2018

water droplets

The new year began with snow days, a stack of library books and long breakfasts by candlelight.
I love the slow, peaceful pace of things this time of year.

It’s no accident, I suppose, that the cozy winter mood I find myself in when I think about my resolutions for the new year – read books ! write more ! Post one painting a week ! Create a weekly routine and stick to it ! – unavoidably results in a spectacular implosion (and a severely neglected blog) once April comes and the year’s seed catalogue (or French politics) starts focusing all my attention.

Yet as I heard people here and there talking about choosing their guiding words for 2018, « routines » was the word that kept coming to my mind. Yes, routines, for everyday life and for creativity, is what I intend to work on this year.

I feel optimistic, because I know I am not starting from scratch. For one thing, I finally feel confident now that the creative path is the one I want to pursue. For another, living in a place I call my own, with a decent set of tools at hand, and for a few years in a row, has been liberating. It has helped me realize that creating routines doesn’t necessarily requires setting a rigid timetable and relying on a level of willpower I don’t have to make myself stick to it.

It works much better for me to pay attention to the way I organize my space to make sure that everyday life doesn’t get in the way of my creative work.

We’ll see how it goes !
Happy new year, you all ! I’ve missed you !

2017

Status update: a star still shining at the kitchen window, fresh snow and freezing cold. Oh, and just some extra fairy lights.

While it’s pretty hard for me to be optimistic when it comes the political side of things for 2017, I feel determined not to fall into apathy and despair. And since I know I feel best when I’m being creative, I’ve made a little list of creative resolutions for myself.

Drawing along with Eileen in December was really fulfilling. Now committing to posting a finished drawing every day would not be realistic for me. However I think that every week might work, so I’ll try to follow the illustration friday prompts. This week’s topic is “talk”.

talk_bymarion

In my mind these gnomes were always intended to be made with cut paper collage, so here’s the first one (with messy glue stains, un-erased pencil lines and all!)

I’m really looking forward to seeing what you create this year. I’m learning so much from all of you. Thanks for being around, and happy new year!

 

 

 

Some Things

IMG_1028

Something I finally tried last weekend: weaving a rag rug! An awesome local weaving studio had an open doors event, so I jumped at the chance. I think I’m hooked!

Something that grows really well in my garden this year? Zucchini! I tried two different kinds: Striato d’Italia and Costata Romanesco. Both worked great, and they’re a good combination since the former started giving fruits in July while the later is ready now.

Some great things I stumbled upon via twitter (I’m @by_marion) this week:

Something to eat?

Something about a bird named Malawi.

Some things about creative introverts. Well, I identify with every single point. Do you?

Have a wonderful weekend!


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Some Things

Red House In The Snow

Something our neighbors taught us: when nature gives you free insulation, pile it against the walls of your house.

Something critical about academia, made poetic. Found through matters mathematical, and very much agreed upon.

Something that got me thinking: “create to share” vs “share what you create”. Eileen’s blog is full of inspiring posts about illustration. I also enjoyed that one, for example.

Something animated,

and something from photographers I enjoy following: moments in black and white before morning coffee and after a short swim.

Have a cozy weekend.


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On Lab Journals And Craft Journals

ford model T cut paper and watercolors illustration

I have a pile of red, soft cover spiral notebooks I bought at the beginning of my postdoc. The first ones became lab journals, and now I’m using the rest of the pile as scrap-, sketch-, and whatever-notes-I-need-to-take- books. I could just have grabbed notebooks in the supplies cabinet of the Physics Department, but I was rather specific about how I wanted my lab journal. I wanted spirals so I could open it full, fold it back and stack it on the corner of a lab bench, occasionaly tearing out any pages I wanted to get rid off. I wanted it to be my very own. And I really liked the red covers.

When I was first explained what a lab journal was as a young student, I felt invested of a very serious mission. The progress of Science was basically lying on my shoulders. I was responsible for writing down everything anyone would need to reproduce a successful experiment. Later I learned that writing something that would still make sense to me after a few years was a much more reasonable goal.

I secretly delighted in carefully trimming and gluing plots and tables here and there on the pages of my precious notebook, a craft I undeniably excelled in in elementary school but had been deprived of as more and more ring binders appeared in my aging student gear. I used the good old fountain pen I was carrying along in my pencil case since high school. People would be impressed. “Is this your lab journal? Whoa! It’s spotless!”.

It was. Nice and clean. No crossing-outs. But besides my beautiful handwriting, undeniable talent for page layout (and shameless use of erasable ink), I guess it also had to do with the fact that I kept trial and error stuff on additional lose pages of scrap paper. I felt that I had to keep these separate because I didn’t trust that I would be able to discriminate established facts from guesses I had made when I would come back to the notes I made a few months earlier. I guess I also naively thought that my lab journals would eventually be passed on to and used by the next student working the same experimental setup, so that I should refrain from cluttering them with my personal ramblings.

It was a bad idea, because I’m sure that to some extent, it simply prevented these ramblings to even happen, and the process of research is largely about these ramblings. So, as a postdoc I finally started allowing myself to write down everything that came to my mind with whatever pen happened to be available. I used carelessly teared tape instead of glue and crossed out whole sentences without scruples, trying to let the ramblings happen. But it quickly became clear that virtually no one had any interest in them until they could be turned into something that sounded publishable, as very often opposed, I felt, to genuinely interesting. The pitiful state of my neglected lab journal reflected my own state of mind: I felt lost, bored and frustrated.

Around the time I had made up my mind to leave academia after the end of my postdoc, we had our annual group meeting. Besides the appointment of volunteers to organize the Christmas party, “a new routine for lab journals” was on the agenda. Our university, following the popular European tendency and ensuring compliance with the nowadays popular paradigm of intellectual property, had decided to set up a strict lab journal policy that involved distributing and keeping track of calibrated, institution-owned notebooks in which we, researchers, were responsible for writing down everything we did in predefined boxes: date, title of the experiment, description of the procedure and results, signature, signature of a witness. Everything you wrote in here became the property of the university, and everything you had to write had to be written in there. If you were allowed to keep a copy of your notes when leaving the institution, the original notebook had to be handed out for archiving.

Everyone agreed that such a rigid procedure was completely disconnected from the reality of the researcher’s work. But the protests were only about the form. Some found it obsolete to have a paper journal when they were usually keeping all their notes electronically. Even the paper lovers like me unanimously found the dimensions of the book and its rigid cover very unpractical. And of course the exigence of having every single page countersigned by “a witness who understood the content” made everyone roll their eyes in exasperation.

But we didn’t talk about the intellectual property thing and its meaning for the future of fundamental research. “You know, this is how it is, now”, our group leader said. “We have to follow the new rule”.

So I was left with these extra red, soft cover spiral notebooks and now I use them to record my new creative endeavors. I’m gradually realizing that they are truly mine. I do hope I can still understand these sock-knitting instructions in a few months.

I think that applying a vision of intellectual property in which knowledge is a good with an economical value to what academic research produces is wrong for many reasons. First, any honest researcher knows that it its extremely tricky to attribute a research result to a single person, a single research group or a single institution. Second, this process slows down the diffusion of knowledge to a wide audience, who incidentally also often coincides with the tax payers who funded the research. And third, it promotes the harmful idea that research is only about results.

It reminds me of book by French writer Daniel Pennac called Comme Un Roman, an essay about reading. Pennac starts by pointing out that the verb “read”, just as “love” or “dream”, doesn’t make any sense used in the imperative form. Well, the same could be said for any creative endeavour. And in my opinion, it applies to research, too. I don’t think you get the best out of researchers by ordering them to find, find, find.

 
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