Sunday, 10 March 2013

Further thoughts on blogging, authenticity and The Twee Aesthetic

Well, thank you all for your really interesting comments on yesterday's blog post, which gave me lots to think about, and I'm thinking, thoughtfully (you see, that was cutesy wordplay! I'm as bad!).
OK, look, I made a start on the cushion although what I am going to do with that hole in the middle is anyone's guess
It's a difficult question. I think to be honest what Anonymous said sums up my problem with The Twee Aesthetic (TTAtm):
There is no death, no corruption, no inequality of the sexes, no poverty, so nothing at all to get worked up over. Just tea cosies and blankets. Don’t their halos ever want to slip ever so slightly so they can sound off about one of these? I am left thinking the worst of them – perhaps they vote Ukip?
Because, as I'm sure I've bored on about before, I think I just fundamentally don't like the idea of craft/ domesticity as (mainly) retreat, and I have to say this is partly because there can be an element of economic privilege in craft blogging which is not admitted (I'm not saying I'm necessarily any better here). I mean, obviously craft is a retreat sometimes, everything can be, but I think at its best it's a way of meditating, creating, transmuting difficulties, growing, challenging, engaging with the world, having ideas (yes, I am this boring and earnest to live with ;-) ).

Watching a craftsy class this morning and just keeping a thoughtful weather eye on ebay. Jane looks scared here of the Possibilities Of Dye. As well she might
Funnily enough, I was just thinking that this morning while I was watching this Craftsy class (you remember they were something like 75% off a few weeks ago? I may have bought a couple... would you like reviews when I have watched them? I could do reviews). The instructor, Jane Dunnewold, started talking in the introduction all about how she had gone through a bankruptcy and a difficult divorce and how creating things had helped her through it, and it was so matter-of-fact and self-aware, it was wonderful, and I thought about how perhaps authenticity really is something we should strive for (in life and in blogs!). Not blogging about every little problem, perhaps, but being open about the hard bits of life and our opinions, I don't know.

The Foggy Knitter very helpfully left a link to a discussion on Karie Bookish's blog - this is the post where the discussion starts. You will see she links to a podcast - I had a listen (although I only got halfway through) - my feelings were similar to Karie's, although I additionally thought, tssk, bloody hell. I do think (from my wildly informed position having listened to half of a podcast), there is a difference between wanting to show a positive face on your blog/ making an effort to look for the cheerful things in life, and Being Positive Because You Must Always Promote Your Brand!!!. Indeed I think the concept of the personal brand can take some deconstruction, too. I don't think it's a bad thing - indeed lots of us do it to one degree or another (in a way once you have a blog name you have a brand). But - yes. As the very nice man who showed me the gargoyle on the side of the Lensfield Road church said to me, I'm clearly just a hippy at heart.

Just think, though - all of us who blog (come on, Anonymous ;-) ) without having aspirationally perfect families, lives, or unremitting cheerfulness, we're actually doing excellent things. We're challenging the dominant aesthetic. We're developing authentic voices! We're doing good! (Sorry: it's always a small step away from Pollyanna with me).

Anyway. Thank you again for your thoughtful comments, and I shall ponder further...

14 comments:

Lucy said...

I don't like the Everything Must Be Positive thing, but there is a balance and it's so hard to strike sometimes.

I have depression, and have done for four and a half years now. I talked about it a lot on my own blog (amongst other things) and was never quite sure how much was Something That's Going On In My Life Which I Can't Be Bloody Positive About But Nonetheless Want To Talk Through and how much was in danger of descending into Gratuitous Whingeing.

From that point of view, my new craft-themed blog is escapism. But I suppose the thing is that I don't go to extreme lengths not to mention it. I'd just like to be able to acknowledge it and move on.

If you would like to read a lovely blog which strikes a wonderful balance (and is thoroughly hippy-ish to boot), may I reccommend http://roobeedoo.blogspot.com ? She gets it just right, and her blog is one of my very favourites.

Lucy said...

