Welcome to Emerging Futures -- Vol 118! Creative Gifts for Others Creativity...
Good morning outwardly entangling beings,
It has been quite a week – from great to terrible. But no matter what, there is a form of hope – an unconditioned hope that expects nothing but keeps open the possibility that other worlds are possible.
To this end, this is the first of our holiday newsletters where we share gifts. This newsletter is dedicated to the joys of giving others gifts.
And specifically this newsletter is dedicated to gift possibilities that can help the receiver in their creative endeavors.
For us, creativity is, after all, itself a type of pure gift – while we participate in its becoming, we are not in charge of its processes and how, what, and where it comes into being. Something happens to us that is beyond us. It is a gift of unexpected difference. A swerve. Creative processes are exemplary events of a more-than-human excessive generosity that exceeds knowing and recognition.
It is in this spirit of generosity – unconditioned hope that is inherent to creativity that we strive to work. We hope that this weekly free (and occasionally) excessive newsletter is a testament to such an ethos.
Our own thoughts and proclivities for gifts that engage with creative practices tend towards the free, the repurposed, and the Hors catégorie – those things and events that resist and even refuse categorization. Additionally, we are more interested in tools and activities that further creative practices rather than things that are the outcome of someone else's creative process (but even there – there's room for nuance, contradiction, and ambiguity…).
Let’s just jump in:
For us, making is thinking. And creative practices are those that follow what is emerging from doing. To get habituated to this, it is something that is best lived as part of mundane everyday practices: cooking, cleaning, repairing, and tool making.
Two practices that we personally find opens us up to forces of difference beyond ourselves are working with wood and working with fiber: carving and crocheting.
Here are ways to give your friends the tools and skills to carve and to crochet:
To carve: two knives are needed – one short and straight and the other curved and twisted. Together, these will allow one to make all sorts of tools from wood – from spoons to bowls to icons to forms as yet non-existent.
You can find these at flea markets, craft stores, or online: here is a link to the classical Scandinavian version of these tools (there are many other manufacturers and related styles).
We are not going to pick a how-to video for you – the knife video world is just way too over the top with nostalgic dudes… (we tried and failed to find anything compellingly different). That said there are lots of good how-to videos (if interested).
Our one tip is: your thumb on your knife hand works independently of the knife handle to connect with what you are carving. Many a wonderful day can dissipate into darkness as one comes to collaborate with trees and co-emerge with novel forms.
To crochet: Crocheting is a skill that takes one deep into the non-euclidian – the world of strange topologies where parallel lines overlap, twist around each other, and defy our normal spatial intuitions.
Learning to crochet is unlike any other skill in how it opens up ways of following a process into physical worlds that defy logic. Here is another wonderful video on this – still not sure? Just google “Hyperbolic Crochet” – just remember as this rabbit hole engulfs you: you are here to find gifts for others…
Crocheting, as a gift, can be as simple as the tools and materials or a class. Here is one kit we love – just remember to share the hyperbolic with whomever gets this (or a similar) kit. In relation to creativity, crocheting is about the adventure into new topologies – not just the cute creatures, scarves, and known worlds… (which we also love).
Gifting other makings: There are any number of other creative activities that you could help your friends entangle with from ceramics to cooking to climbing. For us, what most matters is that the tools and the matter in all of these have to be very present, and their agency has to be strongly felt.
For us the important question that should be felt in the experimental process of making is, “When and how is creative agency constituted and manifest in the world?”
Why? Because “agency is the relational and emergent property of material engagement,” As we carve and crochet, an agency emerges from the midst of the activity – an agency that exceeds our ideas, expectations, and even skills. It can pull us in and lead us on into novel worlds…
“Agency is not something given, but something realized. In short, as far as agency is concerned, what an entity is doesn’t really matter; what does matter is what the entity becomes and where it stands in the network of material engagement.” (Malafouris). The wood becomes something active and unique when the knife and the hand come to dance with it…
To foster and provoke a specific creative sensibility in the use of tools, we often like to include inspiring articles in our gifts.
