Robots, Creativity, & Confidence

“I’m not very creative.”  I cannot possibly count the number of times I have said or thought this statement in my lifetime. When asked on the spot for ideas, I often feel as though I don’t have anything unique enough to bring to the table and thus neglect to share.  I’ve been reflecting on the recent article about the confidence gap between men and women, and how this lack of confidence is detrimental to women’s success.  This particular quote stood out to me:

“Perfectionism is another confidence killer. Study after study confirms that it is largely a female issue, one that extends through women’s entire lives. We don’t answer questions until we are totally sure of the answer, we don’t submit a report until we’ve edited it ad nauseam, and we don’t sign up for that triathlon unless we know we are faster and fitter than is required.”

I have experienced these perfectionist feelings constantly not only in my career, but my personal life as well, going through countless hobbies, DIY projects, even sports – just because I felt like I wasn’t good enough at them to be successful.  I held back on experiences because I wasn’t confident enough in my own abilities.

I’m here to challenge that today.  Since embarking on my DIY journey, I’ve used power tools, learned painting techniques, installed door hardware, hung frames, and more.  Starting a major creative project at home that doesn’t involve student development, service learning, or anything work-related, has made an incredible impact on my confidence in my work, at home or in the office.  As I was contemplating a blog post about this (and an awesome robot puzzle project, which I’ll get to in a second), I stumbled across this article about how being creative outside of work actually makes workers more productive, as well as provides them opportunities to restore and fulfill themselves. Researchers said this, which spoke to me:

“A lot of organizations carve time out where they talk about physical heath and exercise and eating habits, but they can also include in that a discussion of mental health and the importance of recovery and creative activity,” he said.

Physical health and exercise are both important.  However, I feel the need to ask: when do we make time to pursue our hobbies outside of fitness, especially if we spend all our spare time working?  How does this lack of creative work affect us, if these projects are making us more productive and more relaxed?  Shoutout to those writing books or creating art; it’s harder than it looks.  It has taken a lot of time and practice (about six months now) for me to develop confidence in my creative abilities, and this blog has been one of the best places for me to share my love for DIY, as well as express my professional opinions.  I can have a life outside of work, and it’s making me a better professional, a happier person, and an even better gift-giver. Let’s time travel to the moment I realized how important my creative outlet is to me.

About a week ago, I was shopping for a birthday present for a colleague of mine at Michaels.  I recognize that when shopping for a 26-year-old’s birthday gift, a craft store is not normally the first choice, but it’s my go-to for awesome finds.  I stumbled across this beauty for $1.20: a robot, alien, and superhero puzzle.

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While I picked it up, I thought, “this is awesome – and cheap”, but I put it back on the shelf.  After a few minutes of perusing, a creative lightbulb turned on, and I thought about how great this would look in a frame mounted on my friend’s wall.  He has a love for superheroes and comics, and I have a love for personalized DIY projects, so this was a win-win.  A brief conversation with the custom framing staff taught me that it would be way too expensive and time consuming to wait for the perfect frame.  So, I scooped up a shadowbox, some Elmer’s glue, and went home to finish the job.

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I was so proud to frame this puzzle and give it as a gift to someone who truly deserved to be the beneficiary of my creative process.  The next time I think to myself, “I’m not that creative”, I’m going to think of this puzzle and how robots gave me confidence (aww, I’m such a cheesy nerd).

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What are your creative activities outside of work? I’d love to hear about them and how they’ve impacted you as a person or as a professional.

 

 

 

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The Artful Krista

I’ve been suffering from a disease I like to call blankwallitis.  As a novice DIYer, every single blank wall seems to be taunting me, waiting for a picture, poster, shelf, or piece of art to be hung.  Our guest room/office has been looking a little bare for the past three years that we’ve been living here, so I thought that would be a good space to start.

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I have a lot of art.  This is just a sampling of the Ikea prints I bought on a whim. (How can you beat a price of $10 for five prints?  You can’t.)  I’ve been hoarding postcards, colored paper, fabric, and even customized art for years since we’ve been living here.  While I love the colors and the fact that they’re adorable abstract designs of woodland mammals, none of these small postcards really said “focal point of the room” to me.  So out came the big guns.