*on my old blog, that meant to say

Rachel said...

Very thought provoking. I'd like to say something interesting in response to this, but I don't have anything yet, so just in case I don't manage to formulate anything coherent, for now I'll settle for *thinking, thoughtfully*

Stitched Together said...

I'd like to add my name to the list of people who would like to read a blog by Anonymous!

I definitely think there are plenty of authentic craft blogs out there. You just don't find them with 1000s of followers. They have 10-250 and they don't really write for anyone except themselves and people like them.

There are lots of interesting and intelligent crafters who use craft as an outlet for their creativity and their practicality and who often like to stop and about what they are doing and how they are doing it. These are the blogs I like to read.

We ought to do a list of these interesting and untwee bloggers!

Sharripie said...

I can see where people get annoyed by the twee stuff, I don't care for it either. I don't see it so much on the blogs I read, but the ones I read tend to have a healthy dose of the challenging/frustrating aspect to crafting. I try not to look too hard at Pinterest, though. Twee and Cute own that place.

Mostly, I guess, I'm looking for Authentic, which will occasionally give me Cute, but generally avoids Twee. I stick with blogs whose writers (I suspect) are intelligent, have opinions, but don't beat me over the head with them. I like to read about how things really went, but I get bored with constant moaning and whining. I hope I do the same in my writing.

In the end, escapism only works in very small doses. I think what you're doing here is great: a snapshot of what you're up to at a given moment in time. Keep up the good work!

Tanya said...

I've thought about this very often. I agree w sharripie about getting bored with constant moaning, so I try to avoid it myself, but then I don't like to wallow myself, so I hope my blog is a reflection of who I am.

That being said, I don't like to put all the details on the internet, so things are necessarily going to be somewhat superficial.

In any case, its only a blog so I try not to care too much!!

Vivianne said...

Interesting. I have whinged on my blog - usually customer service related. But I have ...enemies ...I know, me who is so sweet and lovely ALL the time, who would guess ? and no I'm not paranoid. And so there may be things in my life that I do not wish them to know. I do not air any political or religious views on my blog because I am so aware of how much Crazy there is out there and I do not want to attract any more of it :-D

The Gingerbread Lady said...

I'm one of the lucky ones: I don't suffer from depression or mental health problems (and I'll add a 'yet' at this point, because depression runs in our family so the Black Dog might hunt me down and grab me yet) and I actually am a pretty happy person. Part of the reason for my dopey well-being is making stuff: it really does keep me sane.

The Twee Aesthetic appealed to me so much more a few years ago - now it feels done to death. I'm sick of seeing pastel rainbows and red flowers in white jugs, all 'Good Housekeeping' gone mad. I want some other kind of eye candy, I just don't know what.

Eskimimi said...

I feel as if I am going to be the lone confused voice over in the corner, but I'm not entirely sure that I understand the jump from someone liking 'twee' crafting and styling to being a UKIP voter.

I don't know if someone might call my blog 'twee'. It has precisely one rainbow hued project on the front page now, and though I am not into pastels, florals or chintz, I'm also not opposed t those that do. People that have different aesthetic styles to me neither offend nor bother me. For every blogger who enjoys making everything our of Kath Kidston fabrics there is another wrapping trees in acres of lurid chartreuse crocheted yarn bombing or knitting themselves a g-string, but that's why I choose to follow some blogs and not others (and tend to find that the writing I most enjoy falls somewhere in between the two extremes).

Tweeness in blog writing and whether craft blogs gloss over the darker side of life seem to be a separate issue to the aesthetic choice.

There are some bloggers whose writing flows seamlessly from the joys and rigours of personal life and the wider world and it's triumphs and tragedies to their latest projects. There are others that speak only about crafting.

Mine is not totally, but edging towards the latter. I bring some elements of my life into my blog, but mostly when it affects my crafting. I have recently had a bit of a difficult time enjoying my designing and crafting due to work pressures. I mentioned these issues I was having without too much detail (partly as I have to be careful about how much I might say about work, and partly because it wouldn't have been interesting anyway), because they were impacting on what I decided I wanted my blog to be about.

