On Being an Expert in Doing Things I Have No Idea How to Do

image of collage in progress

Several weeks ago, I got an email from the manager of an art-supply store here in Vancouver, asking if I’d like to teach a collage workshop in the store – specifically about how/where to start when you haven’t a clue. One of the things I love about Opus is that they have a very liberal view of whom they consider to be an artist.

Of course, I don’t really do collage. Like, ever.

But I want to. And I’ve wanted to for a long time.

So I considered the where-to-start thing to be totally in line with my goal of experimenting with collage, and I said yes. An enthusiastic yes to teaching this workshop.

Because though I know very little about collage, I am an expert in doing things I have no idea how to do. In fact, I have spent my whole life honing my not-knowing-where-to-start skills.

And very specifically, I’ve become truly ace at not knowing where to start and starting anyway.

Collage

So the way I see it, and the store manager seemed to agree, I’m totally qualified to teach this workshop. And teach it I will.

The first thing I had to do to start preparing for the workshop is to start starting. So I laid out my ideas for how to start a collage when you don’t know how or where to start, and then I started executing those ideas.

It’s tremendous fun. You should give it a shot!

Stay tuned for more workshop details. I’ll post about it on Instagram and Twitter (and also here on the blog, obviously) when registration opens!

Note: the very brief bits I wrote about collage in Make It Mighty Ugly were bits I really struggled to write, because I knew I was writing good advice, but I also knew it’s advice I’ve had a very hard time following. I think this workshop will finally be the death of those particular creative demons. Hallelujah!

 

Ugly Creature from a Reader: Meet Petunia Alex

Pamela Arriera's ugly creature from Make It Mighty Ugly

Pamela Arriera's story about her ugly creature, from the book Make It Mighty Ugly

Check out Petunia Alex, the ugly creature Pamela Arriera made when she worked through Make It Mighty Ugly. I love seeing photos of readers’ ugly creatures, and it’s even better when they include the story they wrote about their creature. Thanks, Pamela, for giving me permission to share yours here!

Have you made an ugly creature on your own, and written out its story? I’d love to see it!

 

A Mighty Ugly Recap of Maker Camp @ UBC

Group photo of Mighty Ugly at Maker Camp @ UBC 2015

The 2015 Vancouver Mini Maker Faire was the first one I didn’t attend, as a visitor or a Maker, since the event started in 2011. I considered cutting our road trip a week short so I’d be home for it, but then decided that would be the wrong decision. No regrets.

But imagine my glee when I got an email on the road from my friend Dave, who’s a prof at UBC and was organizing the second annual Maker Camp for tweens (this year’s was only open to girls aged 11-13), asking if I’d like to lead an afternoon session. He’d asked me to participate at camp last year, too, but I couldn’t due to a scheduling conflict.

So there I was on the road, trying to reply to his email while wrangling very spotty cell service. I’m so glad we were able to work it out!

I learned some things doing Mighty Ugly with a couple dozen tweens, much of it related to my usual refusal to do this workshop with anyone younger than the age of majority.

A Mighty Ugly workshop consists of three acts:

  • Act I: Introduction and (usually) awkward discussion.
  • Act II: Making an ugly creature.
  • Act III: Show & tell, and (usually) spirited discussion.

Adults take a while to warm up to the idea of exploring ugliness and failure and doubt, which is why the introductory conversation is usually short. I find that forcing conversation at the beginning of a Mighty Ugly workshop achieves pretty much nothing. So then we move on to the making. This is where things change. It’s kind of like magic. A few people dive in with gusto while a few others sit in quiet terror, and the rest start to slowly gather supplies. Over time, from what started out as a quiet gathering of uncomfortable people emerges a low hum, and sometimes a great cacophony, of chit-chat and mumbling. Eventually, the terrified people get moving. By the time the making is wrapping up and the first people are ready to introduce their creatures and discuss their experience, most people are willing, if not eager, to talk. Not all people. But most.

What I learned at Maker Camp is that my assumptions about children are true. Or, in scientific parlance more appropriate to having led this workshop in a bio-sciences lab, my hypothesis was supported.