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For our wedding, we received an amazing print from a friend that explains our relationship perfectly.  Engineering: where the man tells his wife he loves her by building it out of blocks.  I tried to seek out art that would compliment the engineering print, coupled with this awesome poster that I bought from The Wire Poster Project.   For all my Wire fans out there, you’ll recognize this quote from Omar.  All proceeds from this poster design company go to the Baltimore Urban Debate League, so it’s a really awesome business with a social cause.  Lastly, based on the orange and yellow color scheme, I found a fun New York City print (close to our hearts!) on Etsy from Albie Designs which brought all the colors together.

I still wasn’t convinced that these three pieces meshed well together (Clueless, anyone?). I realized it was time to bring all of my whimsical art purchases together.  After playing around, I came up with this arrangement – and don’t worry, Omar’s wisdom will find its place somewhere.

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I actually cut up a blank, chevron-printed card from the clearance bin at Michaels and framed it to bring all the colors together.  I also couldn’t resist the adorable Ikea bunny print.  When it came time to hang the art above our couch, I cut pieces of paper in the shapes of each frame and hung them, centered over the couch.  Enter Dan’s quip: “This means we can never move the couch.”

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After a few test runs, we knew this was the right fit.  Just imagining guests staying over, even if we change the couch into a real guest bed, made me giddy.  I just love adding some fun into a room.  The smallest touch can make a big difference.  Just call me the Artful Krista.

Window Shopping

Ever the procrastinator, I’ve had a major DIY project brewing since spring break of 2012.  It all started when I was working on a house with 12 amazing students in Ansted, West Virginia on a service trip for Rutgers University Alternative Breaks.  Aren’t we a good looking group?

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While rebuilding, I came across a diamond in the rough that I had only previously seen on Pinterest: an old window.  If you’re a frequent pinner or DIY aficianado, you know what I’m talking about: repurposing an old window with fabric, colored paper, and photos to turn it into a gorgeous picture frame.  I was determined to take this baby home and turn it into a masterpiece, so I packed it up into our Suburban and brought it back to New Jersey.  Little did I know that this window would sit in my basement, untouched amidst hundreds of other wedding-related projects.

A year later, I finally brought the window out of hiding. I set it up in the garage on a jawhorse and used WD-40 to remove all the residue and dirt from the panes.  This took a lot more elbow grease than I was expecting (meaning: I need to work out more).  The window was already missing a piece of the pane, but I thought it added to the charm and rustic feeling of the project.

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Next, I ordered 8×10 photo prints to place inside each of the four intact panes.  I chose Mpix after reading reviews about their quality and price, but I’m sure that Snapfish or Shutterfly would work too.  Four large prints came out to $12 and I paired them with several 4×6 prints from the wedding to make a collage.

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 Dan and I also had to decide what kind of material we would use for the mats.  Fabric, cardstock, and linen paper were all options that came to mind.  Given that our wedding was nautical-themed, I came up with the idea to use cork as a mat for each photo.  I bought some 8 1/2×11 cork sheets from Michaels for 99 cents each and laid out a few options on the floor.

After unsuccessfully attempting to back the cork with cardboard we had lying around the house, we decided to use foam core ($4 from Michaels, with a 40% off coupon) as the backing behind the cork sheets.  After carefully measuring and re-measuring the space between each pane, we decided to use Elmer’s glue and a roller to adhere the cork sheets to the foam board.

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Next, we laid out the photos to be centered within each pane.  They needed to be centered on each cork sheet, but more importantly, they had to be centered within each pane itself.  So we would lift the frame over the foam core to check that our measurements were correct.  Here’s Dan laying out some of the photos.

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We soon realized that it was nearly impossible to accurately measure each pane separately, and we ended up having to scrap the entire project and start over.  Ahh, the life of a DIYer-in-training.  We carefully unpeeled all of the photos and Dan bought a full sheet of cork from Amazon for about $11.  This time, we only had to measure out the spacing of the photos and just adhered the entire cork sheet to the foam core board. Much better.  The photos were glued down smoothly as well. As for our finished product?  It’s mounted proudly above the fireplace.

