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Are you a maker or a designer?

Today I gave up on a book I've been reading (received it as a gift a few years ago) because I just cannot reconcile some of the statements -- they don't line up with my own beliefs about what constitutes creativity and creative expression. Since becoming a knitter, I've realized that I love that somebody else has done all the work -- the designing -- and created a pattern for me to follow. Sometimes I don't choose the same color yarn that the designer chose. Often I will reject the designer's yarn choice in favor of what I am able to get from my local yarn store. Regardless, I still prefer to knit from somebody else's pattern. Within that structure there is plenty of room for creativity and many, many wonderful designers to support.

Background: I was reading this post a couple of months ago and it really made me question MYSELF as to whether I would call myself primarily a maker. More recently, I pondered this post (an interview with Alicia Paulson at Create a Connection) in which she answers the question about whether she considers herself a maker or designer. And she nailed exactly how I feel about being happy in spite of choosing to be a maker. I hope you read both blog entries.

I don't intend to disparage the book I was reading, but I'm happy to be free of it now and the concept that I should feel a spiritual responsibility to answer the type of creative inclinations referenced in the book. On the contrary, I've found that my highest creative expression comes in the form of nuturing my relationships (family, friends). Successful living means having the ability to enjoy something for its own sake whether or not there is any reward (fame, fortune, recognition, or a buying public) involved. Knitting, making things, and working with my hands helps bring peace to my little corner of the world.

Are you happy enough to be a maker or are you somebody who's haunted by a creative urge to be or do more? A designer perhaps? (There's more than enough room for both of us -- one can hardly exist without the other). Is it possible I'm missing another category altogether? Has anybody noticed that in the knitting world, we're at the point of having a happy convergence making it an excellent time to be both . . . or either?

ETA: With regard to knitting, I think that many of us don't have to be either/or -- but for me, I've recognized that I get the most joy and peace from focusing on the making -- and that it sometimes involves tweaking and changing things to make it work. I'm not rigid about rules when following a pattern.

Also, there's something I've noticed among knitters who blog -- there is usually something creative that we all pursue that might or might not have anything to do with knitting. Knitting enhances our ability to be disciplined and proficient at those other things.


I guess I don't worry about the labels too much, as it would probably drive me crazy.

As for creativity, I do think it is a discipline. One can't be a great writer waiting for the Muse to visit. One has to write a lot (I am thinking of Anne Lamott's book, Bird by Bird and Twyla Tharp's book on creativity).

Maybe, after developing the discipline to do whatever it is very regularly, the making versus creating falls away. Sometimes you make as written, sometimes you tweak the pattern, sometimes you depart so much an outsider wouldn't see the connection. And maybe it's the ability to know which to do when, that constitutes the creativity.

Thanks for the links - particularly to Puttermeister's post. You definitely got me thinking! I think I'm primarily a maker. I occasionally have some insight into designing, but it isn't the primary way I approach knitting.

I would have to say that I am definitely, absolutely a 'maker' and not a designer! I have often wished that I could design - but have long since realized that I am happy to make beautiful things out of patterns that very gifted people have designed!

I am learning to be a maker, because I learn so much from following someone else's plans. Why reinvent the wheel? But maybe there should be a category, if we are categorizing, of alterer. Those who take others patterns and change them to fit themselves? Or maybe the makers could be subdivided into alterers and exacters. *giggle*

Now you've got me thinking...I think there is not only room in the world for both makers and designers, they are a necessity to each other - without designers there'd be no makers, and without the makers there'd be no need for designers. Personally, I make, I embellish, and I improvise. I can't stop myself from making changes to patterns, and sometimes I just grab the needles and go. I wouldn't call myself a designer. I am content to make beautiful knitting.

I agree. It does take creativity to make a pattern of some sort work for you. All of our lives are a pattern. They follow birth and living and growing and dying. It is what we do with them that makes a life.

I agree with Stacey!

I am definitely a maker, and that's what I LOVE about knitting. It seems that a lot of non-knitters view knitting as a creative outlet, but really, I am so thankful that someone else has done all the hard work (designing the pattern and picking out the yarn) and all I have to do is follow directions. Now, granted, most of the time I alter those directions in some way, or have a hard enough time even following them, but I also love getting lost in a pattern, and then figuring out how to get on the right track again (or thinking, Why did they design it that way? And taking a different approach to meet the same end.)

I think if I designed knits, I'd get too frustrated and it would take a lot of the methodic pleasure out of it. As it is, I can sit there with my entrelac, listening to Anna Karenina, and just get lost in my thoughts.

Very interesting post.

I think there is a shift in thinking...

The concept of enough.
That we don't have to do everything to be happy.

We can justBe... and that in itself is enough.

or maybe this thought process has been around all along, but blogging has a way of connecting everyone...

In terms of knitting, Maker! I have very fleetingly thought it would be great fun to design something and knit it and then i think, uhm, no.

I have other parts of my life where I am a designer, that part is more than covered, and one of the reasons I love to knit is that the Maker part of me (and I think we must have both Designer/Maker in all of us, kind of like the dark/light dichotomy) the Maker part of me just wants to find great patterns, and some wonderful string and a couple of sticks, and sit and knit. Drink some tea, think about the day, look at the pretty colour(s), feel the feel of a great fibre, and knit.

Great post, Janet. This is an issue I struggle with all the time. Irrationally, I feel like I'm not quite "doing enough" when I'm a maker. Being "haunted" is a great way to describe it. When non-knitters compliment my work, and say how creative it is, I internally feel the need to correct them and say, "But all I was doing was following a pattern - it wasn't creative at all!!" Don't get me wrong, I am not knocking "makers" and to date, that is what I have been - exclusively - but I am haunted to do more.

what a wonderful post...and thanks for the link to puttermeister's original post.
i think that i operate mostly as a creator. like puttermeister said about her writing, i love to create meaning. however, if i am honest with myself i love the opportunities to just be a maker. maybe thats why i tried knitting out, why i like to cross stitch, and hand quilt. the sense of loosing myself in not having to focus on "creating" is therapeutic, and the monotony of it all creates a zen space for my mind to relax. what's ironic about that...is that zen creates more space for my mind to create. i think that is what posie was saying about the simplicity being deceptively simple...and that there is lots of room within the simple to re-create.
so my answer is...in my perfect world...i am both, more creator...but allowing time to nourish the maker inside.

thanks for such a thought-provoking post.

I'm a maker. I know I wouldn't enjoy the knitting, ripping, reknitting of the design process. I like the serenity of knitting, striving to make each stitch better than the one before. I see this as the path to Nirvana.

Janet, I'm so appreciating your thoughts on this topic. I am content to have become a fairly proficient maker. Sometimes I get a vision of something in my head, and I suspect I could quite probably design a pattern for it, but I don't really want to. I want someone else to pluck it from my head, put it into patternese, and then I'll knit it.

Many thanks to Twisted Knitter for opening up this conversation, and for the link to the Alicia Paulson interview. I so very much appreciate reading others' thoughts on the subject--that is in part why I started blogging, so that I would cease knitting and writing "in a void" as someone once described it to me. Ironically, however, it is also the inspiring work I see on others' blogs that sometimes awakens the longing for something...more. Like Robin, I am often haunted. But what that "more" might be is difficult to define: some days, achieving a gauge swatch to pattern, for example, is nearly miraculous and incredibly satisfying, and others, it's merely... going through the motions.

A wise man once said to me, "Don't think. Make." (Reader, I married him.) Your collective thoughts on the matter help me to approach making with a fresh enthusiasm and (I hope) less latent self-castigation.