Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Holiday Photos As a Source of Inspiration

MoMa 2018, New York
Wall in Turku 2016

Do you agree with me that holiday pictures come in masses? In the era of digital camera and smart phones taking one or two extra photos is easy. Scary to even think about that one would miss a moment just by thinking if it is worth the film. Photographing is an obsession, more evidence the better. As a result one trip to nearby town can lead to hundreds of photographs. At least I am very lazy in sorting out the shaky pictures from the good quality and thus my personal archives are full of both messy catches and something that would be nice to get in a paper album for future generations. As this will likely never happen, if someone doesn't do it for me, the archives get to be what they are.

One reason why I take so many photographs is that I want to gather all things that I find exciting, new and inspiring. Colours, forms,  curiosities. I enjoy architectural details like curvy old buildings and modern polished structures. Edgy streets and urban city space are equally fascinating. In a traditional photo album a collection of windows would seem a personal option.

Few days ago I started going through my archives with a different thought. Maybe a pile of old photos could become a quilt. Instead of feeling sorry for all these old pictures that will likely disappear one day when some digital format changes, those could turn into works that survive from time. There would be no photo album but an artistic interpretation of a certain trip that would make the essence of the holiday memorable. 

To get the creative juices flowing with new quilt projects I took a notebook and pencil and began sketching. The technique is simple. First I went through pictures from 2016 when I visited in southern Finland. I went through all the material very quickly. Every now and then I concentrated on a photo, chose one detail and sketched it to my notebook. I got few pages full of small drawings. In the process some forms began to live and I studied those further after the sketching session. 

The technique was easy to practice and the photos I had taken served as a source of inspiration as I had once intended. Now I shall go through more recent archives as it was fun to go back to those moments and memories that the original pictures hold. I showed these new sketches on my Instagram stories some days ago and asked if you recognize the real thing behind the processed and more abstract sketch. Here I put the original picture under the sketch so you get a clue what I am meaning with this technique.

Ship masts at Turku 2016

Street lights in Helsinki 2016
Could I find a detail that would turn into a pattern in these photos. We will see.

Staten Island Ferry 2018, New York

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Crafting is a Philosophy of Solutions

Happy Valentine's Day to you all! It has been long since I have been posting something DIY related to my blog. In November I decided that I need to take a short break in the making and creating. The year had been hectic and I had done many quilt works as well as some DIY projects among work and studying. Dear time is limited to 24 hours per day for each and everyone of us even though it would be nice to bend the limit and do more. 

Last weekend I got my knitted scarf finished and I am looking forward to give you a picture of that soon. Relatively small knitting projects have been all that I have done during the break. My knitting projects haven't been that artistic, legwarmers, beret, and scarf become to a need. I should still knit one pair of woolen socks. I actually began that project an year ago. Knitting is not my media for self expression and I am not that fond of it. I do love knits and admire people who create and make beautiful works.

Crafter without a project is a ticking time bomb. Suddenly issues that were manageable before become huge, odd behavior and anxiety occur. At least for me all those are sings that information is not moving between the two halves of my brain. I had the papers and sequins on my table for two weeks and I had no lust to begin anything. After spending few days in a weird state were world consisted mainly on barriers and everything felt scary there was no other way out than to sit down, take the scissors and papers and craft the anxiety out. I don't remember ever in my life spending more than a month in a row without doing any craft at all. Sounds pompous but crafting is like breathing, eating and sleeping for me. It gives a concrete result that is tangible. The process of making makes the whole body work as one, hands do their task in co-operation with the brain. Problems get solved with one stitch and glue drop at a time. Afterwards the issues that caused anxiety turn out be similar in nature, possible to handle and fix if necessary.

World of concepts is endless like space. I believe it is not just me who needs concrete projects at times. Can it be that some day we people evolve into species that only lives inside of our minds, processing concepts and emotions? Or is our consciousness bound in to the physical and tangible so deeply that if the tie breaks we start to come up with problems? I have been reading a lot lately and I love bingeing books. Yet it began to feel that that surfing in the world of concepts made reality seem unrecognizable and difficult to handle. It is about balance, both reading & philosophy and creating & crafting in good doses without forgetting the other. 

