The Case for Off-line Creative: Conclusion

The last post in this week's series written by Christina Crook.


One can conclude that the best way to treat the Internet is like an exacto knife. Take it out of the toolbox, get the job done, then tuck it away for next time.

While for many the Web is a substantive source of inspiration, Karen, Paul, Valerie and Samantha agree that before you approach the keyboard it’s important to have a task in mind.

It’s better to get lost in the making than lost in the web.

Jean Arp wrote: “Soon silence will have passed into legend.  Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation…tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego.  His anxiety subsides.”  

Each time we access the Internet we are offered a shot of adrenaline: a like! a share! a purchase! Our egos are bolstered, our nervous energy absorbed.

But ideas come from wide open spaces. Face-to-face conversations, extended hours lost in a project, sketches in our source books, all over deep bowls of espresso and gulps of really good wine.

Cultivating an off-line existence is fundamental to our life-long development as artists.

Look outside. The world has outlived the web. Its this great wide world, and your imagination, whose possibilities are truly endless.


Christina Crook is a magazine writer partial to snail mail, typewriters and traveling on foot. Her articles on culture, technology and religion have appeared in UPPERCASE, Geez and the Literary Review of Canada. This January she stepped off-line for 31 days, chronicling the journey with a type-written letter a day. Her Letters from a Luddite project was featured on CBC’s Spark and is now a book available at

The Case for Off-Line Creative: Embroidery & Education

This post is fourth in a series of posts by Christina Crook.

Karen Ruane:

Contemporary Embroidery

For Karen embroidery is both a vocation and obsession. She sets her hands to work every single day. Mixing classic and contemporary techniques, her sophisticated white-on-white designs are in high demand.

“My work is born from tradition and respect. Respect for my female predecessors and a wish to continue the traditions of needlework taught to me as a child.”

In addition to creating, Ruane has exhibited her work all across England, offers online courses in embellishment, buttons and more and runs an Etsy shop. The Internet plays an important role in her instructional work, but she sets aside at least four hours a day simply for making.

For her it comes down to priorities.

Describe your relationship with the Web. I am amazed and totally in awe of the internet. It opens up so many possibilities for communication, interaction and learning and I wonder constantly how we ever managed without it. It's like when you have kids, you can't remember what life was like before. That goes for the web with me too.

What advice would you share with others regarding the interplay between the physical work of making and the online demands of the Internet? I try to make the internet work for me yet not take over. I don't want to be an administrator, I want to be a maker and a teacher. It is a conscious effort daily to set aside the time for both as separate aspects of what I do, embroiderer and online creative. Divide your time, prioritize, is your heart with making or do you prefer the interactive aspects of what you do....?

Do you try and restrict your time online? Why or why not? I try and control rather than restrict my time online. I have to have a certain level of online presence to work with students in my online classes but making is my passion and I set aside at least four hours a day purely for making. The internet time is decided by how much time I have remaining after making is planned.

What do you love about the Internet? I love that the internet gives me an opportunity to reach the world, for free in order to promote my work. I love that it allows me to teach in places like the US, Canada, Australia and Europe without leaving the house…isn't that amazing? Having access to the internet also allows me to keep up to date with contemporary art, see what is new and developing in terms of my peers.

What do you dislike about the Internet? My main concern about the internet is the misuse of images relating to creative work. I have seen numerous examples of images being used without proper credit given to the maker. I also think that as the internet is such an 'instant' media there is an assumption that creativity is 'instant' which in some cases can devalue the work of talented, original makers.

The Case for Off-Line Creative: Tugboats and Woodcuts

This post is the second in a series written by Christina Crook. Christina Crook has been a regular contributor in the pages of UPPERCASE magazine and we're happy to welcome her to the blog this week with a special guest post series on the case for being creative offline. 

Tugboat Printshop:

Handmade Woodcuts

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, husband and wife duo Paul Roden and Valerie Lueth translate fantastical imagery onto wood and into print. Valerie's artwork, in particular, has a narrative slant. Each intricate etching jammed with environs carefully built through the layering of dense linework and pattern. Together they make the Tugboat Printshop creating original works of art on fine, archival papers.

“We make color woodcuts entirely by hand.  All of our original images are drawn by the 2 of us directly onto blocks of wood (often multiple blocks make up a single image), carved with hand-held knifes, and then rolled up with oil based inks. We print the inked blocks onto archival papers on our in-house press. Quality is of huge importance to us. Our prints are traditionally made artworks that can last for generations.”

