Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Control Freak?

The title is not a criticism. It's a question. Did you see the punctuation mark there at the end? It's a question I'm pondering.

Before we go further, I should make my position clear. I am a control freak. It's not always obvious and can surprise people who don't know me because I appear to be very relaxed and chilled out about things. Those who know me better will tell you it's an act. I am a little bundle of perfectionist anxiety. However, we are not here to discuss my neuroses. This blog isn't big enough and it would get boring very quickly. I'm just explaining that I may have a bias.

This post has been prompted by the previous one discussing the frustration I experience when I'm waiting for others. It seems I'm not alone in this. I've spoken to other creatives about this issue and it seems to be more common than I thought. "Thank God it's not just me!" is the frequent response. I know my frustration lies in the fact that this is an element that is out of my hands. I have no control over what someone else is doing and that brings about anxiety. Why can't they do it faster? What's taking so long? Are they even giving it the proper attention it deserves?

I remember my tutor at Uni telling us that knitting was perfect for control freaks because you decide everything. The weight of the yarn, the colour, what happens at what point within that fabric. The length, the width, the outcome. You are creating something out of nothing. You have ultimate control. But then maybe that's true for all creatives. Whether you're a potter, weaver, graphic artist, musician, unicycling juggler, you have the control. You decide where to put the minor chord. You control the tension of the warp. You decide on the glaze or the stroke of a brush. There is an argument for "allowing the medium to talk" and there is an element of that. The potter works with the clay to create a pot instead of an intended mug. The weight of yarn will dictate which stitches are likely to work best, but ultimately we decide. By selecting chunky weight, I know I'm not going to be knitting lace.

Whilst I'm happy with the label of control freak, I understand that others may shy away from it. Maybe there is a better way of describing it. I had a friend who worked as a manager in HR and was fond of those buzz phrases that don't actually mean much - "blue sky thinking" and "flexibility within a framework" but maybe she was on the right lines.

Maybe what we do is not control but intelligently design?



  1. I think you are right in many ways. Makers/craftspeople, of whatever hue, often don't need or want to delegate any of the responsibility for making. You are there from initial doodle to finished piece. The only person who really has your vision is yourself and the only person you trust with the making process is yourself - you are also the only person to blame if it all goes wrong. Whether all of this is ultimately a good or bad idea, I'm still undecided.

    1. Thank you for your comment. You've made an interesting point about "responsibility" maybe it's the weight of that, we feel rather than control. Or maybe it's a combination.

      That's why I think collaborations are useful to shake us out of ourselves and remember the joy of experimenting. Even more so when working with creatives from a different discipline eg knitting/ceramics. Pottery/graphic arts.

  2. I have no problem with using the phrase "Control Freak", mainly because I understand that it means that when I make something it is ME that makes it and no one else. I have no idea how I would cope if I collaborated with another maker - giving up the total control would be hard I think.
    Whether the phrase itself is appropriate..well, I am undecided on that, but there isn't really anything else that sums up the solo creative process is there?