And I think that is important - I blog about the things that I want to blog about, leave out the things I don't want to talk about and blog in a way that I enjoy. I have always said to people starting a blog to first and foremost always regard that their blog should be for them.

And that is crucial to me. As readers of my own (old) blog (the now defunct Eskimimi Knits) would probably be aware, I want through a life of personal hell for a very long time. My blog was my place. It was escapist in a sense, as it was the only part of my life which was mine. I couldn't have said much of my life at the time as I would have had my blog taken away from me (and eventually I lost my blog for reasons relating to this), but I needed that. It was a little part of the world, even if only on the internet, where I could talk about the things I enjoyed. The bright and beautiful things that I never had elsewhere. I couldn't have blogged about the dark things without having suffered, but that's not what I needed anyway. I needed that little point of light.

Now my life is very different. I have a new blog and my every day has love and support in it. I have strength that allows me to enjoy my craft alongside other parts of my life in a way that I could never have had before.

That doesn't mean that I don't see the darkness in the world. I will never be able to forget my past and have scars both mental and physical which will be evident my entire life, but I speak about those things with my partner and friends, including trusted friends and groups of people on the internet. I have a great interest in politics and world affairs, but for informed and involved discussion I talk with friends and on lively and sometimes difficult internet forums.

My blog is for something else, though. I use it in much the same way as I did before. A source for documentation of my enjoyment of creativity and craft. For those things which I enjoy making and enjoy owning and wearing. Things that enrich my life through their not so useless beauty (watch me work with those words!)

So, I don't know if my blog or my aesthetic are twee to others, but they are things I enjoy and love. And I absolutely do not vote UKIP.

Eskimimi Makes said...

I feel as if I am going to be the lone confused voice over in the corner, but I'm not entirely sure that I understand the jump from someone liking 'twee' crafting and styling to being a UKIP voter.

I don't know if someone might call my blog 'twee'. It has precisely one rainbow hued project on the front page now, and though I am not into pastels, florals or chintz, I'm also not opposed t those that do. People that have different aesthetic styles to me neither offend nor bother me. For every blogger who enjoys making everything our of Kath Kidston fabrics there is another wrapping trees in acres of lurid chartreuse crocheted yarn bombing or knitting themselves a g-string, but that's why I choose to follow some blogs and not others (and tend to find that the writing I most enjoy falls somewhere in between the two extremes).

Tweeness in blog writing and whether craft blogs gloss over the darker side of life seem to be a separate issue to the aesthetic choice.

There are some bloggers whose writing flows seamlessly from the joys and rigours of personal life and the wider world and it's triumphs and tragedies to their latest projects. There are others that speak only about crafting.

Mine is not totally, but edging towards the latter. I bring some elements of my life into my blog, but mostly when it affects my crafting. I have recently had a bit of a difficult time enjoying my designing and crafting due to work pressures. I mentioned these issues I was having without too much detail (partly as I have to be careful about how much I might say about work, and partly because it wouldn't have been interesting anyway), because they were impacting on what I decided I wanted my blog to be about.

And I think that is important - I blog about the things that I want to blog about, leave out the things I don't want to talk about and blog in a way that I enjoy. I have always said to people starting a blog to first and foremost always regard that their blog should be for them.

And that is crucial to me. As readers of my own (old) blog (the now defunct Eskimimi Knits) would probably be aware, I want through a life of personal hell for a very long time. My blog was my place. It was escapist in a sense, as it was the only part of my life which was mine. I couldn't have said much of my life at the time as I would have had my blog taken away from me (and eventually I lost my blog for reasons relating to this), but I needed that. It was a little part of the world, even if only on the internet, where I could talk about the things I enjoyed. The bright and beautiful things that I never had elsewhere. I couldn't have blogged about the dark things without having suffered, but that's not what I needed anyway. I needed that little point of light.

