Saturday, July 24, 2010

140 Characters

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time on Twitter.

I was reluctant at first, mostly because of the hype, and a bit because of the overwhelmingly rapid-fire social nature of it. But as I've begun using it more, I've noticed something: among the myriad of tweets about what was for lunch, and the weather, and the activities of children, pets, and neighbours, there is something interesting happening: beautiful little, 140-character bits of art.

The constraint of the structure, like sonata form, or haiku, seems to me to encourage more creativity because of the limitations of the form. Say it in 140 characters, or it doesn't get said. And gorgeous little gems are popping up all the time on my feed. They also seem to come from people who cannot seem to limit their efforts to just one form of art or craft (composers who knit, dancers who write, and a quilter on her way to teach a cake-decorating class).

I bought some homemade jam from my friend the quilting cake-decoration teacher today, who took me down the block to her garden. In the 25 minutes we spent together, Jody also told me about the script that she wrote, the next batch of jams she was planning, the book she is writing, the beans she is growing, the class she was teaching this afternoon and what she's planning to do with her stained glass if she moves. We also talked about our blogs (currently neglected) and about Twitter as artistic medium (currently enthusiastically embraced).

And later, as I was kneading bread dough and thinking about all of this, I had a realization.

Those of us who make things often have what we make (knitting, music, baking, painting etc.) called "self-expression". I've always been uncomfortable with that, because it seems to presume that wanting to get up on stage, or make something beautiful is somehow Narcissistic, that it's about the person ("self") rather than the act ("expression"). But I see it as completely the opposite.

Jody's raspberry jam is not about Jody, it's about raspberries. She is in love with her garden and completely smitten with the jam-making process. She therefore wants to celebrate it all: what is best in the fruit, and the method, and the history. Like all of these wonderful creative people on my Twitter feed and in my life, she cannot help but act as conduit: she sees beauty and pleasure in the world, and she is driven to embrace it, to revel in it, and to share it with you in case you missed it. It is wholly a selfless act.

I believe that the best and most beautiful art & craft comes from this attitude and approach. It's not using art to express yourself, it is using your "self" to express art or craft with passion and humility: I think this is wonderful, and I want you to have some too. Selfless. Joyful. Beautiful.

It's what my friend does every day, with every fibre of her being, in glass and beads and fruit and fabric and yarn and royal icing and 140-character paintings. I think it's why her jam's so good.


  1. oh jam...berry jam...oh how I love thee! Just finished the last bag of raspberries from my dad's garden back home...sweet heaven they were.

    Beautiful post Jenn. I think that what we create is all about enjoying what brings us joy...or finding a little piece o' bliss in the routine of our everyday lives...and wanting to share it with the world.


  2. gah! this is such a beautiful post jenn. glad we've crossed paths on ye olde interweb here. i love learning and sharing ideas with other creative people. cool :)