ve learned. It’s easy to forget something you memorized, such as a list of historical dates. But if you can apply what you’ve learned and you truly understand the information, the concepts become real knowledge. Those applied facts become a tool you can use forever. So, what does this mean for you? I saw this tweet the other day that captures my point well. If you’re only learning, without applying what you’ve learned, the process is incomplete. It’s like memorizing lists of dates. It goes in but it doesn’t create a change in your understanding and can’t be easily applied. You will get far more out of what you learn if you also apply it. And what’s the best way to apply what you’ve learned? Focus on doing. By doing, your brain translates, applies, and reformulates what
After many years of children, pets, and a cleaning schedule that’s less than robust, I finally splurged on a cleaning service to get our home back to a presentable condition. There had been a lot of neglect, so I wasn’t surprised after the first week to see some areas that needed more work. On the second visit, I pointed out the missed shower mildew and the toothpaste splatters above the sink. I was less than pleased to meet with resistance from the lead cleaner. You see, they have protocols. They clean a certain way. And that’s when I realized the problem. The guy cleaning the bathroom was told a certain way to use the spray, hold his cloth, wipe in a certain direction. His objective was clear. Follow the process. His objective was NOT to remove the visible mildew and make the tile shine. He was not paid to clean my bathroom. He was paid to follow the cleaning procedures. He was disconnected from the outcome. I do understand why this happens. In manual labor or assembly-line work environments, it’s common to use Theory X style management, where a person is closely controlled and given little autonomy. Work protocols are externally imposed. You’re rewarded for following the protocols most closely. This is opposed to Theory Y style management, where a person is given autonomy to take responsibility for the outcome and decide their own best approach. In Theory Y style work environments, work procedures are internally and individually implemented. You’re
In chemistry, when you’re calculating how much product you’re going to get from a reaction, there’s something called a “limiting reagent”. Once that reagent is used up, the reaction stops, and you don’t get any more of the final product. This makes sense. Even if my kitchen table is large and I have a lot of food, I can only seat the same number of people as I have chairs. Four chairs means only four people can be seated at the table. The number of chairs is my limiting factor. Money is often our limiting factor in life, preventing us from traveling or buying a larger home. But for others of us, the limiting factor might be time, physical energy, knowledge, or even interest. When it comes to your creative work, what is your limiting factor? Is it skills? Free time? Inspiration? Take a few minutes to think about that. I’m serious. Really think about it. What limits you and keeps you from creating effectively and happily? Now…is it true? This is one of those things that we tend to have knee-jerk answers for. “If I only had more time!” or “There’s just not enough money.” What IS your limiting factor? What ONE THING, is often in short supply, and if you had more of it, would allow your “creative chemical reaction” to continue?
I’m always busy, it seems. Everyone is. There is never enough time to do all that we need to do. I think part of this is because we overschedule ourselves and underestimate how long it will take to do something. But a growing problem is the one of distraction. It seems that I never am able to sit down and just DO ONE THING anymore. Messages pop up on my computer, emails come in, my phone dings. I’ve always been highly distracted and novelty-seeking. It’s one of the reasons why I get frustrated easily. But our modern world exploits this normal human trait. There’s always something interesting going on and it means that our brains desperately seek easy stimulation when our work becomes difficult. And there is no shortage of easy stimulation bombarding us all the time! This has been bothering me for a long time. How it’s nearly impossible to do anything deep or that requires concentration. This is discussed thoroughly in Cal Newport’s two books Deep Work and Digital Minimalism. The constant interruptions, even when they’re short or require little action, take a toll on our ability to really deeply consider what we’re doing. Anastasia Kondel shared her distorted cane in the Community…a mistake that happened because she was in a hurry and not taking the time to deeply consider what she was doing. (We’ve ALL been there.) If we’re all distracted (both in the workplace and the art studio), then what does this mean for our world’s
I get a lot of teasing about how I “Gingerize” everything I write. Way too much detail, lots of explanation, too much setting up of context. (Point taken. I even drive myself nuts sometimes.) Being succinct and concise means that we can get to the point much more quickly. I get that. And the short form of social media helps us learn to do that. But short-form also means that a lot of misunderstandings happen. People post simplistic questions on social media, without giving background or even enough information, and then misunderstandings happen. Yesterday, someone asked, “How do you clean glaze from your brush?” Um, well, what kind of glaze? Polymer clay doesn’t use a glaze. Does this person mean Sculpey Glaze? Or another varnish? Resin? Or perhaps they’re using nail polish? How would we know? But sadly, people actually answered this. Two answers given were “wash in the sink” and “acetone”. Okay, nobody learned anything from this interchange! It just added to the confusion and misinformation that the original poster and the readers had. The new generation of earring makers has a very specific style of earring that they make, using a very specific and limited making process. (Essentially, they’re making cookies.) Very often, they’re confused about “sanding”. So they ask questions like “I’m struggling with sanding…help!” But few of these makers are actually sanding their pieces. They’re using a felt buffing wheel on their Dremel to scuff and round the edges. So when one of us comes along and
All week I’ve been trying to get a video done for you about storing veneers, but it’s like my head’s been full of cotton wool. I feel fine, but I’m soooo tiiiiirrreeed. As I stared out the window this morning, whining about how I immediately quit everything I start because I’m sooo tiiirreedd, my husband looked at me and said, “You think it’s the shot?” Of course! I had my second shot on Sunday. All I’ve done this week is sleep. That’s probably not the cause, but I’m going with it. I’m blaming the shot. So I’ll get a video to you soon. In the meantime, enjoy this great podcast from Seth Godin about Architecture and how the pressures on the way that architects are paid has caused our commercial buildings and our McMansions to look the way they do. The point made in this 27-minute podcast (the meaty part is shorter) is highly relevant for how we choose to work and teach the way we do, too. I think you’ll find it interesting. Seriously. And I’d love to discuss it with you.
Someone asked me about gold leaf recently, so I wrote a little post. You can read it here. In that post, I wanted to address the issue of metal leaf tarnishing and why it’s better to use a different type of leaf that’s become available recently, that doesn’t seem to tarnish. But before I opened my big mouth about how it didn’t tarnish, I did a little test. I took a sheet of the normal gold-colored composite metal leaf (Mona Lisa brand) and also a sheet of this new “cheap stuff from China” gold leaf. I laid both of them on my work table and on each I applied a drop of regular cider vinegar and a few sprinkles of table salt. I stuck around long enough to watch the vinegar fumes shrivel the foil (both types) and then the Mona Lisa leaf began to turn first silver and then copper color. The other one didn’t change. I left the room and went on my way. My assumptions were confirmed! Last night, I went into my studio for something and was very surprised to see this. Here’s the Mona Lisa metal leaf. Not only did it turn copper-colored (expected) and started to turn green/verdigris (also expected), it also disintegrated and completely dissolved! Whoa! And for comparison, the cheap “metal” leaf, which I don’t really think is metal at all, looked like this. You can see where the salty vinegar spot dried. And you can see how the whole sheet is