Anyone else find themselves in a battle of wanting to document things by photo, video and notes crashing against the idea of just being in the moment and soaking it all in? It’s a struggle, right? Do you ever wonder how we can “remember” the moments if we aren’t behind a lens, snapping them up? I have a pretty good memory for things, and find that photos, sketches, and words in my sketchbook help jog my memory to take me back to special places. I still fight the battle of overdocumenting things by taking out my camera, poised behind the lens, ready to capture the best stuff.
It’s funny, though: the best stuff is hard to capture, because it happens when you’re just in it.
Also does anyone else remember Instagram when you could only post that instant? It used its own camera without pulling from your camera reel. The choices we make about how we share have gotten so curated, is it even real?
Throughout the years, I continue to learn more about myself. As I type this, it seems a little odd– shouldn’t I already know myself? Let me explain.
I notice details. I’ve always known this about myself, yet I continue to learn that the details I notice often get overlooked by others. I have worked in environments where I have identified issues that no one had been able to find for years, and been able to fix the problems. Likewise, I’ve been known to completely miss the big picture. Well, that sounds a little dramatic to use the word completely. I guess what I mean is that things that could seem obvious* to others slip right past me undetected.
(*Cue the mental memory here: my entire life, my dad has insisted “nothing is obvious”. Let that sit with you a moment: what is clear as day to me might not register with you with the same clarity. My dad is wise.)
In my earlier years, I always found I was quick with a response to anyone and anything, sometimes resulting in stirring the pot unnecessarily and creating hurt feelings. While I find I still have these quick witted instincts, I tend to pause more now before responding, often playing out full conversations in my head before deciding to say a single word. Many times, I end up saying nothing at all, having convinced myself of the outcome of the interaction before uttering a single word.
I’ve started and abandoned more blog posts recently than I care to admit. Is anyone going to read this? What will they think of me? I’ve started sharing photos on Instagram and changed my mind, unable to choose the right images and word. Does this get my idea across?Will people “like” it?
At this point, this set of sentences and paragraphs seem only slightly related. One thing I know for sure about myself is that I can always bring it back together, so here we go.
For me, the details are what matters, and always will be. Moreover, your details differ from mine and that’s better than ok. We see through our own eyes, and we are all valid, whether we share daily in a public forum or quietly with those close to us or in journals and photographs we keep for ourselves.
Days and weeks and months and years have passed since I assumed the moniker of Shanalines. It happened so long ago, I sometimes forget that others don’t know the story. In fact, I recently shared the story with my dad for the first time, and I’m pretty sure the original story took place over 20 years ago. (How can that be possible?!?!?)
By now you know that my background is architecture: I studied it in both undergrad and grad school, and I keep my license active, though I don’t use it daily in any regular sense. I will say the training and study helped shape me, and even though I shudder to think about the sleepless nights and thankless clients, it’s still the right path for me. But enough about that. This post is about how I became Shanalines.
Part of design education is the critique process. When a project is complete, the instructor sets up a critique where students present their work individually for review while the rest of the studio class watches. Sometimes the instructor invites in guest critics to review the work, and sometimes there is peer review, with some students assigned to be critics themselves.
This particular class was an analog drawing class. We were each assigned an abstract painting, and tasked to reimagine the piece as if it were composed of geometric forms. We were tasked to create orthographic projections (measured line drawings without perspective) of our analysis of the forms, interpreting foreground and background through lineweights. A general strategy for lineweights is that objects farther away are depicted in lighter lineweights, and those in the foreground are darker, with the darkest lines being the section cut. Think about the world around you: closer objects are in clearer focus, and therefore bolder to your eye. I remember creating my drawing and determining where I would show the section cut, and reeeeealllly using bold lines. I loaded my lead holder with a heavy lead– was it 4B?– and created overly exaggerated dark lines.
The day of the critique, our instructor had invited in a guest critic to review our work. We pinned up our drawings in the critique space, and each took turns sharing our work and getting feedback. When it was my turn to present, I introduced myself and shared my strategy. Honestly I don’t remember exactly what the critic said, but he did remark that my section cut line was rather bold. Other than that, the review went fine, and I felt relieved. Sometimes reviews can be harsh, ending in tears due to harsh feedback combined with utter lack of sleep.
