Working With My Hands, Outside of Programming - October 20, 2016

I found this great quote while watching a video on japanese style woodworking.

“He who works with his hands is a labourer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist”

– St. Francis of Assisi

This made me start thinking about craftsmanship and artistry again. For a time those were aspects of myself that were being ignored, and I realized that needed to change.

The day to day work at my job involves working from a computer all day; typing up reports, sending email, and writing code. After I had been doing this for a while, I noticed that I was drained of my usual zeal. There was a part of my self that was bored, because I wasn’t taking any time out of my day to flex my creative muscles. So I started looking for different ways to utilize my brain and hands outside of my typical work.

At first I found content made by the guys at Tested, which I would recommend anyone to check out. Adam Savage has shared a ton of great making and DIY guides, plus he provides a wealth of knowledge in his podcast Still Untitled. This information inspired me and garnered my interest in different facets of making like woodworking and prop-building. However, I realized right away that in order to commit myself to either of these disciplines I needed to acquire a decent amount of equipment and workshop acumen. I quickly decided to shift the majority of my focus elsewhere, and pushed these creative outlets to the back burner. Though my sources of inspiration didn’t end there.

About a year ago, while talking with a friend at a Halloween costume party, I was informed about the local cosplay community in my area. At this point i had very little knowledge about cosplay, only what I from had seen in footage and pictures from Comic–Con. Conversely, my friend specializes in cosplay from Japanese anime, which is stylistically quite different from the superhero costume one would normally see at Comic–Con. After half an hour of discussion, and some light coercion by that friend and my wife, I decided to pre-order tickets for our first anime convention. Better yet, we each intended to construct costumes for each day of the weekend long convention. Did I forget to mention something?… Oh right, yes. At this point the convention was a little over 2 months away.

After that party, my free time was monopolized by cosplay work for the most part. Dozens of trips were made to craft and fabric stores. And what seemed like a 150 hours were spent planning, sewing, and painting. But after all of that work, our costumes and props were finally completed, and the responses we got about our costumes made all that work worthwhile.

I learned a lot throughout that process. How to sew correctly, how to take two dimensional objects and make them out of three dimensional materials, and that any mistakes I made could be easily undone with a little finesse. But the most important thing I learned was something much less tangible. I learned, or rather (re)discovered that I was creative. My creativity had been here the whole time, just waiting for a new challenge.

Thankfully, my creativity has remained in use, but I continue to challenge it and grow. Since that time my wife and I have been to four other conventions and plan to go to at least three more before the start of 2017. I’m beginning to add tools and other supplies to our collection, and hope to start acquiring some decent wood working equipment. I don’t have enough room to keep a “shop” in the house, but I’m sure I can jerry-rig something in a corner of my office. Maybe I’ll post some pictures of my workspace in the future once it starts to come together.

Written on October 20, 2016