Tuesday, October 25, 2011



Happy Tuesday! I hope this week is going well for you so far. I am running on way too little sleep between a baby who's working on his two front teeth and shipping my first few orders for the Etsy shop. Man, this Etsy business is not for wimps. I guess the good thing is I've made some sales, yay! But the amount of work required to make it all happen is a bit overwhelming. It's all good and exciting though, and I'm sure I'll get into a groove soon enough.

Moving on... Sew Mama Sew shared a Salon article on their Facebook page yesterday, called “Put a Bird on It”: The aftermath. The article discusses how the Portlandia sketch "Put a Bird on It", which poked fun at the ubiquitous bird in today's design and craft products, affected crafters and hipsters -- or not.

Here's the sketch if you've never seen it:

I love that skit, it's hilarious and silly and kind of right on. Disclaimer, I read the article quickly, but it made me think a lot. The essence of my reaction was: I don't care. I like birds and I'm going to keep putting them in my projects when I feel like it. If people like birds too, then they'll like my project. If not, well, that's okay.

As I wrote on the Sew Mama Sew Facebook post, I am a bit more self-conscious and giggly when working with a bird now ("ha ha, put a bird on it"). But birds in art and design have been around forever and likely will continue to be. Just like many other trends out there that overstay their welcome, I am sure the bird fad will subside -- and probably already has. But birds seem too classic of a design element and artistic subject to ever disappear.

Columbia Jay by John James Audubon, from Princeton Audubon

Of course, then I started thinking, "Am I part of the fad? Did I get influenced by seeing birds everywhere?" I want to scoff and say "Pfff, no, of course not, I have too much artistic integrity for that". But give me a break. Of course I've been influenced. That's how inspiration works. And whoever it was who first "put a bird on it" sure was influenced by other bird art that came before. I am a firm believer that art and inspiration and creativity are cyclical, especially in our high-tech share-instantly-with-everyone culture. And it doesn't have to be a bad thing. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. (I'm purposely staying away from the subject of making things for profit here, I'm thinking more of the motivation behind "making".)

The Tree of Life, Ancient Egyptian Art, from Lost-Civilizations.net

Check out this article, it does a good job of discussing bird art through the ages. I love this quote: "Thoughout history, the dreams and aspirations of humankind have been symbolically depicted by one creature above all others – the bird."

Stoneware Bird Sculpture by Gunnar Nylund, circa 1930s Rorstrand of Sweden,
from The Vintage Green

Okay, I think I'm officially rambling, forgive me. Where is my coffee IV?!

So, this post is about birds, yes, but it's also about inspiration and what making art, design or crafts is all about. I like birds now for the same reason I liked butterflies when I was a kid and why my son Benjamin puts them in so many of his drawings in all kinds of kickass scenarios: birds can fly, they are free and kind of magical. They speak to me. I like birds.

ben art 1
Page 5 from Ben's latest book. "The two policemen hooked one baby giraffe, one pompom bird, two blue ostriches and one whale on a new train. And one policeman said “Go go go! A jet is coming right towards the train! And a hawk is driving it!”"

As for many things in life, taking a cue from our children can help alleviate a lot of the strife and stress surrounding certain issues. My child's art inevitably takes on elements from books he reads and cartoons he watches, but also from the discussions we have and what he witnesses in nature and the world around him. All of it is inspiration, and it is as it should be: part imitation, part organic creation. A child's imagination is a force to be reckoned with and envied. There is no concern for others' impressions, no fear of critique, no sense of participating in a trend or cultural movement. It is what it is and he enjoys it.

Why do we make art, why do we design, why do we craft? Is it to please an external audience and fit in, or is it to please ourselves -- and naturally (hopefully) a few others along the way? I choose this conclusion: as long as I'm true to myself and to my projects, as long as I have fun making it and enjoy the result, who cares if it features a bird or another fad of the moment. "Put a bird on it" if you like birds.

Thanks for indulging my rambling sleep-deprived thoughts today. I'd love to know your thoughts. Do you like birds? Do you love something else that has become a fad, and that maybe has come and gone? How have you dealt with it? Do you craft and create art for others, for yourself, or a little bit of both? Let's discuss!


  1. This is not a blog about crafts and sewing, this is philosophy at its best!! May you lack sleep forever, if it makes your brain compute these kinds of thoughts! ...Just kidding about the sleep deprivation, you rock, girl!

  2. well put. i'll admit that i have had a few "oh no, i put a BIRD on it" moments ;) but ultimately i think i create for myself and use that to inspire my next creation. it's wonderful to have positive feedback (of course), but i always try to stay true to my own aesthetic and identity. great post!

  3. Ever since my early twenties I have always had this thing about "birds on a wire." I would drive down the road and all of a sudden tell my girls, "Look, birds on a wire!" I am almost 50 now. Yes, I still shout out "birds on a wire." They totally fascinate me and I finally have artwork my family purchased from Etsy with birds on a wire, birds on a branch, birds flying and just birds. Love it! Love them! Love birds!

  4. Thank you all for the kind comments and interesting personal stories!

    Mom - You're funny, but don't joke about sleep deprivation. Yawn.

    Rachael - Love it. I feel exactly the same way.

    Donna - Birds on a wire are so cool. I love seeing them too. Don't you wonder what they're chatting about, and what they can see? Thanks for your comment.

  5. speaking of birds on a wire... did i ever tell you about/show you pics of my bird tattoo?? it was totally inspired by the way the birds move through the air they suddenly fly off the wires. it's a sight that always makes me feel happy and at peace.

  6. Rachael, I think I saw your tattoo in one of your engagement photos?... Is that right? I noticed it and loved it! Very unique and original. I'd love to get a tattoo someday but have no idea what it could be.


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