Tuesday, November 10, 2009

the creative Q

The Creative Q is like a wine-of-the-month club for artists/crafters/creative people who have stopped making art or feel uninspired. Members receive a simple physical object and a related prompt that is open-ended and "media agnostic" so they can interpret it in any way they choose and make whatever they want, whether its a painting, a song, creative writing, etc. There also a little mini envelope that comes with the prompt in case the members wants more "Qs", but they only open it/look at it if they need more help. The goal is to provide just the slightest amount of help to get the creative person "unstuck" without limiting or really changing how they choose to express themselves.

Another key part of the service is an online virtual studio, where members upload their work, write about it, and give feedback to their peers. Work will be tagged with the associated challenge # so people can see how other people responded to the same prompt/object.

the creative Q home page

the creative Q studio page 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

my solution: code name "creative challenge"

Creative Challenge is a subscription-based service (web or snail mail) where users receive prompts, materials and timelines to create work and share it in a virtual studio.


My interviewees cited a lack of time, inspiration or funds to create art. There was also a common longing for the structure of art classes and the sense of community found within a working art studio...so why not create a service which provided minimal structure, subtle prompts and a responsive community to get them back in the habit of making art. I do not want to create a "crutch" for artists, merely a set of training wheels to allow them to acheive balance and gain confidence, only to remove the training wheels and ride off on their own in the future.

If people were to receive creative prompts, they would make work and share it with others. This could create a virtual “studio” space where artists could interact, seek feedback, and express themselves. Eventually people may get back in the habit of making art without having to receive the prompts.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

competitive experiences

It is hard for me to identify exact corollary experiences to analyze since I am uncertain as to what my final solution will be. Below are a few similar experiences that I have identified as related to my intended area of focus. This list will change and grow as I refine my solution space, and only reflects a small portion of the many competitive experiences I have researched.

paint-your-own pottery studios

These studios attract adults and children to create pottery of their own design. Painters apply surface design to pre-formed bisque pottery with underglazes and then leave the pieces to be glazed and fired by studio staff. The resulting pieces can be functional since they are food, dishwasher and microwave-safe, but there are also knick-knacks/figurines available, including a recently discovered ceramic bust of Barack Obama.

Customers pay a studio fee to cover the cost of glazes and firing in addition to the price of the piece. This typically covers 2 hours of studio time, so there is some element of a time constraint, although people can always stay longer (and pay more) or come back another time to finish. In addition to a time constraint, the form of the pieces is predetermined, so creativity is limited to the type of the piece selected. Paint-your-own pottery studios are typically warm and cozy (with kilns running) and can smell odd (the scents of kilns running and the glazes themselves). The experience is also very visual and tactile for the participant, which is an expected part of the activity.

Rock Paper Scissors Collective
An Oakland non-profit that provides: "an accessible space that offers free and low-cost classes, curated and open submission art shows, the retail of independently made clothing/craft/zines/music, a drop in arts lab, community events space, and youth involvement" (http://rpscollective.com/mission). This organization provides numerous classes in printmaking, sewing, writer's support groups and bicycle maintenance. To become an official member of the collective, one must first volunteer as workers in the space for 6 months, participate in a project, and then get voted on by the core membership.

The storefront space is multi-purpose: it is used as a gallery, workspace and venue.  Although classes tend to be very casual and somewhat small, the space faces out onto a busy street, so it does not feel particularly intimate. There is also a store in part of the space, so there is disruptive foot traffic during some of the daytime classes. Anyone can sign up for a class or attend a public event, and they are typically free or very low cost. The space itself has a very grungy, raw appearance and all furnishings and tools look well-used.

Continuing Education/Adult Learning Classes
There are numerous courses available which cover virtually any medium, but they tend to be somewhat expensive and time-consuming. These can be at many different venues, ranging from a place like the Rock Paper Scissors Collective (described above) or a large university.

In addition to being potentially cost-prohibitive, scheduling becomes an issue for many students. Art and/or craft-related courses tend to meet for 3 hours a week, which for some may be impossible to attend due to scheduling conflicts. The experience can be very fulfilling, and a community may form as a result. However, if students are simply taking courses piecemeal, they may only form tenuous relationships with professors and classmates. The sensorial nature of the experience depends on the type of class taken, but could be very rich. For example an oil painting class could be full of toxic-smelling fumes, bright colors and variable texture, while a pottery class may be a very intense touch-based experience.  

Intended Solution Focus

While anxiety and making play a role in this new permutation of my project, I am currently exploring a variety of concepts which intend to jump-start "stuck" ex-artists/crafters to help them find their voice and start making art again. The new working title for my project is BLANKCANVAS.

