In grad school, I made a documentary about how different kinds of artists defined “creativity.” My Mom, a quilt maker, said creativity was making something from nothing. This aligns with her strong affinity for frugality and often annoyed me growing up. At that time, I saw it as a severe limitation to creativity. Ironically, I learned over time that having limitless access can be overwhelming and paralyze creativity just as scarcity of resources can.
As I’ve aged, I’ve come to appreciate my parent’s bootstrapping approach to life though for different reasons. For me, limited resources forces me into more elaborate thinking about how to bootstrap something for which I have a full appreciation. It is a different kind of creativity which, for me, often results in greater innovation and/or originality. Besides the intellectual experience of bootstrapping, I think of it more often in an ecological sense. If I repurpose something cast off, I protect the environment.
As I said before, my approach to creativity and design can change significantly if I am bootstrapping. For probably 6 or 7 years, I’ve been holding a garbage bag full of yarn my sister Laura bought at a garage sale while visiting Wisconsin. There are skeins and skeins of yarn. Lots of white. A few years ago, I began an afghan using the white. About half way through, I realized the whites did not all match and there wasn’t enough of one color to finish a single piece.
For a while I thought about what to do and contemplated donating the lot. But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. My solution was a variation on neutrals. I have a variety of whites and bought a couple skeins of a variegated beige. I created a color scheme and adapted a baby afghan pattern to create a lap blanket. The rhythm, repetition, and patterns of knitting are relaxing and often stimulate creative thinking about other things. In this case, the knitting kept me from feeling guilty about watching hours of “The Good Wife.”
As I approach the end of this project, I am pleased. I like the aesthetic. I created a solution, a design, solved math problems, and finished an endeavor. If only all of life were as satisfying and neatly completed.