As I was looking through my calligraphy supplies when I was writing last month’s posts, I noticed that I have some stuff that I thought I absolutely couldn’t do without when I bought it and then forgot once I had tried it to or three times, or used it for a job. It turned out I didn’t need it so badly after all.
Making vs. The thought of Making
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to try out something new. In fact, curiosity is a great thing and I think sometimes it can keep a hobby and even your profession alive. I love browsing in art supply stores and imagining what I could do with all the tools there. But wait…why do I think I need something new when I have enough supplies to last me probably at least one year?
Do I actually like making and creating, or do I only like the thought of it and not the act of creating? Do I like the thought of using the tools for „the perfect piece“ or „some occasion I don’t know yet, but I’m sure it will come“? I think we tend to hoard because we mistake the buying of tools with the mastery of the craft. Buying stuff makes us feel good, and safe, because we think of all the beautiful things we can do with it and now that we have secured it in our homes, nothing can go wrong with the making part anymore…
But after trying it out a few times, we then sit at our desks and practice, slowly forget about it, and the stuff sits on a shelf. Until new stuff comes into our sight that we think we absolutely need. The cycle starts again.
I’m guilty of this myself, usually I can’t leave these art supply stores without at least two or three new things, and I tell myself it’s to keep my art „alive“. But when I look at this more closely, I don’t think it’s so beneficial to rely on an endless stream of new equipment for your creativity.
The Importance of having fun in your creativity
I don’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t ever try out new calligraphy tools because you do fine with this one rusty nib you still have and the chipped penholder you got lying around somewhere. I think it’s good to have the most important tools around, good quality tools that make your practice easier and make you actually want to pick up the pen.
I also believe it’s important that you keep the fun in what you do, and keep yourself inspired, and sometimes this is achieved through trying something new, and becoming familiar with a new tool. But do you need to do that all the time? Do you need that when you’re just starting out and need to concentrate on the basics? Do you really need twenty different nibs as a beginner? Do you need twenty different nib types as an intermediate calligrapher? As a professional?
I’ll leave these questions unanswered, as I don’t think there’s a right or wrong. I just think it can be beneficial to start thinking about how we consume and how we think about our „needs“, be it in our free time or for our jobs.
The stuff we think we need vs. minimalism
I’m a big believer in minimalism. I don’t like having too much stuff, and in fact the less stuff I have the better I feel – lighter, and more free. I have been reducing the things I live with over years, and I have noticed that I’m more content when I don’t have to worry about my ownership of too many things, and can instead experience more fully the world around me.
That doesn’t mean that I never buy anything and that I never try out new things. In fact, as I mentioned, when I open my art supply drawers I see so many fun and useful things I could last a very long time with, without ever buying anything new. And yes, in that part of my life I still apply the thought of „I need it for the job“. Which sounds a little like an excuse sometimes, and this is why I write about it now. To get myself thinking, to get you thinking. I recently came upon a Swedish proverb that went like this: “He who buys what he does not need steals from himself.“ I think it’s a very true statement.
I believe it’s really beneficial to apply mindfulness to our consuming habits and to what we think we need in our lives. It’s a fine line between having enough tools to keep yourself inspired and just overindulging in stuff you don’t really need. Minimalism is not just about reducing and making yourself have less, it’s about making room for what really counts.
The Tools don’t make you great – practice does
Your art supplies don’t make you an artist, or a master calligrapher. Your practice does. And your practice can be done with the same old €20 equipment I introduce to beginners and I have talked about so many times in this blog. Calligraphy, though having a learning curve when it comes to tools, is absolutely doable on a budget or with very little expenses. Apart from new paper and replacement nibs and a bottle of ink from time to time you don’t really need much. You can even make some supplies yourself – I have a recipe for walnut ink on this blog (I love writing with it and it keeps getting better and better over time), and a DIY oblique holder tutorial.
Instead it’s us who think we need more.
Even if you’re not into making stuff yourself, or don’t worry about spending – be mindful about letting the black hole of hoarding supplies overtake the actual practice, the expression of your creativity. This creativity is what counts, nothing else. We live in a world where you can get almost everything instantly. We live in a world where there’s already too much stuff. For me personally, this is something that often just leaves me tired, like I’ve had enough. And yet I’m always tempted.
Tools are a facilitator to great art, nothing else, and too many tools can disguise the way towards mastery. Think about your tools as a necessity for practice, and an investment, and honor them by actually using them.
So these are my thoughts about this.
I would be very interested in your opinions on the subject, do you feel the same sometimes or don’t you agree at all? I realize this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I felt with all my talk about tools and what you need in recent posts, and with the internet exploding with list posts („7 things you absolutely can’t do without“) and affiliate links and art supply reviews, there is a certain tendency towards consuming (over making), and seeing this in a critical light and showing a different perspective is what I wanted to achieve with this post.