BLANKCANVAS is a collection of solution concepts and prototypes which all intend to provide an experience which is extremely meaningful to my target audience of ex-artists/crafters, and propels them to make art or craft projects again. Based on my user research, this segment associates the act of art making with the following core meanings:
  • Accomplishment
  • Community
  • Creation
At this point in the project, I have many preliminary ideas. To provide some context for the following competitive experience analysis, I will first share two of my prototype ideas.

concept 01: start/stop
a web-based service which connects people who are stuck at different phases in their creative process. Within my research, some interviewees stated "it's hard to start" while others stated "it's hard to finish" an art/craft project. If these two types of people were able to swap ideas or projects, or even offer words of support to each other, it would help them through the hardest part of their personal making process.

concept 02: creative challenge
a subscription (web or snail mail) where users would receive prompts and timelines to create work. My research pointed to a common longing for the structure of art classes and the sense of community within a working studio, but a lack of time. By subscribing to this service, members would feel somewhat accountable to make the work and may share it with other members. This would create a “studio” space where members could interact, seek feedback, and express themselves.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


based on my research, making is hard to start, but once started, it:
  • is fun
  • creates confidence
  • encourages mindfulness
  • imparts satisfaction and pride
  • engages others
So why don't I create something which helps people MAKE and reframe their identity into one who makes: a MAKER?

But people already make, everyone is a maker, just not everyone considers themselves a maker so they can't reap the benefits of making...so what makes someone a Maker?
  • someone who transforms something into something else, typically creating value in the process
    • could be cooking, art, craft, writing, blogging, tweeting, ANYTHING!!
    • not all types of making are equal in value, but most types of making have similar benefits and processes
If I were able to create a product, service or policy which redefined "making" and made almost any type of creative expression a legitimate, beneficial thing to make, people would therefore feel more satisfied, and stop feeling "ex-maker guilt" (if applicable).
Ha...new project title:


white paper challenge: nicole

the white paper challenge

I created this experiment to see how people felt about making.
  1. find a sheet of regular copier/printer paper (8.5" x 11" white paper)
  2. set a timer for 10 minutes
  3. take your sheet of white paper and make something with it! You can use whatever tools you have on hand to do something, and create whatever you would like. Transform the piece of paper into anything...it could be a 3D form like origami or a 2D form like a doodle, or even confetti--basically anything else you can think of. The only requirement is that you make "something" with this piece of paper by the time the timer goes off (please only work on this for 10 minutes, including any time you spend planning what you are going to make)
  4. Take a picture (any resolution will work) of what you made
  5. After completing the steps above, please respond to the survey found here

Main Research Findings

  • Making is a Choice
  • Making "says" something
  • making is not a solitary act--requires feedback and support; commonly is created as a gift
  • People make excuses about making (or not making)
  • Making is an emotional topic: it is not just about creating something with your hands
  • Getting started is hard
  • making requires space: mental and physical
  • making requires time: making time to make
  • making affects confidence
  • there are many misconceptions on making, creativity and value

IDI #3: Ashley Frazier

Ashley Frazier
Creative Director & User Interface Designer
Masters in Interior Design
"Ex-maker" (of art: printmaking, painting)
without feedback, i'd be happy, but it makes it better to get another level of commentary

i feel so bad about it...i spent so much time on art making. I liked having a way to express myself, but now that i don't do that anymore, it's kind of like if i went to law school and never practiced law...not that i am a lawyer-level artist

Question 1: How are you creative?
  •  i'm creative when it comes to problem solving.
  • i'm good at coming up with new ways to think about something or solve a problem
  •  i am most creative when a current situation makes me have to make a decision--different from making a painting
  • problem solving can still work in art--web design, interior design
Question 2: What motivates you to make?
  • when i come across something i feel needs to be done better or in a more visually appealing way
  • problem i come across--what's a more interesting way to solve it ?
  • most problem solving has a visual output
  • hard to separate it from web design
  • helping people be creative about their process---sometimes people define their process by predetermined limitations/barriers, i like helping people see what it would be like without limitations...a lot of it ends up as a visual representation
  • ART
    • a grade at the end of the semester, inspired by things going on in my life
    • i never felt like i had deep meaning to things like other artists had
    • senior project-study of barbie's-pop-culture, easily relatable to sorority people, stereotypes, confirming to ideals, etc--she wanted to prove that she was not a typical art student--rebelling against what people thought of me (sorority sisters view of an artist, art majors view of a sorority sister)
    • typical art students have deep-seeded angst, and something important to say--she didn't have that....the work she wanted to do was seen as superficial, happy work
    • art  should make me feel something--but it doesn't have to be this really deep reaction
Question 3: Can you describe the last time you made something? How did you feel? Where were you?
  • hmmm...the last time without a computer was in my undergrad. which is really sad...i can't think of anything since undergrad
  • i really enjoyed the process of printmaking--layering papers and inks
  • subtractive woodcut process--she really liked it
  • it was also scary, since you had a limited number of prints to work on
  • the fear that it might not come you exactly as you had planned.
  • conceptualize your ideas, break it down into little steps
  • most of the time it turned out better since it wasn't what you were expecting....
  • you have vision for the piece, but it has a life of it's own but it ends up being better because of that

