I was reading the article entitled ‘Illuminated Printing’ by Joseph Viscomi, which is available online here (but which I downloaded and printed from Cambridge Companions for my U Nott course) when I realized I needed a visual.
I have always had a keen respect and a deep interest in printing, such as letterpress, typewriting, even calligraphy, often wondering why I did not pursue more of a degree or education in the classical forms of the letter arts. I am still drawn to the craft of printing and harbor thoughts of a future in printing presses and a proper education to go with it.
Simply reading about William Blake’s absolute engraving genius was not enough, so I googled and found this video, entitled From Paper to Copper: The Engraver’s Process. The main reason I post it here is so that I will be able to reference it again myself, without scouring the recesses of my brain to remember where it was and why I liked it.
This morning John and I began over coffee what started out as a discussion about my life as a teacher and ended (if discussions of this nature ever end) as one that questioned the motives of institutional education. What responsibilities do school administrators have toward their staff? What guidance must we and dare we give our teachers, young and old? Who decides whether papers should be stapled to the hallway walls and who decides when it is time to give new room assignments?
All of this was on my mind when I found Jon Crispin and the Willard Suitcases Project via NPR. The project is manifold, and from the contents of the suitcases he photographs, many questions and many beauties arise. He is most obviously captivated by his art and craft and also by the people with whom he is working–living and gone, both. What I found so stirring in his blog were the realities unmentioned but clearly present: Who were these people? And, more pressingly, Why were they admitted to the Willard Asylum?
We have a need in our infinite humanity to institutionalize. We order, we organize, we keep zoological records, and we overdo it time and time again. Adam’s first task was to name the animals–a creative project given him by God. And for his naming and his categorization we have order and contrast and something altogether pleasing to the earth. But man is by no means content to stop there. We find order and we find it good, and then we go ballistic, drawing lines and squaring edges and removing what is on the other side or in the corner. Perhaps it is IN our nature to go to extremes, but it should not be OF our nature to remain there.
It is useful to think about all that has been lost in streamlining and mainstreaming and…institutionalizing our lives. I am reading a book right now called Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford–food for many a future post, I believe–and find that my thoughts are not unique. And gratefully do I find this true.
Part 1: Sir Ken Robinson I first heard of Ken Robinson back in ’08 when I was sharing TED Talks with my Academic Writing classes and my Media, Culture and Society troupe. For the most part, neither set of suburban youth was really lit on fire by the Creativity Expert from across the Pond, but to be fair, when I shared the same Talks with my Sophomore Endeavor students the following year, there was a small but measurable reaction—and positive at that. I cannot recall if Ken came to me or if I discovered him among the tags (Education, Creativity) on the TED Talks website—which is, I have to say, extremely ADD-inducing. But whatever method it may have been, once Ken Robinson was in, he was going to be hard-pressed to find his way out of my head.
Ken was not proposing solutions; rather, he was posing scenarios in which we are allowing our youth to live beneath their potential. What he presented were entries, beginnings, and tunnels that stretched a hundred miles deep and many journeys in length—right into what I knew would be my life’s pursuit, if not my soul’s endeavor. I sensed that my life held something greater in store for me. And I knew, too, the truth of the old adage: Good is the Enemy of Great. In a sense, the ideas and concepts he shared in his Talks were—are—the very things that had been taking root in my own mind back before I became a teacher. He talked sense; he talked truth.
He was unafraid of pointing out the great ills of our system, and of our good intentions. Watching him, it was as if my dichotomous heart broke and soared over and again: I listened as he explained to an educated, bright, influential audience the perils of locking a child’s potential up in a classroom filled with curriculum and expecting that child to soar. Not only had I seen this in my youth, experienced the great divide between the Honors Students and the Shop Students, but I unwittingly became part of it when I accepted my first job at a huge suburban high school. In a sense, I was both exonerated and annoyed. This social divide between the creators and the moneymakers had caused me such grief, such strife, and such friction on my education journey that I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear there was a better way, or even that someone agreed with me; it would be too painful. And yet, there was much to learn here (and according to my Masters Degree program, I am a lifelong learner). I longed to hear more, and yet I was tired of hearing it: I wanted to be the one saying it.
Well, it wasn’t exactly blind, but it wasn’t the all-informed scrutinizing search everyone expects of you when you make a multi-thousand dollar purchase. Such as a house. But my husband John and I don’t seem able to go about doing many things the normal way, the average way, or the altogether straightforward and easy way. We make our own sweet way and take whatever time God wants us to allow, and the result is often quite lovely, despite the seemingly insurmountable hurdles, such as not actually working in the same state as the house you are about to buy.
But that doesn’t worry Puffy and Cookie. Almangarde and Coriander seem to thrive on this sort of chaos–just as Martha Stewart (MartHasteWart) thrives on Making Simple Things Reasonably Complicated, we have found our Suitable Niche.
And that niche happens to be a sort-of acre of land with a cabin-y cottage upon it and a lifetime of projects besides.
Happy August 8th.