Technology and Creativity

This post was written by Mary Elizabeth O’Toole

Here it is time for another tech Tuesday piece so I have been considering what I wanted to cover. This has got me thinking about how I use technology tools in my work, and about how these various tools influence my process and my projects. This reflection is not something new for me. During previous work and study, I have thought and written about how I find that there is an impact on my journaling and portfolio development that reflects whether I write by hand or type into a document. It isn’t that quality or output is necessarily improved by one of these approaches but rather more that what I write and how I express myself differs.

It occurs to me that the same thing is true in my creative endeavours.  Our wood shop used to be almost divided in half with my hand tools on one side and Stephen’s power tools on the other. However, the more work and experimentation we do, the more we have each crossed to the other side because there are times when we want to efficiency or speed of power tools and others when the finesse or  more contemplative nature of a hand tool is what is needed. The result is that now our shop is more integrated and we use the technology AND the tool that best helps us achieve the desired result. In our case, that might range from an antique plane to a bandsaw or lathe or Stephen’s latest toy, the laser he described in a recent post.

Things are much the same in my sewing studio (ok, it is just a table in my office that holds my sewing machine but studio sounds so much more inspiring).  I now have an embroidery sewing machine that allows me more room for quilting, and offers more features for decorative stitches as well as the opportunity to customize projects with names or designs, like in the wedding quilt I shared on a recent post. I have only started exploring some of the ways to incorporate this technology in my work and have been having a great time experimenting and finding new ways to expand my abilities. However, there are some times and some projects when I prefer traditional hand work  or a combination of machine and hand components.

There have been times when I have encountered a kind of prejudice or hierarchy among creative groups, with one faction finding their approach superior. I have spoken with people who eschew machine quilting as ‘cheating’ and argue that quilting should be done by hand to honour the tradition of the art.  On the other hand, I know many quilters who prefer the look and process of machine quilting and suggest that hand quilting is old-fashioned and not as strong. Of course, there are many people who, like me, love and admire both approaches. I have been working on developing skill at free motion on my domestic machine and admit to coveting a longarm machine but also find that there is nothing to compare to the slow, steady, quiet work of trying to create a line of even and consistent hand quilted stitches.  That is why I own several sewing machines including my Baby Lock Unity and a Singer foot-operated straight stitch machine but I also have two frames from Barnetts’s Laptop Hoops (which I highly recommend, by the way).

My sewing room technology at the moment – set up with my lovely Baby Lock machine with my customized designed table from Stephen, my tablet (with the pattern for the bag I am making) – and my Barnett’s thread caddy (for hand quilting) in the background.

I have seen the same type of divisions among woodworkers, which is my other main passion. I imagine that same line of discussion happens in many other art communities as well.

So, today I am choosing to celebrate technology – new and old – and asking you to join the discussion and share your thoughts.

How has technology changed how you create or work on your art? Has it increased your efficiency or production? Has it encouraged you to take new directions in design or assembly? Has it led you to replace traditional approaches with a new skill set? Do you prefer combine new technology with older methods? What technology has really changed how your sew or quilt or do woodwork or whatever art your create? Do you think technology has made a positive change in your art or not? Or do you believe technology has not had an impact on your art or craft?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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