Question 4: How do you feel before you make something? While you are making something? After you are done?
  • excited about the process and the ideas that i had
  • there'd be tension during the process
  • at the end, i'd feel proud of what i had accomplished
  • that i had been able to get what i conceptualized out of my head and onto paper
  • i enjoy getting feedback---having gone to art school, i do really well with constructive criticism--what i can do to improve, take it further
  • without feedback, i'd be happy, but it makes it better to get another level of commentary
Question 5: Are there any particular parts of the creative process that are challenging for you? Any parts that are easy?
  • challenging: getting started on something that you have some instruction on what the end output will be, but how to translate that into something visual becomes difficult
  • especially when there are constraints(like from a client)
  •  most of the time when someone asks you to do something, they can't do it themselves, so how can you turn it into something they like

Question 6: Are there any colors, smells, sounds, or tastes you associate with making things?
  • skipped   
Question 7: Is there a particular space (mental or environmental) where you feel more comfortable making things? What is this place like?
  •  yeah, i don't know, i generally tend to ...
  • i am a procrastinator even if i am wanting to do it
  • put some music on so i can really get in a motivated working mood
  • upbeat music i can hum to
  • i'll generally set my computer or work stuff up at a table, with a chair (not couch with TV)
  • if something isn't too creative, i'll sit in front of the tv
Question 8: Is there a particular space (mental or environmental) that holds you back from expressing yourself creatively? What is this place like?
  • in theory, i'd like to get back into it. before i start something, i need to make sure my space is ready for it, i'd want to clean everything up, set up the space, etc. i really want to dust right now...the idea of painting with a dusty house does not appeal to me in case dust gets in the paint
  • i have "creative procrastination with a touch of OCD...."
Question 9: How do you make a space your own?
  • skipped   

Question 10: How does a personal, designated space affect your creative experience?
  • skipped  
Open Conversation
  • I don't make art any more because i haven't really set up a space where i can do things, i don't have a press...i haven't been inspired to buy all the supplies i need
  • painting on a pre-made canvas isn't appealing--i want to stretch it, gesso it, etc.
  • i get really into something that by the time it's finally done, i am ready to move on
  • i did painting for so long that i don't want to do it anymore
  • i haven't found time--part laziness
  • i haven't felt inspired--there's nothing I can think of that I've seen and said "i want to paint that"!
  • i put all these ridiculous restrictions on myself, but i want to have a space to do it
  •  i feel so bad about it...i spent so much time on art making. I liked having a way to express myself, but now that i don't do that anymore, it's kind of like if i went to law school and never practiced law...not that i am a lawyer-level artist
  • everyone who goes to art school is not an awesome artist
  • it seems sad to devote all this time to something
  • it's not completely true i don't act creatively, i just have a different outlet now
  • certain level of responsibility when you make something
  • when you are doing it as a job, is there the same level of responsibility
  • if you are doing it on your own, it's different than creating creative work--at work you are creative within restraints, but it's not the same as a blank canvas/paper in front of you
  • "i feel i have to put so much time in creative stuff, but i could do something quick like sketching a bit every day"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

IDI #2: Kristina Ho

Kristina Ho
account executive at a marketing firm
college art major
ex-maker (printmaking)

my art is so thought and process oriented...(photo-based subtractive prints) that i need to think about everything ahead of time. i already have a concept, a composition (in the photo) and I have a basic idea of how it will look in the end.

I'm not as creative as I used to be, because I am consumed with work. To get back into making, I'd need the structure of a class and the ability to meet with my peers to discuss it.

I think a lot of the reasons why I don't make art is mental--I am afraid to explore the possibilities. I use time and not being able to find the space to do it as an excuse. If i took the time, I could rent studio space or make stuff at home...it's all in my head

it's satisfying to be done [making something], but also intimidating because you don't know what someone else's reaction will be. Does someone else understand or appreciate it? If you're the only one that gets it, it's not worthwhile...I don't ever make things just for myself.

Question 1: How are you creative?

