Thursday, July 28, 2011

Process vs. Product

I remember working on a project for school when I was little. After each step I completed, I ran into the living room to show my dad what I’d done. Eventually, he said, “That’s great! But why don’t you wait until you’re finished to show me?” This was my first glimpse at the division between Process and Product.

Interestingly, some twenty-cough-cough years later, I am still operating in the same way. As a knitter, I always have multiple projects on needles. I used to call myself an ADD-knitter, but I’m beginning to understand that it's not that I have an attention deficit, but rather that I enjoy the Process of knitting more than the finished Product.

I love to knit. I love trying new stitches or patterns and eventually mastering them. I love watching a garment take shape. Each time I make an earflap hat (check my Rav page, I’ve done a few), I get a thrill watching the short rows turn into little earflaps! But once I bind off that last stitch, that’s it – I’m finished. I’m ready to move on with zero emotional attachment to the finished item. In fact, I have a bin full of finished items, just waiting for the right recipient.

I’m beginning to see the same pattern with sewing, too.  I laughed at myself last week while I was working on my circle quilt. I was so excited about how the rows were coming together that I wanted to run upstairs and show my husband. He's a Product person so I refrained (I guess in that way I did marry my father).

You can also view Process versus Product from an astrological standpoint. I’m an Aries – a sign famous for starting things, but fizzling out on the follow-through. Thankfully I have Kristin, a Scorpio known for perfecting and finishing. We’re yin and yang: I design the pattern and knit the garment, then pass it to her. She's great with details, documents, and generally making our patterns beautiful and coherent. As we go through the revision process, I get to revisit my piece and make suggestions without having to get emotionally re-invested, which leaves me free to start the next design! She is a godsend and I'm so excited about this larger process, knowing I have her to keep me grounded!

To understand yourself as an artist and find joy in what you do creatively, figure out whether you’re a Process or Product person. Then accept yourself whatever the result! We’re all individuals doing what we love in our own way. There is no right or wrong – only what works best for you.

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