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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Slowly Cracking The Code

I made this necklace several months ago.  The design was inspired by the large purple and orange oval-shaped bead.  The bead in question was included as a free gift with a set of beads I had ordered from Z-Beads, and, funnily enough, it found a happy home in a necklace before the beads I actually ordered did!

The construction of this necklace was fairly simple, just stringing with no seed bead weaving or wire work.  But it took me several tries to get it to look the way I wanted.  When I first gathered beads together for this project, I didn't have the round dark purple beads or the tiny silver beads (which you may or may not be able to see in the picture).  When I first strung the other beads together, I thought it looked okay, but I didn't feel like there was any place for the eye to rest.  I added the tiny silver beads at that point to break up the larger beads.  It was an improvement, but then I decided that I needed the dark purple beads to bring out the dark purple stripes in the large bead.

I've been making jewelry for many years at this point.  I remember when I was younger, I ended up with a lot more pieces that were just okay, but weren't exactly what I was envisioning.  Part of the problem in the earlier years was that I didn't always understand what was lacking in the pieces.  If all the beads looked great sitting together, why didn't they look so great when they were strung or woven together?  Even when I did understand what was wrong, I didn't always know how to fix it.  Or--and I know this will sound like a justification for both buying and hoarding beads--I didn't have the materials on hand to fix the problem and became frustrated.

I'm trying to keep this all in mind now as I try to figure out sewing.  I did some sewing as a teenager, and started dabbling in it again a few years ago.  Sewing has mostly been a series of lessons for me so far.  Some of the garments I've made have been pretty wonky looking (zipper insertion is often the culprit in these cases).  Others have looked fine on their own, but did not look particularly nice on me once I tried them on.  (Unlike store-bought clothing, of course, there is nowhere to return handmade clothing that doesn't work out.)  I took a step back recently, though, and made a very simple top with no zippers or buttons to cause problems, and while it is by no means perfect, I'm pleased with how it turned out.  In fact, I'm encouraged enough that I am currently working on a tunic based on the same pattern.

Ira Glass has a wonderful quote that I think applies to almost any creative endeavor.  I like to keep it in mind when something I'm working on isn't quite panning out:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I take this to mean that after some more time of sewing project lessons (and maybe even a few things I can wear in public), I might develop some sort of intuition for successful sewing, just as I've developed more intuition for making jewelry over the years.  In any case, it's nice to be reassured that a trail of lackluster creations may lead somewhere good.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day, everyone!  For years, I've wanted to celebrate this momentous occasion (by adding an "e" and eating pie, not by doing math problems), but it sneaks up on me every year and I don't end up doing anything.  This year, however, Pi Day coincided with a SNOW day in my neck of the woods, so I had some spare time.  To celebrate, I made a funny looking free form tart.

I was happy to have an unexpected day off and an excuse to make a dessert.  I am pleased that the tart I made tasted better than it looks.  And, above all, I am grateful that I am not trying to make a living with a food blog.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My Dialect Is Deficient!

One of the classes I'm taking this semester is Phonetic Transcription.  I've had some questions about what exactly that means, so in a nutshell, this is a way to represent speech as people are actually pronouncing it.  Instead of using standard spelling, you use International Phonetic Alphabet symbols to represent individual sounds.  As you might imagine, this is a great way to uncover patterns of sounds people might be having trouble producing.

Anyway, we've been discussing vowel sounds in American English recently.  The official line is that dialectal variations are fine, and that no one dialect is superior to another.  (I can say from experience that many people's attitudes differ from this official line).  One feature of my own dialect that has re-entered my mental universe is that I generally do not distinguish between /ɑ/ and /ɔ/.  For people who do distinguish between these two sounds, think about the difference in the vowel sounds in cot and caught.  I've known for some time that I don't usually distinguish between the two sounds (I think ahh... vs. aww... might be the only time I distinguish between the two), but what I didn't realize until now is that I'm not consistently correct about where the /ɔ/ sound "should" be. I don't mind not distinguishing between the two sounds, but for some reason, I find not knowing where /ɔ/ might show up vaguely annoying.

Another thing I've noticed is that while I, like many other people, have tried to rid my speech of certain "non-prestigious" features (see my observation above regarding people's attitudes about different dialects), I have not been totally successful.  For me, the feature I've focused on is distinguishing between /ɪ/ and /ɛ/ before nasal consonants (pin vs. pen is a classic example of this).  I've gotten that particular pair of words down for the most part, but then in class, our instructor mentioned friend as an example of a word with the /ɛ/ vowel sound.  I pronounce it with /ɪ/.  Fortunately, of course, in this case, the difference in pronunciation does not change the meaning of the word.

I'll be interested as time goes on to learn more about which dialectal features are associated with which regions.  I was born and raised in North Carolina, and my parents are from Alaska and Michigan.  In addition to North Carolina, I have lived in Ohio, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Virginia.  And I've also had several stints living in other countries.  I'm curious if my speech fits into a certain regional profile fairly neatly, or if it's a hodgepodge of all the dialectal influences I've had.