  • "I don't think I am anymore."
  • I'm not as creative as I used to be, because I am consumed with work (mostly project management)
  • my creative outlet is my blog, but I'm not sure who reads it and who my audience is
  • (me: so why do you say you aren't creative?) I associate creative with art and process oriented rather than a blog, for example...making something has a beginning, middle or end, and takes time.
  • for example, my blog is instantaneous, not as process driven, so it's not really that creative

Question 2: What motivates you to make?
  • or printmaking: deconstructed photos, made you think differently about a moment
  • thought out process, based on color and conscious decisions
  • her photography-captures a moment of time
  • self-motivation now--i love art, i have affinity for it
  • now i don't do it because i don't have time, i have lost "my voice", i feel so distanced from it<--i could have time. i feel so removed, i don't know where to begin. to get back into making, i'd need the structure of a class and meet with my peers to discuss it
  • i have thoughts about joining a class
  • in school, i liked the sense of community because without enough self-motivation, you can talk to other people who are making stuff and get support.
  • I'd love to be doing printmaking (wood blocks and screen-printing) but i can't do that at home
  • I haven't drawn or doodled to help relax in a long time
  • I've lost confidence in myself as an artist
Question 3. Can you describe the last time you made something? How did you feel? Where were you?
  • last time she made something: she made dinner for her friend Emmy. an appetizer, main course, extravangant meal, planned the menu, went shopping, made it on her own terms
  • i enjoy the art of cooking
  • instant gratification
  • happy when she was cooking--it's something i enjoy and you can save some money and make something new
Question 4. How do you feel before you make something? While you are making something? After you are done?
  • before: organized, knew what she needed to do, working on a schedule for myself, what made the most sense--similar to my art making process
  • lots of heavy thinking beforehand--i over-think everything in my life
  • i get a little stressed, worrying i had not planned out everything
  • during: she has pre-planned enough to solve any problems she encountered
  • after: satisfying exciting when you take the first bite...worrying about scheduling timing, but when it's all done, she feels relieved
  • with cooking it's all about timing...in the beginnning, it's all about her, in the end it's for others
  • she doesn't think she ever makes stuff just for herself
  • she gets blank canvas syndrome..."in lithography, you're given a blank stone. I don't know what I'm going to draw."
Question 5: Are there any particular parts of the creative process that are challenging for you? Any parts that are easy?
  • challenging parts: it's satisfying to be done, but also intimidating because you don't know what someone else's reaction to it is. does someone else understand or appreciate it? if you're the only one that gets it, it's not worthwhile.
  • easy parts: she does a lot of planning and process so actually making something is somewhat easy
Question 6: Are there any colors, smells, sounds, or tastes you associate with making things?
  • yellow oranges--either gray scale or a yellow-orange-red-brown
  • garlic-with cooking
  • woodblock-wood has a smell, ink, solvent, etc
  • if i were in the room and i smelled orange solvent or ink, i'd probably feel inspired to make a print, reminds me "remember when you made that thing..."
Question 7: Is there a particular space (mental or environmental) where you feel more comfortable making things? What is this place like?
  • i don't know...at this point, since i haven't made anything, maybe my comfort zone would be a private place
  • i'm not ready to share what I'm working on with people at this point
  • getting started i'd be alone--the prvacy of my own home
  • i wish i had access to a [printing] press in my home
Question 8: Is there a particular space (mental or environmental) that holds you back from expressing yourself creatively? What is this place like?
  • i think a lot of the reasons why i don't make art is mental--i am afraid to explore the possibilities
  • i use the whole excuse of time and not being able to find the space to do it as an excuse
  • if i took the time, i could rent studio space or make stuff at home...it's all in my head
Question 9: How do you make a space your own?
  • I try to infuse a splash of color--a brighter color. at my desk or in my home i put stuff up that has personal significance to me
  • what speaks to me aesthetically, pretty or nice
  • when you get a new job, you decorate your cube to make it reflective of you and comfortable
Question 10: How does a personal, designated space affect your creative experience?
  • i guess....you make the space into an area in which you want to create something, or spend time in it
  • you make it your own to fit what your needs are in the moment.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

IDI #1: Miriam Wild-Smith

Miriam Wild-Smith
CCA Graduate
writer for AAA's Via magazine
writer for comedy troupe "Killing My Lobster"

getting started is the worst possible thing in the world for me. In any case it's always a blank piece of paper--writing or art

I was in a long term relationship with art, and was dumped after I graduated from school [because finding a job as a "professional artist" didn't work for her]

I'm excited about having more space to do work. I used to be afraid about messing stuff up [in her old living space]--I like segregating work space and home space

I interviewed Miriam Wild-Smith on Saturday, September 12. She was my first interview, and I only had a loose interview guide, so the conversation was very organic.

