Kumi What?

Kumihimo is a Japanese form of braid-making. Cords and ribbons are made by interlacing strands. Kumi himo is Japanese for "gathered threads".Wikipedia.

I first learned of kumihimo when I stopped to visit a craft-klatch group that met each morning in a lounge on the ship while I was crossing the Atlantic last month. I had no idea at the time that those few minutes started me on a loop leading to deeper insight into writing and creativity in general.

One woman in that group held a circular foam disk with strings of beads hanging around it and a thick beaded cord emerging below from a hole in the center. As she methodically moved strands back and forth across the disk, the cord grew longer. I was fascinated. I want to do this! It looks so simple!

As soon as I got home, I plunged into a sea of YouTube tutorials and was instantly hooked. I made a disk from a stray scrap of foam board, snipped off eight lengths of red cord, and began braiding. Sure enough, basic kumihimo is simple. My first project was a cord to replace the tacky ribbon holding a beautiful glass pendant I bought from a street vendor in Rome. Then I returned to YouTube for further inspiration.

YouTube videos are mental popcorn. Sidebar suggestions are addictive, and so is creative action. One video led to another, from Kumihimo projects to soda straw weaving, to paper tube baskets, to paper beads, to hammered wire craft.... Oh my! So many beautiful things to make! That mental popcorn was exploding. Where should I start? Transform worn storage boxes with fake forged metal finish? Braid another necklace? Make paper beads? Dig out denim scraps for a jacket? Maybe stop and clean house? I was paralyzed by possibility.

After a good night’s sleep, I realized that I’d gotten more than project ideas from those hours on YouTube. I picked up new understanding and skills. They showed me how I could decorated those aging storage boxes more durably. I didn’t know to base coat the cardboard. I didn’t know about using old credit cards to spread glue smoothly or about sealers for the paper I used. When I do tackle those new projects, I’ll be better prepared.

In the dawn’s early light I realized that creativity knows no bounds, and changing channels can recharge energy all around. After switching from writing to creative channels with more physical involvement and nonverbal imagery, I see writing with fresh eyes. I see a connection between the tutorials I just binged on and all the writing-related blogs posts and books I’ve read, podcasts I’ve listened to and classes I’ve taken. Just as I discovered new ways to braid and make jewelry, use the tools I already have, durably decorate boxes and more crafty tips, over time I’ve accumulated piles of writing tools and learned to use them.

Now I see that my YouTube journey into crafting has been a perfect sidetrack, jolting me out of mental ruts, exposing me to new ideas, and showing me new skills and tools. Best of all, these videos reminded me of a part of The Story of Me I’ve neglected and miss. Last post I suggested we all make Happiness lists. I’d forgotten how happy I feel when I’m making things. Finally, it all circles back to writing. This post is a trip journal of sorts, adding more depth and meaning to my crafty discoveries.

Write now: If you are distracted this month with holiday preparations, relax into them. Savor them. Enjoy the season. Make a few notes and process it all on the page in a few weeks. Hopefully you too will find fresh perspectives and inspiration. If you have time, do something unusual and creative. Bake Christmas cookies. Make a couple of gifts or decorations. Let this creativity fuel your writing later.


jzr said...

"Changing channels," as you put it, is an important part of the creative process. Without them burnout comes on fast and furiously!

SuziCate said...

I've always found one creative endeavor feeds another. Love to keep my hands and head busy!

Sharon Lippincott said...

jzr, I may not burn out as fast as many others, because I do use a lot of multimedia in my writing and switch among projects. Perhaps that's testimony to what you say.

SuziCate, you are the poster child for multi-channel creativity. Love what you're doing with your new cam, especially in your current fog post, http://ow.ly/FV0PQ .

Anonymous said...

Sharon, if I didn't think I'd get caught up in yet another craft project, I'd head on over to YouTube. BUT I have plenty of projects to finish besides my memoir. This, however, underscores what I have believed for a long time -- creativity feeds creativity. In other words, changing channels is a good thing!