Now that Valentine's Day cards have been made it is a good start to begin crafting year 2019 stitch by stitch. Today mail got me a Valentine's card from my friend who must have sensed my moods behind the 1000 kilometers. She knew to write exactly right words to the moment and I am ever grateful receiving her card. Most of the time when we ponder our problems, we don't concentrate on the visible and easy solutions. Instead of that we come up with imagined nonsense that bounds us by making things even more complicated. Maybe it is paper and scissors that help to see what is real and what is imagined.


I guess you will be able to make these cards just looking at the picture but I will share short instructions so you can get your hands to the reality as well.

Valentine's Cards

-cardboard boxes (from oatmeal, cereals..)
-colorful paper (from old calendar, magazine, or craft stacks)
-paper glue

Make a model for the heart and cut three hearts from the cardboard, and three from the colorful paper. Apply glue to the patterned side of the cardboard, place the ribbon to the middle and put the colorful paper on top. Place the second heart similarly to the row. With the third heart turn the end of the ribbon so that you get a loop and then place the colorful paper on top. Decorate hearts with sequins and write lovely Valentine's wishes behind the hearts.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Back to the Future

This post has nothing to do with Robert Zemeckis' movie from the 1980s but I could not resist using the name of the movie in the title as it compresses the core of this post. Ever since I watched Amanda Foreman's historical documentary series The Ascent of a Woman I have acknowledged that history is not a linear route towards a better world for all. For example in the perspective of the history of women, women's rights have gone to both directions, back and forth. At times things go better and in some place, time or ideology to worse direction. Sure by saying better or worse is a matter of the values and world view. 

Revolution, progress and reformation. What kind of meaning these words get is dependent on the personal view, ideology and life experiences. Progress can sometimes be a ticket back to the history were current achievements don't exist. This is the main theme that came to my mind when reading the first ten books to the new reading challenge, 100 books in a year, that I took this year. The boos I have read are various in their themes, characters and happenings but this thought began to evolve on my head after reading Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963). Friedan's work is a feminist classic that addresses the problem when women are bound to their homes and excluded from other fields of society. Women had been active in society in the beginning of the 1900s but in the late 1930s there became a thought that women belong to home, housekeeping, taking care of the needs of their husbands and children. When before women were active in the universities and academic life as well as in their careers, now it was thought that it s more characteristic for women to be at the home environment. 

It was a total brainwash that went though United States and had serious consequences. It was not question about a woman's choice to be a housewife anymore but a way of thinking that directed all women to make this decision because it was thought to be in woman's nature to feel most satisfied when outside the career and academic world. Women became bored in their homes as housework didn't satisfy their ambitions and needs. Yet the whole society began to believe in this so called truth and even studies supported this fact. The education in the colleges was modified to fit the needs of this society where women were at home. Lectures focused on issues that were related to women's future role as housewives. Otherwise with too much knowledge and ambition it would have been difficult to adapt to the given role. When before women had been studying the same issues as men now it was thought that women can't comprehend nor find useful the academic, theoretical and political concepts. Magazines that were directed to women changed the subjects of their articles towards practical information about beauty, home and raising children. To defend oneself against boredom and lack of meaning in life housekeeping was turned into practice that demanded time, set of various skills and specialized products. 

Women began to get married earlier than before and neglected the need for studying. They didn't have the part in their lives when they would have pondered their own identity and grown in to their selves. Women had been active many fields of society in the 1920s and 1930s. Now they were home. And all this happened just some decades ago from the time we live now, 2019. It was backed with theories, studies and societal discussions and in the end people were made to really believe in a society where men had careers, ambitions and lives outside their homes and women acted solely in the home environment. There was no question whether it was good for society and it's members. I saw a trailer of the new movie On the Basis of Sex that is about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and comes to Finnish cinemas on March. In the trailer there is a man who works as a carer at home but law doesn't acknowledge that men could work as carers. It always makes one think who then benefits of the systems that are unequal if it makes harm for the people living in the system. What is the mechanism that gives birth to these constructions that end up destroying lives and dreams with restrictions. 