Question 1: How are you creative?
  • she's been drawing since she was like 4....and writing since the same age time...not the best writer when she was little
  • She doesn't draw as much as she used to ...
  • "when i had the time..."
  • "i love to make...cards and stuff for people"

Question 2: why don't you draw as much as you used to?
  • got burnt out,
  • her life was painting and drawing.
  • when she graduated, she just stopped.
  • waited too long to start up again, not incorporated anymore
  • transitioned from art to writing

Question 3: how is writing similar to art?
  • it's a part of me that other people see--and chose to see. people are interested in seeing it. it speaks to them in the same way as art. ppl can appreciate it
  • writing for the stage is a lot like art. visual art is a presentation.
  • some times she forgets about her creations--she picked up a magazine and saw that she had an article inside. The article was a 2 page spread w/images, her name.

Question 4: why do you create stuff?
  • bragging rights, showing off --> i am a pretty quiet person...but making stuff gives her confidence. she knows she's good--was she told by people or is she actually good? enough positive reinforcement to be a confidence builder
  • passive way to show off...
  • it's a lot of fun
  • gives a sense of accomplishment
  • she does it for other people too...what they appreciate...how much she can capture an image. she loves doing portraits
  • does more for other people--she feels satisfaction when she hears people laugh at her writing

Question 5: when was the last time you made something?
  • she can't really recall the last time she drew something...
  • sense of accomplishment, i'm doing this, no one else is doing this
  • making a frittata-for myself, for greg, it's tasty, delicious, great when its finished. pulling raw ingredients together and making something new
  • last piece-she was worried about doing it
  • she didn't know the people, they paid for it.
  • she tried really hard
  • happy when it's done
Question 6: what's the hardest part of making something?
  • getting started is the worst possible thing in the world for me. in any case it's always a blank piece of paper--writing or art
  • nothing is there
  • why can't i just be done? she knows it will end
  • anticipation is the worse part about...knowing how it will turn out
  • hard time starting things
  • there's a tipping point :she'll get an idea in her head, she'll go over it in her head, she can picture all these parts of it, it sounds fun. if she doesn't get started at the exact moment she gets excited about it, she no longer wants to do it
  • trouble starting things--associates both writing and art with work. she used to draw for leisure..
  • doing art for work has transitioned it from a hobby to a "have to do"
  • she doesn't think she'll ever want to stop writing. is writing her new, fun fling.
  • starting things: mental blocks, fear of something not turning out, fear of failure "what if i start on this and it doesn't turn out the way i envision it in my head" which is one of the main things that holds people back, creatively.
  • fear that something won't turn out as expected--what if other people don't like it.
  • i do things for myself, but secretly I want other ppl to like it
  • time--i get so absorbed into things i start working on, i need to set aside huge blocks of time to do things...4 hours have gone by. so why bother getting started if i need hours
  • half way through it
  • she loves it, even when she gets started. the act of taking my hand and making it move and having something coming out of it "my energy is creating this"
  • identifies with a pen, not a keyboard
  • when she's done: super accomplished, happy
  • she never stops until she is pleased with it--she either gives up completely, or carries through to the end.
  • bits and pieces of the making process can get scary and frustrating...i'm in control because I know that i am.
  • she hasn't been motivated at all, since she graduated from college, to do art work except for a sketchbook of dreams (she's interested in her own subconscious and drawing things from her imagination). relaxing and fun. it was my own time, not anyone else's
  • comedy writing- for other people and making herself laugh
Question 7: what type of sensory experience do you associate with making something?
  • dehydration and discomfort-she'll sit somewhere and ignore that she has to start something "i'm thirsty, but if i get up, that means I have to start it"
  • sound: greg tells her to do it
  • dreams lead her to draw
  • food- good, always
  • the smell of bean and cheese burritos w/jalapenos and spinach tortillas make her think of her illustration class
  • omelettes make her think of her thesis class
  • music- if she doesn't have good music, she can't do anything
  • "lord of the rings got me through college"- would play in the background, would use movie length to track her time
  • sounds-get her going and motivated for art, giver her something to focus on instead of the blank thing in front of her--also inspiring since it's something someone else created. catchy, entertaining
  • writing-she needs total silence. no music in the background
End of the Interview...Basic Conversation
  • she feels bad that she stopped...people ask her when will she start again
  • disenchanted and burnt out
  • when she was younger, she was told that she was good at art--but nothing else. they could see she was good at it, she was told to go into art--take the talent and turn it into a money making thing,
  • she thought that she could be a full time artist, doing what she liked to do for work. she wanted to be an animator at disney. you have to start off as an inker, ppl don't get paid, then computers took over. in college she thought she should do illustrations because she also likes writing...but she felt like she didn't know how to get a job. She had no idea how to get a paying job as an artist. 4 hours of a biz class
  • got out of school and there were no jobs, she didn't know what an art job even was--how did she think she'd get a job? had vague ideas of what it meant to be a professional artist
  • associates art with disappointment. a big let down for her. every time she paints or draws she thinks of it as an example of how the world let her down!
  • she knows she could still do it if she wanted to. she is still an artist
  • in a long term relationship with art, was dumped after she graduated from school
  • still fantasizes about going to blick, getting a big canvas, going to town--she makes lots of stupid excuses to herself. a money thing as well--her parents would pay for her art supplies and now she has to pay for them and it's less appealing -- bs excuses (no money, no time, no car) BUT if she had the drive and motivation she could do it right now...she has other priorities now--house, running, etc.
  • she used to not exercise, now priorities have shifted
  • she is excited about having more space to do work. she used to be afraid about messing stuff up--she likes segregating work space and home space
  • she hopes to use the downstairs office to paint and stuff