For the Tugboat Printshop the Internet is an invaluable tool. But they’d really rather meet you in person.

Describe your relationship with the Web. We have an official website (which Valerie built and maintains), that operates as a homebase for Tugboat Printshop online. At, you can purchase any of our available prints, find upcoming show dates, scroll through photos and read more about our process. We use social media (facebook, flickr, twitter and our blog) to additionally chronicle our process, relay news about upcoming projects and communicate our latest news to our followers.

What advice would you share with others regarding the interplay between the physical work of making and the online demands of the Internet? The internet is surely a nice thing, but it doesn't do everything and there is a lot of necessary upkeep to maintain a presence. Right now, we keep busy around the clock doing everything ourselves ~ it's a pretty demanding lifestyle. Thankfully, neither of us minds wearing multiple hats and we both really enjoy the art of inventing ourselves as Tugboat Printshop. From building a display booth to house our prints at fairs to unveiling new woodcuts via newsletter, there is always a growing list of work to be done and, as a result, more to talk about online. We ultimately feel our prints will always look better in person (because they are objects, not digital files) so we try to get out of the studio with our wares regularly. We really enjoy meeting our customers face to face and feel it is important to have a physical presence.

Do you try and restrict your time online? Why or why not? Yes! We try to have something in mind we hope to accomplish every time we're in front of the computer. This doesn't always work (we do occasionally lose some hours), but having a goal keeps us on track most of the time.

What do you love about the Internet? It's inspiring to see all of the great stuff that people are doing and posting about online. But when we think about all people making & doing and NOT posting about it every second, that's pretty mind boggling too.

How do you sell and/or promote your work on and off-line? Which do you prefer? We don't really have a defined strategy for promoting our work online. We try to communicate the labor and intricacy of our work with words and pictures but that can be a real challenge. Our prints always look better in person, so we prefer to sell our work in person.

Up Next: Embrodery and Education

The Case for Off-Line Creative: Textiles and Trampolines

This post is the second in a series written by Christina Crook. Christina Crook has been a regular contributor in the pages of UPPERCASE magazine and we're happy to welcome her to the blog this week with a special guest post series on the case for being creative offline. 


Samantha Cotterill:

Textile Design

After a five-year break from a painting career to have children, Samantha Cotterill (also known as mummysam,) returned to the art world as a self-taught fiber artist, creating one of a kind sculptures using all natural fibers. Today her energies are focused on creating a line of fabric designed exclusively for her Etsy shop.  

“My current work is quite digital, with this past year seeing a big move from fiber drawings and sculptures to digitally coloured illustrations and textile designs. Many of my illustrations are based on raising a child with spectrum, and the textile design are a fun and playful outlet to explore my love of colour and pattern.”

Samantha’s relationship with the Web is something she’s given a lot of thought. Online she’s found Validation, a space to Experiment and an opportunity to Avoid. She’s recently implemented a specialized tool to curb her wayward online ways...A trampoline.

Describe your relationship with the Web. I have a love/hate relationship with the Web, and will probably continue to do so for as long as I allow the internet to be around me. The types of relationships I have struck with the internet are quite diverse, with each one occupying my life at varying degrees. Validation, avoidance, dependence, healing, experimental, past-time, and survival are but a few examples of the types of relationships I can have with the Web. I look to the internet for validation when posting new work and waiting for feedback, and avoid it when the time spent creating is being squashed by the endless hours of searching and looking at meaningless things. I depend on the internet to keep me creatively connected to others and help my business grow, and experiment with it when posting new work that is unlike anything I have done before. 

What advice would you share with others regarding the interplay between the physical work of making and the online demands of the Internet? Make sure you are the devoting the time you need physically and emotionally to create a good body of work, and set up a structured routine that will eliminate any wasteful "let me just check this quickly" moments on the internet.

Do you try and restrict your time online? Why or why not? As a means of necessity, absolutely. While going on the internet can offer a wonderful source of inspiration, it's accessibility to all things creative can allow oneself to easily get lost in it and lose sight of how much physical work time is being neglected. I would mistakenly tell myself "just 20 more minutes and then I'll start work", and find myself still saying that 3 hours later.  It takes time for me to get into a good work rhythm, and if I spend much of that time browsing the internet, then another day will have gone by without any real work being accomplished.