Azar Nafisi describes her own and her friends experiences during the revolution and war in the 1980s and 1990s Iran. In her memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003) she opens the feelings they have to go through when things she had taken for granted were took from her and society she was a member of changed and began to exclude her and people like her. After studying in the United States for several years she returns to her homeland to teach at the University of Tehran. She loves her work as a professor of literature and academic world she is a part of. It is eye opening when Nafisi writes that there were no division between the so called West and Middle East, in both people lived in freedom, lifestyle was similar and both men and women had similar rights. She didn't see those worlds as separate or far from each other. In her memoir she says how she couldn't have thought that universities in Iran could be closed or that all women could be forced to wear scarves, but after few months both unimaginable things became part of her reality. The process seems rapid and vast and makes one really see that unthinkable can happen. 

Nafisi's work as professor became difficult because of more restrictions and surveillance. Her specialty is English literature and books she discussed on her lectures were seen to be against the moral  and representing western values. Finding the books was not an easy task either as book shops that sold foreign literature were closed. Who then made all this happen, for who it served? In her youth Nafisi wanted revolution and change too. There were rights she took for granted and wanted progress. Then at one point progress got different forms and people began to adjust. Topics in the university lectures changed to fit in the current norm. The changes were small but when one came on top of the other the society and it's understanding of right and wrong began to change. 

In one situation Nafisi talks with Mr. Bahri who can't understand why she makes such a big issue about the scarf that he refers as a piece of cloth. In his opinion the revolution and it's outcome is greater and more important than the detail that all women have to wear scarves. Nafisi then questions that is it really a piece of cloth? She sees it's meaning for those who live in faith and thinks that it would be wrong that people who don't share that faith would be forced to wear it. One has to be careful when something is seen as given. Things are not that simple and there are turning points that reveal the true meaning. What Mr. Bahri called a piece of cloth had become a symbol of power and it was separated from it's original meaning as part of one's personal faith. Even though Nafisi takes part to the resistance in the end she has to wear scarf because of the regulations and what might follow if she would break those. She also has to leave her work at the university because she is not ready to adapt the new rules. In her much loved homeland she became an outsider, she lost her profession, the safety of her everyday life and her body. When she decides to leave Iran she takes small objects that remind her of the reality of her home country because she wants to remember what exists in that reality when she is mentally and physically far from it. 

Sometimes it is said that things go backwards and return to something that existed in history. I think it is not possible. Instead of that, progress can take us to a place where something we thought was only possible in history becomes reality in our time. We think that on top of what we already have we just keep getting more, that we can't lose. When we visit in the world of history we tend to see it as underdeveloped compared to what we have. This creates blindness to current state of progress and where it can take us. 

Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen tells about the life of the sex workers in Finland in the beginning of the 1800s (Musta-Maija ja Kirppu-Kaisa. Seksityöläiset 1800-luvun alun Suomessa, 2018). Vainio-Korhonen uses the real names of these women in her book to tells their whole stories without the curtain of shame or modesty that might actually judge these people. Practicing sex work in that time was not judged in a way we might think. Sex work was one part of  these women's lives. It didn't label a person and it was possible to find relationship, get married, have family, friends and another work at the same time. Sex work was not criminal until 1900s and after that women's lives and their possibilities became more narrow and sex work was a strong stigma. Alcoholism, experiences of abuse and poverty were connected to sex work in some peoples lives but not always. Official authority made STD checks for women and men that were suspected to have these diseases and sex workers were among them. Otherwise the surveillance was directed to loose lifestyle. Loose lifestyle meaning drinking in public, swearing, homelessness, lack of job or family to take care of, was punishable. What then was the course of happenings that led to the stigma in 1900s? The attitudes towards female sexuality and sexuality in general changed in the Victorian era. Before in the 1700s and in the beginning of the 1800s it had been seen important that both men and women enjoy sex because it was thought to be essential part of fertilization. New knowledge about the subject showed that woman can get pregnant without enjoying sex and attitudes towards female sexuality changed. Also in Victorian era women became more bound to home and to a role of a mother. Self-control and modesty became the goals. Sex work was far from this new ideal. 