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

group brainstorm

I went to a great group brainstorming session last night and got some feedback on my ideas.

I talked about anxiety like goldilocks--too little anxiety, you lack motivation, too much, you are debilitated....how do you capture the "just right" amount. Like what if procrastinators were able to take a pill that made them more anxious (opposite of an anti-anxiety drug). After blabbering on for a few minutes, people brought up this interesting stuff to investigate:
  • tracking the physical response to anxiety; biorhythyms

  • tracking anxiety/creativity over time

  • elizabeth gilbert-TED talk-->the muse, clearing a space for your creative genie...if your half shows up, eventually the genie will come...

  • creative habit--decrease anxiety?

  • parallels with sports therapy...training to click into a mode (like tossing a ball a certain amount of times to get "in the zone")....ritual

  • how has anxiety changed over time?

  • can your mind be tricked...training wheels? adrenaline playing a role.

Then I talked about the scenario where people transform anxiety/lack of confidence into creative empowerment while Painting Pottery. I got some interesting feedback on this topic as well:
  • highly related to a lack of confidence. perhaps the goal is to "engage your doubter..."

  • empowerment comes from letting go of control...

  • worrying through it, groan zone

  • research recreational drugs in creativity

  • EST transformational groups

A lot to think about, moving forward.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

anxiety research

For SmallSteps, I did a lot of anxiety research. Here are some of my notes from that project...

"Anxiety Disorders Association of America"

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18.1% of U.S. population).

  • Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country's $148 billion total mental health bill

"National Institute of Mental Health"
"Anxiety Disorders PDF"

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress...In general, it helps one cope. But when anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it has become a disabling disorder. Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms,
but all the symptoms cluster around excessive, irrational fear and dread.

5 Main Types of Anxiety Disorders:

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

    • can't seem to shake their concerns.

    • worries are accompanied by physical symptoms, especially fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, and hot flashes.

  2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

    • characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

    • persistent, unwelcome thoughts or images, or the urgent need to engage in certain rituals...They may be filled with doubt and feel the need to check things repeatedly.

  3. Panic Disorder

    • characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear

    • accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.

  4. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

    • develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened

    • persistent frightening thoughts and memories of an ordeal

    • emotional numbness, sleep problems, feel detached or numb, or be easily startled

  5. Social Phobia

    • can be limited to only one type of situation or almost anytime someone is around other people.

    • persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions.

    • severe fear can interfere with work or school, and other ordinary activities.

    • blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking.

Treatment of Anxiety Disorders

  • "How to Get Help for Anxiety Disorders"

    "Treatment of Anxiety Disorders"

  • Anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or both

  • Medication will not cure anxiety disorders, but it can keep them under control while the person receives psychotherapy

  • Sometimes people must try several different treatments or combinations of treatment before they find the one that works for them.

  • The practitioners who are most helpful with anxiety disorders are those who have training in cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or behavioral therapy, and who are open to using medication if it is needed.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy...helps people change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations.

  • Exposure-based behavioral therapy has been used for many years to treat specific phobias. The person gradually encounters the object or situation that is feared, perhaps at first only through pictures or tapes, then later face-to-face. Often the therapist will accompany the person to a feared situation to provide support and guidance.

  • Many people benefit from joining a self-help or support group and sharing their problems and achievements with others. Internet chat rooms can also be useful in this regard, but any advice received over the Internet should be used with caution

  • Talking with a trusted friend or member of the clergy can also provide support, but it is not a substitute for care from a mental health professional.

