Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Why nearlybutnotquite?

An odd mix of control enthusiast (not freak), organiser, social butterfly, massive geek, advisor and 'quirky' creative I am a strange beast I know. Girly sewing and frock wearing, sits strangely to some with my love of motor racing and somewhat laddy- rather than ladylike socialising. Folk are often confused about how the pieces of me fit and work together and as there seems to be a spate of honest open door, un-photoshopped sort of blogging at the moment (e.g. Ladybird Likes)  I thought I'd be brave and 'splain myself here. Perfectionism and making by hand are an odd mix I know. Handmaking has soul and love and sometimes wobbles - because it's human. So, unless you are a machine the best you can hope for is nearly perfect. Even Mary Poppins was only 'practically perfect' I keep reminding myself of that. So here goes.

People label me as 'quirky' from the way I dress as well as the things that I make and all I can say is to just fling on a fleece and jeans everyday (or ever) would make me sad.  My clothes and accoutrements make me happy. I like big shoes and rings, bright stuff and black stuff and that's just that. Sometimes getting dressed is the best bit of the day, sometimes I look ordinary and sometimes I look in the mirror mid-morning and think I look like a crazy person, but often my shoes make me smile and my necklace gives me comfort. So - yes there is a 'kooky' creative mode which comes up with ideas, and makes interesting choices... playing with colours, day dreaming and scribbling pictures. But there are also the lists... Ah I love lists, (who doesn't?). My lists are usually full of pictures and quite often mind maps/webs as there is so much I want to do!

As my maker self I am nearlybutnotquite. I make lovely 'quirky', often one-of-a-kind I hope, things. There I have full ownership of every step of the design/ making/ selling process, because it's just me. That allows for me to control every stage, which not only means no arguments (yay!) but also lets me learn about what works or doesn't work without letting anyone else down or having to answer to anybody.  I had some infuriating times with a fomer employer providing advice, explanation and guidance about use of social media, management of brand etc. only to see it ignored (or not fully followed).  This way I learn properly. 

Project mode has me fully focused, totally applied to the task, eye to the details and of course aiming for perfection and order. Do as you would be done by and all that. Cracking on and re-doing until my internal quality assurance testing is happy is a delight for that bit of my brain. It baffles me when others don't. 

Once the 'thing' is made I record it in photographs, put it to sell sometimes and then review it to learn from. Sometimes that's a proud tweet/ blog/ flickr/ tumblr share and sometimes not so much... but I am trying to be brave and open with  it. What's the worst that could happen right? I gulp, breathe, sit up straight and hit publish! Then I keep an eye on the analytics, retweets etc. and learn from them. The responses, when I get them, are exclusively kind. Though the flaky creative bit of me struggles with the criticism I so want to keep learning and improving that it is worth it.  I have of course learned that I am my own harshest critic. At home I was grumbling about a mistake (stitch out of place) and got the verbal slap of 'if you want a material that you can be accurate to within 2 mm you want metal not fabric'. Ah yes, fair point.  

Since learning from my nearlybutnotquite & nbnqnbnq experiences I have found more and more I am asked to give advice and be a sounding board... and now I feel pretty capable and competent at doing so. My maker self is still in it's infancy, but I love it and I'm really growing personally, socially and professionally. 

More and more I find myself giving advice about social media, marketing, fundraising, websites and all that gubbins as a communications consultant. From what I gather the reason I am so often asked for my opinion is because I am honest. If I say nice things it's because I mean them. If I don't (and am sober - drunk rules may differ slightly) I won't. I sincerely believe in contructive criticism. That is to say feedback with encouragement and advice, not abuse dressed in help's clothing. Taking full ownership of my own project means that I can speak from experience when I give communications advice. I can be kind and understand the process but also get the emotional aspect of sharing your work with the world. It's a real joy to see someone I've advised converted and evangelising to someone else with my words.  Imagine if I used my powers for evil... anyway... 

Over the last few years I have become gradually more involved with Sciencebook too. A scrappy little start-up project spun out of Oxford schools projects to enthuse young people about Science, Technology Engineering and Maths wouldn't be something you'd immediately link me to, being a non-academic, non-parent and all with but you know what? I love it and I'm bloody good at it. I believe in clear, kind, honest, non-jargony communication and that works. Sciencebook's Project Director, Pauline has asked me to be more and more involved over the last 4/5 years from originally asking me to check one piece of content, then to be on the Advisory Board, and now I am responsible for communications for Sciencebook. Pedant and control-enthusiast me gets an outing, along with creative thinking and converting people to my way of thinking? Love it. It's also a great project. Science at school for me was pretty dry, and the exciting innovations were not used to bring us in. If there's one thing I learned from working with a former Chief Scientific Advisor it is that the realities of climate change and feeding the world as they are now require Science as well as Policy to really make a difference, and the problem is going to take the generations after us to deal with it. More of a boots than sandals gal I do still care about the world and being able to use my skills to help enthuse young people about Science with that focus is brilliant.

Then I go back to my stitching... darkness and light, science and art, bunnies and skulls I am a contrary fairy.

There's also a day job but that is just for paying the bills.

If all of that sounds a bit over-achievingy bear in mind that sometimes I am frozen by the fear of imprefection, I almost never do the washing up, dust bunnies eddy around the flat with only the spiders to keep them in line, I've tonnes of incomplete projects and I never visit my mother... but then again I never said I was perfect.