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The window frame came in at about $33 for all the materials and photos, not including what we already owned.  Just call me the DIY Queen, with Dan as my loyal blacksmith (I’m only kidding, he did a LOT of the work on this project). The craftstravaganza was definitely worth it as we now have a one-of-a-kind focal point for our living room!

Hands On

For me, personal is the new professional.  Since participating in the fantastic Big Ideas in Higher Education conference almost two years ago, my outlook on professional development has completely changed.  I rarely benchmark my programs (moreso on Twitter than anywhere else!), I yawn through “best practices” workshops at conferences, and to be honest, I often don’t find professional development articles to be that interesting either.  Not to devalue any of these examples, but I truly learn the most from the personal: blogs, stories, TED talks, and most recently, looking inward and creating personal challenges for myself.  In the past month, I’ve embarked on multiple personal challenges that may or may not be considered professional, including #52in52 (reading 52 books in one year) and #100happydays (posting 100 pictures of things that bring me happiness for 100 days in a row).

That brings me to the title of this post, Hands On.  Of all the things that have brought me joy in the past six months since my wedding, the one that has benefited me the most, personally AND professionally, is my very first hobby: DIY.

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I know what you’re thinking. Really?  You found your first hobby at age 27?  Sad, but true.  I’ve always been so focused on tasks, goal-setting, and my career, that I’ve actually never embarked on a hobby that was purely for my own enjoyment.  When the wedding dust settled and reality came crashing down around me, I knew it was time to get creative.

Embarking on my first DIY project helped me keep my hands (and mind!) busy while also creating a final, tangible product.  It’s enabled me to stretch my comfort zone by utilizing new tools and developing new skills.  In the past six months, I’ve changed door hardware, wallpapered a bookshelf, and arranged frame walls.  I’ve also become familiar with a screwdriver, learned painting techniques, and repurposed a windowframe from an old house into a piece of art.  That’s just scraping the surface.

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What does this have to do with my personal or professional development?  Finding inspiration from others, creating visions for projects, and seeing them through from start to finish is relevant to any profession – whether it’s an event layout, social media strategy, or training program.  In addition, I’ve found that I am more skilled in balancing multiple projects, more confident in my creative abilities, and just generally happier when engaging in hands-on work in my spare time.

I can’t say enough about how much joy I have discovered through this hobby, especially in the spirit of “do” it yourself (there’s my pesky one word resolution again).  Even the simplest project has helped change my perspective.  I’m looking forward to sharing more of what I create on this blog, but I am already sharing through Twitter and Instagram, so you can see it for yourself in real time!

Fresh Start, Fresh Paint

Sometimes, making a small change in your personal life influences your success and happiness in all aspects of your life.  In the spirit of “do”, I enlisted Dan in a project I’ve been aching to do for the past two years: we painted our bedroom.  (Note the special guest appearance by Wallace Klein).

This may not sound like a big deal to most of you, but living comfortably in our white-walled, unspackled bedroom for two years made it very difficult to temporarily move out into the guest bedroom just for a painting project.  The thought of being displaced from our bedroom crippled us for the past two years and prevented any changes from happening.  Here are the before shots.  Note: as part of my “do” resolution, I’m currently working on my iPhone photo taking skills.

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Since this is the year of “do”, we took matters into our own hands.  One coat of primer, two coats of Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue, and two coats of white ceiling paint later, I am a very happy homeowner.  It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to completely transform a room.  Not only that, but having a completely empty room inspired me to wipe down hard-to-reach windows and vacuum every corner.  I also got to stand on a really tall ladder, which is always exciting for a petite (re: short) person.

For me, the most important part of the painting experience was feeling confident enough in myself to complete the task.  I’m not a particularly steady handed or graceful person, and I didn’t even trust myself to do more than roll paint onto the walls.  After some thought and shaking off some anxiety, I took on the task of trimming and cutting (without tape!).  Just using my two hands, two eyes, and continuously encouraging myself that I should take the risk and complete this project.  It required a lot of patience, honestly more than I thought I had, but in the end it was definitely worth getting off the couch, taking a risk, and doing it.

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A simple task, with great results – both for the room and for myself.  I am proud that I took on even a small challenge, and I look forward to seeing how these small things add up for me this year!  Let’s “do” this.  What have you done so far this year?