Determining if you have an anxiety disorder

The Anxiety Disorders Association of America has a bunch of tests you can take to begin the diagnosis process, including the "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Self-Test" :

  • Do you have unwanted ideas, images, or impulses that seem silly, nasty, or horrible?

  • Do you worry excessively about dirt, germs, or chemicals?

  • Do you keep many useless things because you feel that you can't throw them away?

Monday, August 17, 2009

how a story can add meaning to an insignificant object

although this is unrelated to my current thesis idea, I think it's a valuable lesson...people attribute value to objects when there is a story associated with it:


  1. The project’s curators purchase objects — for no more than a few dollars — from thrift stores and garage sales.

  2. A participating writer is paired with an object. He or she then writes a fictional story, in any style or voice, about the object. Voila! An unremarkable, castoff thingamajig has suddenly become a “significant” object!

  3. Each significant object is listed for sale on eBay. The s.o. is pictured, but instead of a factual description the s.o.’s newly written fictional story is used. However, care is taken to avoid the impression that the story is a true one; the intent of the project is not to hoax eBay customers. (Doing so would void our test.) The author’s byline will appear with his or her story.

  4. The winning bidder is mailed the significant object, along with a printout of the object’s fictional story. Net proceeds from the sale are given to the respective author. Authors retain all rights to their stories.

  5. The test’s results — photos, original prices and final sale prices, stories — are cataloged on this website. The project’s curators retain the right to use these materials in other venues and media. For example: Maybe we’ll publish a book.

First found on SFGate:

Monday, August 10, 2009

my conversation with myself and "the doubter"

I'm working with Elle (my communications professor who is an artist/corporate vision coach) to help her update her website. In return, she is giving my coaching sessions.

My first assignment was to have a conversation with myself. For the goal setting course I took earlier in the summer (also taught by Elle) I had mapped out my goals and then had to write a list of stumbling blocks that would prevent me from reaching my goal. Elle personified these stumbling blocks, calling them the work of "the doubter." SHe asked me to stage a conversation with "The Doubter" and write it down. Since I apparently prefer typing to writing by hand (my handwriting has deteriorated, unfortunately), I sat in front of the computer and typed out the conversation I was having in my head in a very non-judgemental way. I typed exactly what I "heard" from the conversation that was going on in my head. It made me feel pretty insane, but in the end, I am pleased with the results and the sense of ease the exercise created. Some of the "conversations" actually turned out quite amusing and for some unknown reason, I will air the results, right here, on my thesis blog, since this is definitely part of my project and part of the process I am following.

Some excerpts:
Doubter: That's true. But don't you want to have an "amazing thesis"?
Me: I do. But this direction doesn't mean that I won't. This direction means that I have a place to start, and nothing more.
Doubter: Fair enough. But I'll be back in a few months to second guess you.
Me: I have no doubt that you will.

Doubter: That's true. But will people be honest? Will they tell you it sucks?
Me: I think so. I try to encourage all kinds of feedback--negative and positive.
Doubter: Hmm. sometimes.

Doubter: You might not be good at other stuff, you know.
Me: I know. I am scared about that. I don't even think I'm good at design. I still don't think I know what I'm "best" at. My dad has always said "anyone can make things with your hands. Not everyone can use their mind." That's biased me.
Doubter: whoaaaa family issues. this is about you. what does it mean if you fail?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

creative anxiety

Apparently creative anxiety is a hot topic.

There are creativity coaches, like the multi-book author Eric Maisel, PhD who help people deal with anxiety related to creative production. In a write-up on this random blog, Barbara Martin quotes Meisel, saying:
“We get anxious when we fear that we are about to embark on something with potentially negative consequences for our mental, emotional, physical, existential or spiritual health. That is not irrational. That is the epitome of rationality.”
and comments that:
Anxiety or fear can prevent us from creating at our best and sometimes causes blocks, stopping us from creating at all. These fears can make us hesitate at the outset of a project or take a detour in the middle or fail to complete, and fear or anxiety can skew our decision-making in ways intended to protect us against bad consequences.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Back when I was working on Small Steps, I conducted an expert interview with my mom to learn about anxiety treatments in the mental health profession (relating to eco-anxiety). My mom said a few things that really resonated with me...anxiety is necessary. Too much can become debilitating, but without any a person cannot anticipate consequences to their actions and end up somewhat sociopathic. But what really stuck with me was the notion of anxiety as a motivator.

