Have you ever been told that you work too hard? Or that you spend too much of your time on a computer?
So is it the computer that draws our attention away from what's going on around us? Or is it the designing?
I think it's probably a mixture of the two, though I do know people who work on computers all day who can't wait to get away from them at the end of the day; which seems to suggest that the designing is probably the main cause, especially if it involves making patterns.
What is it about pattern-making that is so absorbing, almost to the point of 'addiction'?
Is it the fact that our brains are hard-wired to make patterns? Partly.
Is it the fact that, unlike most other forms of art, pattern-making can constantly surprise us? I may think I am in charge of the plan for a pattern but what actually happens is that, at some point in the pattern-making process, unexpected effects, 'happy accidents', seem to occur quite frequently! I don't think I ever create a pattern without being, at least once, 'surprised by joy!'
And that's another thing - the designer, aided and abetted by sophisticated designing software, can experience pure joy whenever a pattern comes together in just the right way.
But so can a landscape painter, a photographer or any creative person whatever creative activity they pursue . . .
So what is about pattern-making that is different? What makes is so absorbing that the hours disappear and nothing else seems to matter?
I think it is the 'what if?' element.
We know that curiosity and the willingness to risk failure are components of creativity. Small children will try all sorts of things in the spirit of wondering, 'what if . . .?' "what if I colour my bedroom wall with my crayons?' "what if I mix up all the spices in the kitchen cupboard?" "what if I put the cat in the drawer and close it . . .?"
When we are absorbed in creating our patterns, in a sense we are back in our early childhood - but with the advantage of having an adult's ability to use a computer to extend and enhance our original ideas. And time becomes as irrelevant as it is to a small child who can't understand the urgency of getting to school on time!
Some adult thought has probably gone into the original design - like this one that I painted a few weeks ago.
But then, after scanning it and the tedious process of tidying it up and making the background transparent on the computer, we enter the magical world of 'what if . . .'
What if I try different background colours?
What if I take one of the little blue flowers and make it into a 'polka dot'?
What if I take the individual flowers and 'toss' them around to make a completely different, but coordinating pattern?
Stripes maybe? And even a plaid or a matching check gingham?
And then - what if I put some of them together in mix'n'match designs?
Or even a faux patchwork?
Of course, I've made it look more straightforward than it probably is! It doesn't always run so smoothly.
As well as 'happy accidents', there are the unexpected results that are far from welcome too! Finding patterns that work together can take time . . . and that's when other things can get neglected, as we wrestle with the 'ingredients' that we know will eventually fall into place, if we just keep working at it!
How will the border look on a teapot? Can I use the mix'n'match to make a greeting card . . .? What will the faux patchwork look like on a laptop sleeve?
Here's a pillow/cushion that I think came out quite well -
Of course, I always hope that others will enjoy my 'creations' as much as I enjoy creating them.
So if you are one of those people who suffer from a friend or family member getting so caught up in their pattern-making that you feel neglected, please don't take it personally!
I very much hope that the process I have described here will go some way to helping you understand what's going on - and it may even, maybe, help you to share in the excitement and ultimately, the joy as well.
And if you are on the receiving end of grumbles about your 'obsession', don't let the negative remarks stop you doing what you love! Remember, nobody else can do what you do - your 'talent' is your gift to the world and, as Louise Hay said, 'somewhere, someone is looking for just what you have to offer'.
Try to accept that a 'balanced' life may not be for you - in fact, I sometimes think that the concept of the 'balanced life' is probably the handy invention of those who lack the courage to embrace their talents whole-heartedly, never daring to ask 'what if?' - and that could never be said of you, could it?
If Early Man had listened to his wife and led a 'balanced life', if he had never allowed himself to to wonder, 'what if . . . ?' the wheel might never have been invented.
Now there's a thought!