A classmate who presented a few after me had exquisite work, but very light lines. At this time, I was sitting in the audience with my other classmates, happy to have survived my part. The critic had to get up from his seat and move in closely to the wall to examine her drawing in greater detail, as the delicate linework was lost from a distance. I remember what he said to her:
“Your drawing is lovely, but rather light. You need….” (at this point he looked around the room, and his eyes landed on me) “What was your name again?”
Startled that the critic was speaking to me after my turn, I looked around to make sure he meant me. “Me? My name is Shana.”
(Looking back at the student presenting) “You need some Shanalines.”
And there you have it, folks. Shanalines are the bold, assertive lines, the ones that are a little too loud, but aren’t mistaken for anything else. They’re almost comical, but simultaneously strong and expressive. Love them or hate them, they’ve got personality.
And now, just for fun, here’s the original Shanalines drawing.
I’m one of those people who holds on to scraps of paper and carries around full sketchbooks filled with photos, notes, and drawings. I have boxes full of completed books, many with bits of paper or post-it notes jammed in the sides, or dogeared tabs, or those tiny sticky highlighter flags marking something that at one point or another was super important. I’ll never get rid of them. What if I need to refer to this someday?
Honestly, though, I may never refer to many of these books again, but the act of making the marks sticks with me. For me, the act of making marks on a page and documenting my ideas and feelings is an intrinsic part of me. If I’m at a meeting of a group of people, I do a little sketch of where everyone is seated at the table, adding names and other identifying characteristics to my notes, such as what a person is wearing. I write single words of emotion on meeting agendas, I sketch in the margins ALL THE TIME.
Recently I had an opportunity to share some of my knitwear design in a Zoom call (ah, that Zoom life!), and I found myself immediately drawn to architectural models to talk about my design process. Models that seemingly have nothing to do with my knitwear designs, but act as physical symbols of my creative process.
I keep these elements of design to root myself in my own personal process of concept development and execution. Just like revisiting an old favorite book or vacation spot and indulging in memory, I hold these pieces (and others!) in my hands when I’m stumped on a project. While some of the details of creating these models are fuzzy, I remember the lightbulb moments and hope to create more.
I just realized a funny connection about my old sketches and models and this blog, in fact. I keep these sketches, journals, and analog memories because they are part of my history, whether I revisit them often or let them sit dormant. I’m writing this blog for me, and I have pretty low expectations for people following along and reading it– yet it’s still important for me to do. In a time when I feel extremely disconnected from people and the interactions I crave, I turn to this version of digitally journaling my very analog thoughts.
(Editor’s Note: Ha! That’s funny to think there’s an editor here! Really just a note from me, Shana, after I’ve written the whole post. Some of you know me in real life, and some of you just know me through the screen. I tend to tell long, seemingly random stories, but as one of my students once said, “trust her. She always brings it back around”. So yes, this is a long post. If you’re here just to see my new sweater, just scroll on down to the bottom.)
Given a multiple choice option, I think many of us would say we prefer to write our own story vs. follow a prescribed path… but do we all follow through?
I’ve mentioned here before that I spent some time in higher education teaching architecture design studios. I truly loved this work, and I think my skillset is tuned in to working with others to develop their own design personality. I’ve always felt pretty strongly about working with a design student to help cultivate their own personal strategy. It doesn’t — and in many cases, shouldn’t— align with my own preferred aesthetic. I viewed my role as coach and guide, helping the designer become the best version of themself. I vividly remember solidifying this idea in a group grading session with other design professors. We had all evaluated our students on the same rubric, and spent an afternoon sharing our students’ work with each other to make sure our metrics were fair across the board. A colleague showed off a project that he identified as one having strong execution. He showed the study models, the drawings, the concept diagrams… and then said “I know what you’re thinking, I don’t really like it, but the student did a great job executing their vision. It’s a top project.”
I really appreciated this statement out loud. It’s not for me, but it’s done well. It sets out to solve a problem and it follows through. I’m not sure I had ever said this out loud up to this point, but it resonated so clearly with me. That student created a cohesive body of work that answered the prompt, and whether or not I actually like it, I see the value in work well done. It’s like getting food from a nice restaurant. You can value the quality of the product but perhaps not enjoy the taste. You can recognize that it’s good, just not your taste.