Perhaps I can play off of this concept and use anxiety as a motivator for creativity, or aim to reduce the anxiety associated with creativity...plus my undergrad thesis related to anxiety/obsession so maybe I could connect the concepts I explored then with my master's thesis. ha.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

research findings show that multi-cultural exposure enhance creativity

Kathryn found this article and forwarded it to me: Think outside your box: Enhancing creativity through multicultural interactions. It covers a few scientific studies (questionably valid experiments, in my opinion) that imply that creativity is heightened by exposure to other viewpoints.
While it was shown that multicultural experiences can promote creativity, the authors believe that people’s receptiveness to foreign ideas is another important creativity-enhancing factor – that people can receive greater creative benefits when they are open-minded.

When individuals are aware of the differences among ideas, they would want to arrive at a deeper, more complex understanding of these ideas through comparison, differentiation and identification of commonality

heath ceramics

Kathryn and I visited Heath Ceramics over the weekend. It flicked a switch in me. It made me think, "I want to do this." The new owners, a designer couple, bought the business 6 years ago. They were able to modernize and streamline Heath while still maintaining a quality product which is both beautiful and functional. that's what I hope to be able to do when I graduate from this program. Unrelated to thesis stuff except for the fact that I want my thesis to help me build the skills I need to bring design thinking/innovation to an organization.

what's my passion?

If I am going to work on this for a year, I think I should be passionate about the topic, audience, something...

Here's a list of things I am passionate about. Or, things I like/get excited by that I doubt I'd get sick of over the course of a year:
  • Creativity
  • Home Decor
  • Diet Coke
  • Ceramics
  • "Pretty" things
  • food
  • Illustrator
  • digestable information/infographics
  • craft
  • empowerment
  • ownership
  • fun/playfulness
  • TANK

crayola embraces the power of creativity

About a month ago, when I started thinking about this project, I did what most people do when they are looking for something: I Googled it. More explicitly, I googled "power of creativity."

Crayola has a program called "Power of Creativity" which asks parents to encourage creativity. I the opening letter of the program guide, Cheri Sterman, Crayola Director of Child Development says:
Creative expression helps children believe in themselves and feel that they have something unique to offer. Art helps children enjoy bright, colorful lives and reach their full potential.

Creativity is not so much about children becoming accomplished artists, as it is about expressing what’s inside. Expressing thoughts and feelings through art is important throughout childhood and in helping children develop into accomplished adults. Our parental role is to encourage creative activities to ensure our children reach their full potential...

While I am less interested in empowering children through creativity, the words of Cheri Sterman resonate with me.

[It] is not so much about children becoming accomplished artists, as it is about expressing what’s inside.

Other words of wisdom from Crayola:
Those with the ability to “think outside of the box” will lead the future and make special things happen...Seeds of creativity live in everyone.

The guide goes on to suggest projects parents can do with their kids. It's an odd creative jump-start for parents, and makes me think "since you were deprived of this as a child, here's some ideas." Are there guides like this for parents?

Monday, July 13, 2009

the beginning

All theses start somewhere. Mine is starting with an amorphous idea...

Throughout high school, college and after I graduated from college I worked at paint-your-own pottery studios. I worked at 4 different studios, but they all were basically the same: people walked in, picked out a piece of pre-formed, slip-cast bisque, painted it with underglazes, we glazed it with a clear glaze, fired it, and they came to pick up their food-safe, somewhat dishwasher safe creation. I loved it. It was basically a retail position with art mixed in, but there was another element that was very appealing to me.

One thing I experienced numerous times at all of these places was a customer who would transform over the course of their visit. Typically it would be a 30-40 year old woman who would come in with a group of friends. Upon entrance to the store, she would confide in me and shamefully say "I can't draw" or "I'm not creative" or "I suck at art" or "Mine will look like a 5-year-old made it." They'd putter around the store, taking forever to pick out a piece, and I'd talk to them about potential ways they could paint their piece. I'd show them idea books, stamps, stencils, and sample pieces throughout the store. They'd nervously come to a decision about their piece and their design direction. I'd give them their glazes, go over instructions, and then watch the transformation begin.

The timid woman would sketch with a pencil on her piece, and dip her paint brush in the glaze. Everything would be slow, painstakingly approached and restrained. About 30 minutes into painting, there would be a change. The woman would be helping herself to more paint; offering advice or feedback to her friends; or even sitting there, experiencing flow. After finishing her piece, the woman would proudly show it to me, her friends, and others in the studio. Her sheepish expression that she had when she entered the studio would be replaced by a big grin, or a calm sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

For my thesis, I'd like to explore the power of creativity and doing, and the transformation one goes through by embracing the creative process. I plan on investigating the reframing of one's identity from someone who "can't draw" or "sucks at art" to an individual who can create beautiful things, and what that enables the individual to accomplish in all dimensions of their life.