Now my life is very different. I have a new blog and my every day has love and support in it. I have strength that allows me to enjoy my craft alongside other parts of my life in a way that I could never have had before.

That doesn't mean that I don't see the darkness in the world. I will never be able to forget my past and have scars both mental and physical which will be evident my entire life, but I speak about those things with my partner and friends, including trusted friends and groups of people on the internet. I have a great interest in politics and world affairs, but for informed and involved discussion I talk with friends and on lively and sometimes difficult internet forums.

My blog is for something else, though. I use it in much the same way as I did before. A source for documentation of my enjoyment of creativity and craft. For those things which I enjoy making and enjoy owning and wearing. Things that enrich my life through their not so useless beauty (watch me work with those words!)

So, I don't know if my blog or my aesthetic are twee to others, but they are things I enjoy and love. And I absolutely do not vote UKIP.

Susie said...

Wow, everybody, thank you for your fabulous comments (and thank you Eskimimi - that's a really, really useful perspective. And now I'm thinking about your play on my blog name because actually maybe you're right and what I've called it actually is indicative of what I think! ;-) )

I'm going to think some more. I think not wanting to put negative details on the internet is very sensible (I think it's time for me again to do my story of how a former blog of mine was used as evidence in a High Court case, I mean obviously it didn't evidence anything and I imagine the judge curled his lip and threw it straight out, but I just say this because there really is crazy out there and people who want to stalk/ hurt you): I'm probably not explaining this well, but, a blog is (often) a personal/ journal thing: when blogs present what might be a privileged lifestyle as if it is perfect and unproblematic then, for me, that sometimes raises questions. I shall consider further.

I do vote UKIP actually. Is that bad? (No I'm joking)

Vivianne said...

You said:''what might be a privileged lifestyle as if it is perfect and unproblematic''

Thing is, I know that Superwoman book by Shirley Conran is out of date now, but I am sure we all know someone who appears magnificently superior to ourselves, and her butt doesn't look big in anything either. I just remember their poo smells just like anyone else's :-D

Rachel said...

It's taken me a while, and I'm not sure if this is going to end up being coherent, but here goes...

I have problems with the concept "authentic" in any context, but especially with regard to blogging. Given the impossibility of including absolutely every aspect of one's life in a blog, there must necessarily be some selection going on. The question is, on what basis does one select?

My blog is pretty broad, covering various aspects of a major lifestyle change towards doing more for myself rather than earning money and paying someone else to do it. The audience I have in mind are friends (old and new); people who are interested in me. That leads me to write some quite personal posts and also to include, deliberately, negative posts as well as positive ones. I don't want to present myself as perfect to my friends. That would feel dishonest.

On the other hand, craft blogs are not necessarily about someone's life, they are about the craft. The audience, I guess, consists of other crafters seeking inspiration and tutorials. That doesn't seem to dictate the same level of honesty about the process. There seem to be two options here: The, "Look at this lovely thing I made - you can make it, too," and the, "Sometimes things work out well and sometimes they go badly wrong - don't worry if your projects go wrong." These are both positive messages in their own way.

Personally, I can't stand unremitting loveliness. The only craft blogs I read are those with a good mix of chat about life in general as well. I might visit an all-positive craft blog for inspiration, but I'm not going to stick around. I also get a bit twitchy when I see advice for how to promote a blog, as if having as many readers as possible is the only conceivable reason for writing a blog.

I've tended to think of this a just a matter of personal taste, that I just don't like those sort of blogs, but it's fine for other people if that's what they like. Now you've got me wondering whether there might be more to it than that - distaste is, after all, a value judgement - but I'm not sure whether I've got any closer to an answer. I will probably continue thinking thoughtfully on this topic for some time.

Susie said...

Rachel, I just wanted to say that's very interesting and I'm still thinking. I wonder if part of my problem is that I'm not actually writing a craft blog, but think I ought to be? In which case why do I think that? And why aren't I? And you are quite right that authenticity is a construct.

Goes off to consider further.