Do you have a structured approach to your use of the Internet such as set times you check email, do updates, etc? This is something I have only just implemented, after noticing the amount of wasteful time that was being spent from jumping back and forth between my work and the Web. With the recent implementation of a daily schedule and clock that sits right in front of me, I am trying to bring back a balance that stops my ADD brain from wanting to quickly check something on the internet just 5 seconds after opening up Photoshop.

I have forced myself to only check e-mails two times a day, which has been much more difficult than I thought. I didn't realize how much I was going to my e-mail, and even worse yet, checking my flickr account to see how many new views I had since my last check 3 minutes prior.

With the suggestion of a trampoline from a friend of mine, I now go and jump madly for a few seconds when I start noticing my little fingers starting to twitch as the "need" to check things on the internet gets stronger. (I know it sounds silly, but it works. Trust me).

There is a set time where update are made, and another set time for any networking that needs to be done for the growth of my business.  I have even incorporated a set time for "free time", where I can spend some good guilt-free moments to have fun and just tinker about...

Up Next: Tugboats & Woodcuts

The Case for Off-Line Creative by Christina Crook

Christina Crook has been a regular contributor in the pages of UPPERCASE magazine and we're happy to welcome her to the blog this week with a special guest post series on the case for being creative offline. Christina recently unplugged from the internet for 31 days, typing a daily letter rather than posting to her blog, surfing the net or turning to the computer for distraction, entertainment and affirmation.

Please join us every morning this week as Christina introduces us to other creatives and their off-line habits.

Christina's documentation of her off-line experiment, Letters from a Luddite: What I Learned in 31 Days Off-line, is available through Blurb

Space to Create:

The Case for the Off-line Creative

by Christina Crook

In January, after half a year’s consideration, I stepped off-line for an entire month. The time was filled with a flurry of inspiration. Books were read. Projects were completed. The cobwebs were swept from the inner recesses of my busy head. I chronicled the project with a letter a day, sharing the thoughts, ‘aha’s, and frustrations of my off-line existence.

We are little gods on the Internet, often presenting only the best of ourselves online. That’s what makes the Work-In-Progress-Society such a unusual and refreshing affair. Here makers from across the world celebrate their unfinishedness and champion one another on to completeness.

We all need space, physically and mentally, to create. A desk. A corner. For the lucky ones: bright, airy studios where we can set our hands to work. Increasingly though, our space is mediated, and often cluttered, by the online space of the Internet.

I thought would be interesting to consider the on- and off-line habits of a few members of the UPPERCASE Work-in-Progress Society, uncovering our counterparts' web habits in order to discover how we each can carve out the space we need to create.

Up Next: Textiles and Trampolines

w.i.p.s wednesday: mechanical muscle

Creative work-in-progress can also be the more mechanical or industrial process of getting your product made. An industrial designer might need molds to be made; a jewellery designer might have to cast some forms; a furniture-maker might need some welding or spray-coating done to complete a piece. You are welcome to post images of these in our Work-in-Progress Society pool of images... submissions right now are quite feminine; it would be good to get some grit and muscle in there!

w.i.p.s: EG Forge Studio

Eric is busy getting ready for the launch of his Spring/Summer Collection tomorrow.My neighbour Eric Goodwin is launching his Spring/Summer collection of bags, belts and watches at tomorrow's First Thursday celebrations in Art Central. He let me snap a few details of the preparations. Eric was including issue #12 (which is nearly sold out, by the way!); I'll share his article below.

EG Forge: Canvas Bags Made by Hand
by Eric Goodwin

Nestled into one of the studio spaces in downtown Calgary’s Art Central building (and a neighbour to UPPERCASE!) is EG Forge Cases and Baggage. Every day, proprietor Eric Goodwin is busy in his studio, designing and sewing.

“When I design a bag, I always like to think that it will be taken on adventures like glacier crossings, safaris and expeditions through the rainforest. Even though in all likelihood they will never be taken to places like these, I still design every bag so that it could. I design every bag to be as durable and functional as possible, and I don't consider the form and style of a bag very much when I design it. I think that the style and form of a bag will come naturally if it's designed well. This is what sets EG Forge bags apart. I don't put fake buckles on a bag for style, I don't use plastic in any of my bags and I add things like finger loops for snaps so you don't crush whatever is inside the pocket.