This is a hard concept sometimes. I think we all struggle with wanting to like the “it” thing. We struggle with wanting to fit in, with wanting to be part of the “in crowd”. Especially in this age of not being able to see each other in person, we get wooed by photos on the tiny screens of our phones. We set reminders to make sure we don’t miss out on the new products. We want the same things as others… or do we really want them? I don’t even know anymore.
This has become a longer post than I originally intended…hope you’re still with me.
There’s a balance between fitting in and standing out. In my recent creative ventures, I’ve observed this happening a lot within the fiber arts community I consider myself to be a part of: the struggle between making the same thing others are making vs creating something that feels uniquely you.
With all of that in mind, here’s a recent finished object. I followed a pattern but I created the color sequence all on my own. The pattern itself is straightforward- it’s the Westknits Go to Raglan (Ravelry link) by Stephen West. I appreciate and admire his creativity and writing style. He suggests how to blend colors for different outcomes but encourages the maker to make it their own. Most of this sweater is marled (that is, 2 thinner strands of yarn held together to make a thicker weight / gauge) and I’m proud of the result. I ripped back a few times to get the right proportion of color and dimension of stripe. I reknit one entire sleeve and knit the bottom band twice in order to get just the right color. Here’s a link to my version on Ravelry, which lists the colors I used. I used partial skeins leftover from previous projects and some yarn I received as gifts.
The final result is a bright, bold garment, and no one else will have the same one. I hope you can appreciate my color choices without necessarily wanting to wear them yourself. I think you can see the quality of execution without wanting to have an exact replica. Maybe it inspires you to make something of your own. Do a good job, and make it your own.
Is anyone else having trouble focusing these days? I’m embarrassed to admit how many lists I’ve made in the past 6 months (longer, really) and the stacks of books, notes, and papers I keep moving from one area of my home to another. While this “organization strategy” isn’t new for me, it seems magnified in these unpredictable pandemic times. I cherish the times when I can access a space that I’ll refer to as “the zone”. I’m brought back to a semester in college when my studio instructor encouraged us to wholeheartedly embrace our work. I’m paraphrasing here, but I seem to remember it like this: Don’t think, just do. He encouraged us to become so immersed in our designs that we felt a compulsion to make and create without pausing to analyze. (Sidenote: I often think about whether or not that’s what he actually said, but I’ve managed to store the memory like this, so let’s roll with it. I’m sure I’ll talk about memories again soon. The amount of in progress / unpublished blog posts is also…. hefty, but unsurprising. Life of Shana.)
I think my classmates and I looked at each other when our instructor said this, and maybe even rolled our eyes. How is that even possible? we thought. Shouldn’t we be thinking and being intentional? What is he even talking about?
Months later, one of my many late nights in studio, I remember working on a study model or drawing (of what, I have no idea, but that’s not important to the story) and just creating version after version, trying to execute my concept to the best of my abilities, totally in it. Don’t think, just do. Yes, this is it! This is what he meant!! I looked around, wanting to share this euphoria, but realizing it was all inside me. It was my moment of connection, and to share it would feel inauthentic. (Remember, I like being authentic.) So I smiled, and probably turned up the volume on my music, and kept going, feeling proud and feeling like me.
It’s hard to access this don’t think, just do feeling. It’s not about being self-centered, it’s not about ignoring others, but it’s being in the zone. For me, my hands move, whether it’s typing or drawing or knitting or creating something else, and I just feel compelled to make something that’s inside me. I wish I could access it on demand, but because I can’t, it’s even more special when it comes together. I’m not even sure I’ve explained it that well here, but I tried.
Don’t think, just do. Find your place. And if and when you do, smile your smile and know that you’ve got this, whatever the heck it is.
I’ve been thinking about so much lately, getting stuck in my own head. I hear myself giving my son rules of things we should do, things we shouldn’t do… I see myself as an adult constantly working on fitting in with societal expectations– with following the rules. This is all good, mind you. For me, though, there’s a big component of my actions and behavior that I qualify as being authentic. It’s being true to myself. It’s caring less about what others think I *should* be doing, and instead doing what feels authentically me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be argumentative about anything, or trying to break any rules. I’m just recognizing the value I place on authenticity of self. Of being the person to wear the outfit that feels good. Of being the person that speaks up with often unpopular opinions. Of being the person who questions things.