The kids wanted to talk and talk and talk at the beginning of the workshop. They wanted to tell me about things they’d already made at camp, and meals at home that had become total gross disasters, and Lego gone awry. Eventually, I had to put my hands up and tell them about the making. At which point, the place became the happiest mess I’ve seen in a long time. No hesitation. No terror. Just a mess of making.

At the end of the making, a few kids wanted to talk about their creatures, but many didn’t. And there was very little cross-room discussion. No one seemed particularly interested in connecting their experience of making ugly things to their experience of the frustration or shame or sadness of failing at their usual projects at home or at school. No one found the activity to be particularly challenging. And that was that. Totally not what I expect, and routinely experience, from a roomful of adults.

It was such a fun afternoon, and I though I will continue to offer these workshops only for adults, I’ll also continue to make an exception for Maker Camp. I learned a lot about this age group that I’ll use to adjust the workshop for next summer, for sure.

Check out the Maker Camp @ UBC blog for more awesome photos of the session!

If you’d like to schedule a Mighty Ugly workshop (for adults) at your event or workplace, get in touch! It makes for a great professional-development session addressing team-building, problem-solving and general creative practice.

 

Happy Birthday, Make It Mighty Ugly!

 

image of signed copy of Make It Mighty Ugly

It was one year ago today that Make It Mighty Ugly was released into the world!

And what a year it’s been. Personally, this book took me all over North America, which allowed me to meet so many people and have so many fascinating conversations and see so many places I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. It got me on the morning radio here in Vancouver, which led directly to me facilitating my first professional-development workshop (something I’ve long wanted to do with Mighty Ugly). And the book led me into the arms of CreativeLive, which allowed me to go deep into the self-help aspects of Mighty Ugly (and to realize I don’t want to focus on the deep self-help aspects of Mighty Ugly anymore, which has allowed me to focus on what i do want to focus on, which is having fun making things).

Writing the book helped me work through a lot of my own lingering issues about making things and writing. Which led me directly into Year of Making. Which led me to no longer consider it completely out of my league to make (mostly totally shitty) art. Which led me directly into my new thing, #MakeMakingFun (which is, obviously, about having fun making stuff – you can watch the evolution of my thinking about this in my weekly newsletter; also, I’m working on a new book idea about it).

And there’s of course the very much not personal stuff that’s happened in the last year. Which includes people all over the world thinking long and hard about their creative experience. And trying new things. And feeling good about stuff that was making them feel bad. I get emails every so often from people who want to show me their ugly creatures. I love these emails so much. People have told me the book has really touched them and helped them. Sweeter words have never been said to an author.

Happy birthday, Make It Mighty Ugly! May you have a second year filled with fun, demon-slaying, and making stuff even if it’s ugly!

In honour of the book’s birthday, get 15% off signed copies in my shop and on Etsy, now till September 8th! Use code HAPPYBIRTHDAY15!

 

My CreativeLive Class Is On Sale!

CreativeLive classes are on sale till July 27th!

Kids, CreativeLive is having a huge sale on classes, and Embrace the Ugly is 30% off till July 27th! That’s just $27 for some serious slayage of creative demons.

The class was filmed live back in February, with students in the studio and participating via chat. We went deep, friends. Very deep. If you’ve been procrastinating about addressing your creative demons, this is a good, safe class for biting the bullet and just doing it.

A behind-the-scenes note about this class: My goal with Mighty Ugly from the very beginning has been to encourage everyone in the world to play with making stuff, to try new things, and to have fun doing it. Make It Mighty Ugly is kind of a marriage between doing exactly that and also addressing the underlying issues that keep us from doing that. My CreativeLive class is almost entirely about the underlying issues, and it’s unlikely that I’ll do anything – workshops or writing – that delves quite that deep into the emotional depths again. Certainly, my focus right now is on getting back to the fun.

Mighty Ugly in Honolulu Tuesday Night

Mighty Ugly at Kaka'ako Agora in HonoluluHonolulu! Tuesday night, I hope you’ll join MK Carroll for some ugly making at Kaka’ako Agora to bash and slash your creative demons. The time difference between there and here is a little problematic, but I hope to Skype in at the beginning of the event.

MK will have a few gift bags to give away, including signed books and everything.

If this incredible poster is any indication, it’s going to be an amazing (free!) event. If you go, I hope you’ll share pics and reactions. Use the hashtag #mightyugly so I can find them!