Apart from the actual design of the bag, I use materials that are durable and strong, yet classic and stylish. I use waxed canvas, which is waterproof yet supple and develops an amazing patina over time; oil tanned leather, which is soft and flexible to the touch and waterproof as well; and I use antiqued brass hardware that will never rust, chip or lose its finish. I really design every bag to be as sturdy and durable as possible so it will never fail when you need it.”

— — — — —

Come on out to Art Central tomorrow from 5-9pm for this and other fun and creative events. (UPPERCASE is having a party! Try your luck at games of change, indulge in Crave cupcakes and marvel at the sparkling new issue #13.)

What I'm working on this week...

Here are some shots of my inspiration whiteboard. I admit that it is completely styled for this photo and for the Evernote people who came by the office last week to make a video. The fact that people were coming all the way from California to film my studio was a big push to do some major spring-cleaning! On the board are some of my favourite notes and messages from readers and contributors; inspiring papers, fabrics and buttons; souvenirs from The Creative Connection, Alt Summit and Renegade Craft Fairs; a ribbon from one of the first gallery shows I put on back in 2005... Lots of good stuff that the packrat in me could never throw away.

So what am I working on this week? My to-do list is quite long with lots of small tasks between the big ones—I have a lot to organize, prepare and plan for my upcoming trip to the London Book Fair. I'm designing and writing a book and magazine catalog, highlighting my publishing efforts to interested parties attending the Book Fair. For the magazine, most of the content for issue #14 has been assigned, with the exception of few features for which I have to compose some email requests. This week is also First Thursday and we're having an UPPERCASE party! So cupcakes have been ordered, decorations are here, prizes have been procured and need to be assembled. (Yes, prizes!)

More frequent blog posts and original photography are also on my to-do list! Stop by again this afternoon for pictures of my neighbour E.G. Forge's studio.

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

image by Diem Chau

Much like the magazine has organizing sections (Art + Design, Craft, Style, etc), when I'm preparing blog posts it helps for me to have some framework to corral my ideas and all the submissions. Type Tuesday is a feature I've been sticking to on a fairly regularly basis and I find it quite enjoyable to put together (I hope you enjoy perusing those posts, too!) So on Wednesdays, I plan on sharing my own Works-in-Progress or images from around my studio, peeks into other creatives' studios and workspaces, posts of the submissions in the W.I.P.S. flickr pool and other "unfinished business".

As a follow-up to the post about Diem Chau, below, here are some additional images from issue #11:

Diem recently posted on her blog that she wants to move her artwork out of her home (and dining table) into a backyard studio. She plans on documenting the process of building her dream studio on her blog and I look forward to seeing progress reports.

w.i.p.s wednesday: Hooking Rugs by Deanne Fitzpatrick

images submitted by Deanne Fitzpatrick to the wips poolI'm enjoying the diversity of submissions to the Work-in-Progress Society group pool. These process shots of hooking rugs by Deanne Fitzpatrick are interesting. I especially like her painterly approach and looking at the rugs closeup to admire the colour, texture and detail.

If you'd like to learn how to hook a rug, visit Deanne's extensive website, sign up for a workshop in her Amherst, Nova Scotia studio or purchase a dvd, kit or supplies from her shop.


w.i.p.s wednesday

photo by Melanie Gray AugustinThe Work-in-Progress Society (w.i.p.s)

Celebrating beauty in the unfinished: craft, art, design, illustration: photographed in progress

I invite you to share your works in progress in our flickr group! The images might be used in posts on the UPPERCASE journal about The Work-in-Progress Society (credited and linked to its Flickr member) and will be considered for print publication in upcoming UPPERCASE magazines. Should your image be selected for publication, you will be contacted for additional information and higher resolution files if necessary. Thank you!


These are recent uploads to the UPPERCASE-curated flickr pool, The Work-in-Progress Society, which celebrates beauty in the unfinished. Craft, art, design, illustration: photographed in progress as well as our desks, tools, studios, supplies... I invite you to share your works in progress!

The images might be used in posts on the UPPERCASE journal about The Work-in-Progress Society (credited and linked to its Flickr member) and will be considered for print publication in upcoming UPPERCASE projects. Should your image be selected for publication, you will be contacted for additional information and higher resolution files if necessary. Thank you!

{E L K, Fiona Chapman, Irina Troitskaya}