So we have visited in the beginning of 1800s Finland, 1940-1960s United States and 1980s-1990s Iran. When I listed the books I have read in January I came to think the first book on the list. Svetlana Aleksijevitsh Seconhand Time: The Last of the Soviets (Vremja second hand, 2013) that focuses on the essence of the Soviet era, role of the ideology in peoples lives and time that followed the Soviet Union. The book focuses on same themes as I found from the other works, change, progress and how differently we experience it. Aleksijevitsh has interviewed people who have lived in the Soviet Union. They tell how life was, people talked politics in their kitchens, read books and dreamed of the better world. People don't try to hide the ugly part of the Soviet Union, persecutions and violence practiced against people. People reported their friends, neighbors and relatives to the authorities. One would think that when Soviet Union fall down it would have been fulfillment of dreams. But the ideology and shared dream was strong. For some capitalism offered all they wanted, possibility to make business and collect money. But the other part still believed the utopia of a better world and that even though horrible things had happened the ideology was bigger and things could be repaired and the land of dreams could become true. 

Sometimes we glimpse on the future when we travel back in time. We can focus on what went wrong and what lead to the current state. It might be difficult to see the errors clearly because it is the summary of our own actions and current values and ideologies. As in this time we both act in our own place as well as drift with the feeling that we have no real power. It is challenging to estimate afterwards if we were part of the reason or just mere victims. Encouraging it is that good things that were possible back in time can become possible again. It makes us humble when we see that generations before us might have known something great to exist that we have then lost, Back to the Future.

Books I have read to 100 books in a year challenge so far are:

1. Svetlana Aleksijevitsh: Neuvostoihmisen loppu. Kun nykyhetkestä tuli second handia. (Vremja second hand)
2. Carolin Emcke: Halu (Wie wir begehren)
3. Betty Friedan: Naisellisuuden harhat (The Feminine Mystique)
4. Max Porter: Grief is the thing with feathers
5. Shahad Al Rawi: The Baghdad Clock
6. Yaa Gyasi: Matkalla kotiin (Homegoing)
7. Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen: Musta-Maija ja Kirppu-Kaisa. Seksityöläiset 1800-luvun alun Suomessa.
8. Jennifer Egan: Manhattan Beach.
9. Olli Jalonen: Taivaanpallo
10. Azar Nafisi: Lolita Teheranissa. Kirjalliset muistelmat. (Reading Lolita in Tehran. A Memoir in Books)

This year I am doing the reading challenge posts to my blog in a different way than last year. Instead of even trying to write about all 100 books that I am intending to read in 2019 I thought that a post after every ten books would be great way to share reading experiences and discuss about the topics. I will try to post all books separately to my Instagram and write few words. Then after ten books I sketch a theme that came to my mind from the ten books at hand. I will share the complete list of reads on my blog at the same post. Time doesn't permit to spend so much time  to this one thing as 100 book posts would demand. In this challenge, compared to the 52 books in a year, reading takes more hours every evening. I have to say that I have enjoyed every hour spent on books and reading has become a way of life that I could not give up. There is
an hour or two every day that I have been able to pick a book and concentrate in to it's world and this has made my life even  more fulfilling and I feel I am learning daily something new whether it is a novel, collection of poetry or non fiction that I am going through.

Do you have thoughts or reading experiences you would like to share under the back to the future theme? Please leave a comment to this post or Instagram and lets discuss!