But, rather than just share a link or print something out, staple it, and add it to the “real” gift – this is where you can get skillful and beautiful: print the article and then bind it into a simple but beautiful booklet.
We find that the best/easiest binding technique for this is the “Japanese four-hole binding.”
One article we are often gifting with tools is Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality. It is a wonderful essay on tools and how if designed in certain ways they can be uniquely liberatory.
But you could bind anything – any guide to any practice – or you can be the author – write a short guide to cooking an egg or print out your favorite guide to weaving or clay.
Gifting the making of books: If you want to go deep into the art of binding books for your own interest or as a gift, there is no better book to guide you than Book Book by Hyon, Myungah, and Chang Yuchen. It is really exceptional – aesthetically astonishing as a book and comes with a cradle to help make books. As a side note: We would recommend any book by Chang Yuchen – all of their work is exceptional in how it rethinks the book form.
Make a notebook: Talking about books and the making of books, just for this newsletter and your holiday gift-making, we have made a simple how-to video for you on how to make our current favorite style of notebook. Gifting handmade notebooks is a great gift idea. This one is really unique and has some exceptional features that will surprise even the most jaded of notebook addicts. It is cheap, easy to make, looks beautiful, and is a really exceptional notebook – your human friends will love it! (check it out).
Now, we do not want to get lost in book recommendations – but if you are interested in some of our go-to-books in regards to creativity and innovation, you can head over to our website’s (semi) annotated bibliography. We have just over one hundred books listed – these range from poetry to fiction to philosophy and beyond – there are books for all ages and interests.
That said, we do have what we think are three perfect gift book recommendations:
But, to gift our concepts – you do not need to buy anything – you can just sign those on your holiday list up for this newsletter. They will get great concepts on a weekly basis.
And if you think newsletters are a great idea – but you want to find something else (we get it!) – there are many, many other great online newsletters out there. Here is a great resource to discover newsletters: The Sample.
Ultimately, for us – experiences are the gift we give the most. Under our tree are treasure hunts, adventures, and shared experiences of all kinds.
Gift Entanglements: For us, creativity as it is contemporarily practiced is far far too much of a solitary individualistic endeavor. Creativity is ultimately a team sport. Nothing has ever happened alone. One gift suggestion: form a collective with your friends to explore and experiment. You could get together over a meal, or a book, or a set of experiments. Just meet regularly and do something (actual experiments). Perhaps the easiest is to meet around cooking. Develop experimental cooking games – form an alternative supper club and meet once a month. What if you offer to host it? Now, that is a real gift! (Just don’t forget to invite us!). Have fun, entangle deeply with the world, and collaborate with others.
Gift Treasure Hunts: For kids of any age, the treasure hunt is the perfect gift: it's just a set of linked clues that relate to a place (say a museum), a park, a city, or even a region. We will put each clue in its own envelope and design them so that one leads to the next (you can’t cheat and look ahead because each clue is completely context-sensitive and builds upon the previous one).
Gift Events: Experimental immersive events – music, dance, and theater are great. Our recommendation is that they be really experimental – it should not be about like or dislike – one goes to meet difference. An additional recommendation to consider: in your choices “provincialize Europe,” as Dipesh Chakrabarthy terms it – Europe does not need to be the center of your cultural gravity; let other worlds come to the fore.
Gift time, skills and support: all of our creative skills can be useful any and everywhere – especially right now: consider aiding in any way you can organizations like Doctors without Borders (for example).
Gift Hope – gift unconditioned hope. Practice this – here is a wonderful talk on this.
Well! That's it for our few modest suggestions for gifts to expand how one senses and engages with the ongoing creative potentialities of reality. We hope it inspires you in your own direction and in how you might invent new ways of giving gifts in this winter season.
Till next week, give unconditionally and say yes, just a bit too much…
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