I tend to encourage those around me to amplify their own personal qualities, to be the best versions of themselves. Throughout years of college design teaching, I encouraged my students to be the best versions of themselves in their design endeavors and beyond. I cringed when they presented their work saying “Shana told me to ____”. Do it because it feels like you! You can say “Shana and I discussed some ideas, and I decided to _____”. See the difference in those statements? The former is about doing what you *think* someone wants you to do, and the latter is about conferring and making your own choice.
This image is a part of a final project a student created in one of my design studios in 2011. I co-authored and co-taught an architecture design studio relating to sensory perception within design. I had encouraged this student to work on a drawing throughout the semester, living with it on the wall in his room. I remember cringing when he presented this: “Shana told me to put a paper on the wall and create a drawing all semester long.” Really? Did you just say that?? And then he quickly followed up with saying “And I wasn’t sure why, but I gave it a try, and here’s what I have.” Now, 9 years later, I’m struggling to remember what this collage was about (whoops) but I remember a change in my own emotions, a growing confidence in knowing that he took the advice to just create without expectation of the final outcome, without knowing what it should look like in the end. He used this as a living learning document, and added to his toolbox of design and problem-solving techniques.
Wow this isn’t at all where I thought this post would go, and that’s totally fine! Let’s get back to what I hoped to leave you with.
I resurrected a blog and I’m developing a website and newsletter that I hope truly reflect who I am. I don’t anticipate having glossy polished content or posts with systematic regularity. I do anticipate being authentically me: writing when I feel like writing, sharing a funny story or observation, or talking about my design process. I think this is ok, because it feels like me, and I’m alright.
More than a decade ago, I had a blog. It was a fun way to share thoughts with friends, a fun way to connect with those near and far. Several of my friends had blogs also, and we all subscribed to each other’s feeds. I remember the anticipation of seeing a new post from a friend, and truly enjoyed reading each post, however long or short. I found my old blog (and even shared it with a few others!) and smiled while reading through it, remembering where I was while writing the posts. It’s amazing to me to be able to read through something I previously wrote, or see a photo I took, and immediately transport to a different place and time. Memory is powerful. It is sometimes painful, sometimes joyous, but the power of memory means a lot to me (more on that in another post, at another time).
If you followed my old blog, or my old flickr account, you would see I took a lot of pictures of my feet. A LOT. I have a relatively vivid memory of taking this photo, having just walked out a store on a busy downtown street, and seeing this array of pretzels. I remember crafting the story of the pretzels: did the bag pop open and they all fell out? Was someone startled and knocked them over? Did 2 people get in an argument and 1 person threw pretzels at the other? So many possibilities, and the answer isn’t really necessary. What was necessary, though, was to take a photo of my feet, standing in that place, wondering about the pretzel story.
My obsession with taking photos of my shoes in different places started quite by accident. I followed a project through construction and attended weekly job site meetings. (NOTE: I am pretty sure none of these footwear options are or were OSHA compliant. Hush.) I took the first photo here when fiddling with something on the camera, and then later in the day when I uploaded the photos to the project file, decided to leave it in rather than delete it. Maybe that’s like an ‘easter egg’ in a video game? (or maybe I’m trying too hard. HA!) Anyway, the following week at the same site, the floor had been tiled, and I thought it would be funny to take the same photo (second pic in the grid) BUT THIS TIME ON PURPOSE. A colleague of mine told me he could always tell which site photos were mine due to the gratuitous shoe photos. I decided to keep going. And going. And going. And you know what? Looking back at this series, or any of the other *cough* HUNDREDS of photos of my shoes, I can remember being there. Maybe not all the details, but something about the experience. And to me, that means a lot.
I like categories, lists, memories, and sorting. I like finding new relationships between things. Revisiting my old blog– “Vintage Shana”, if you will– is bringing a new energy to my creative space. Let’s see where this goes next.
In addition to my knitting and design swatches, sketches, and written notes, I have an architectural drafting table with paper, pencils, and some extra fiber. I am slowly developing mixed media techniques to express myself.