Exploring Potential

Recently I’ve been exploring the 195[6] Singer 301a that my mother gave me when I left home. In high school and college, I used it a lot to sew my own clothes. Ditto for sewing for my toddler. However, I haven’t used it much these last 30 years, despite having much more time to sew.

After sorting through a chest of Thai silk and other beautiful materials that I’ve acquired over the years, I felt the urge to make something out of them.

So I opened up the Singer 301a, dusted it off, oiled it up, and lubricated the gears and it started right off. Even the lightbulb was working. The Singer 301a is entirely mechanical. It doesn’t even have a belt but is gear-driven. My mother had several boxes of different attachments. Different feet for making a variety of straight stitches. A buttonholer. And a mechanical zig-zagger, which moves the material in a pattern determined by various gear-like templates.

I decided to explore each of these methodically. As I did so, I realized that I was repeating the same pattern that I did last year when I was exploring Procreate on the iPad. Or even when I wrote about Google+. That is, I became much more interested in what the machine could do than in doing anything with the machine. Evidently, documentation is really my calling. I like putting a piece of technology through its paces and seeing how far I can push it. I like discovering things I can do that go beyond the designed application, applying features in a way the makers never envisioned,

After I do that, I tend to lose interest. For I example, I found the first year of Google+ when the discussion focused on what it was and what we could do with it much more interesting than when the users settled into workflow habits and posted content of pictures, listicles, or daily outrage. The feeling of a new frontier, of building a new kind of community was over and there wasn’t anything new to explore.

Ditto with Procreate. I’ve enjoyed trying every brush and feature. While I do find it relaxing sometimes just to doodle and watch the colors flow, I’m not making anything out of it. Having a cool new tool hasn’t motivated me to work at getting better with my artwork

And I think that’s what I’ve realized. All my pleasure derives from exploring the tools, my satisfaction from knowing what they’re capable of doing. I enjoy a pleasure in feeling potential.