Friday, September 7, 2012

Beyond a Happy Brain

While photographing this vintage ribbonwork purse, my thoughts kept wandering back to a book I finished in August, What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite by David Di Salvo.


One of the most fascinating concepts laid out in the book was the notion that our brains really like things the way they are and don't like to be threatened.    Our brains develop schema, mental maps of concepts that we place together by association.  This is very helpful to our survival as we gain speed in evaluating new inputs so we can respond more quickly to them.  It's how we adapt and learn.

Our brains like it when new information fits into one of our pre-established schema, aka 'certainty bias'.  In fact, we crave certainty.  

When new information does not match our pre-determined schema, the brain is threatened and the reward center powers down.  In other words, it's uncomfortable and our brains will work hard to restore peace and harmony.


Though we may enter into a discussion with someone of opposing views with the best of intentions to be open-minded and really "hear" what the other person is saying, our brains will work very hard to selectively ignore information inconsistent with our schema or beliefs.  

In fact, the most shocking take-away for me from the book was that..

Our brain may not even hear, see or process the information at all...as if the information had never been transmitted in the first place.  (Here's a link to an interesting excerpt from the book if you're interested.)

Wow.  I've been missing a lot.  What a filter we have to overcome to take in new information!

So why, you ask, am I thinking of this book when I am photographing the beautiful vintage ribbonwork on this old purse?



I think it's because the process of photography...laying out the picture, selecting the angle in the viewfinder, editing the photos, gives our brains a second, third and fourth chance to take in information that we wouldn't have seen the first time around.

If someone had merely brought the purse to a meeting to share, I might have gotten the general impression of the beauty of the work.  I definitely would have noticed the uses for picot edged ribbon that were new to me.  But I would have left with just an overall impression.



But I would have left with just an overall impression.

Taking a picture allows us to re-see the image anew.  It allows us to study.  To go back over the image that we've looked at many times and find something we haven't seen before.  


And our filters, our schema, greatly influence what we're picking up in the photos.  

If I've taken ribbonwork classes, I might be focused on the ribbons and how they were sculpted.



If I'm a crewel artist, I might be interested in the colors and the shading of the leaves and how the blending of the silk buttonhole twist works differently than wool...  


If I have struggled to compose my own floral designs, I might look at the overall composition and its balance.


Maybe it's the texture; maybe it's the stitches...

I cannot predict what you will "see"...but I do know that none of us sees it all.  


I know I didn't see all the shades of brown, green, blue and gray threads used in the leaves and vines until I looked closer.  

I didn't see the thorns on the branches. 

I was too busy looking at the beautifully stuffed rosebuds and how I wanted so badly to make them.

And so we must work hard to see more than what is most obvious.
  
To push beyond our first impression.

And so...

Take a picture, it lasts longer.

And then...

Share it with someone.  

They may see something you missed.

Look again...


...what did you see?

32 comments:

Annette said...

Beautiful writing of the purse and learning to look. Thanks for sharing both with us. xo

Mary Ann said...

On my...so gorgeous. I keep going back and looking at your pictures:) It's so true that you can miss so much detail. When I make a doll face now I always take a picture of it and I see all my mistakes on a face that I thought was pretty good. It truly is an eye opener.

Rachel said...

I know I see more interesting things when I take photos - you're quite right!

crafty diane said...

This is an absolutely beautiful purse! Thank you for sharing.
Blessings,
Diane

bubbygigi said...

The purse is magnificent and the brain information was very interesting to me. My eye immediately focused on the picot edge ribbon work. Maybe it was because I just learned how to do a picot edge knitted bind-off. I think that I'll have to get this book. Thank you for the beautiful pictures.
Happy stitching,
Gita

Marty52 said...

I noticed the long stitches on the big pink buds... they really give it a new dimension. I also noticed that you always find something new to talk about... thanks for that. ;0)

Judy S. said...

That's a lovely purse with beautiful stitching. I also noticed how well it is finished and am left wondering how that was accomplished. Your book sounds like an interesting one, particularly relevant during the past several weeks!

Светлана said...

Потрясающе красиво!!!!

Cassandra and Alex said...

Amazing post...and amazing art!
–Cassandra

flyingbeader said...

It is like bead work. You only see the big image shouting at you, but when you take the time to actually see the intricate designs, the construction, the placement of bead shape/sizes/colors...it just can take you hours to observe one tiny portion. We really don't take the time to really delight our brains do we? That is why I love making big gigantic beaded pieces...the creation of it thrills me & it all embeds deep within my brain so when I pull it out I'm right there back at my work table with thread needle and beads working on it all over again. Yes, our brains are just wonderful.

FlowerLady said...

What a great post about a lovely work of art, complete with fantastic photos that make us look, really look. What I loved with the roses were the folds made to make each petal. I need to look at these again, actually all of the pictures and really study them. They did get my creative juices going.

FlowerLady Lorraine

Laurel's Quill said...

Interesting thoughts on how the brain works...If indeed our brains are pre-programmed to see what they want to see, then I need to re-program mine. I need to stay open to new ideas. Me? I see a LOT OF WORK and I immediately thought of what a pain Piping is to sew in.!!

Cynthia Nicole said...

It's hard to believe we actually completely miss stuff coming in, but it makes sense.
And the purse! What an artist created this piece. The use of color is so subtle and beautiful- unusual! and the ribbon work is amazingly creative too.

I Love close-ups of needle work. Thanks!

Leonie said...


For me it's seeing the grain and texture of the actual ribbon. A beautiful piece indeed Susan. Thanks for sharing

Софья Данилова said...

Красиво!Спасибо.

BackstoryBeads said...

Your gorgeous photography is always a treat for the eyes! I immediately focused on the grays and golds and how beautifully they were combined in the purse because I've been working in that colorway recently. But then I took the time to focus on all the luscious peach and pink tones. A work of art!

Wendy said...

I can tell you right now that my brain is in happy overload! This purse is just stunning! I would love to find such a treasure! Thank you for sharing.

JennyPennyPoppy said...

What a wonderful post and thanks for taking so many pictures of all the fabulous stitching. I will definitely try to look more so I can see better :)

FLOWER FRIEND said...

I was always told paint what you see, not what you think you see. I'm always surprised when I really look at something in detail at the colours used. They are usually the ones you don't expect to be there.The use of grey on the embroidery filters all through the piece and gives it balance and a subtle softness. Thank you for making me see Susan.

Momma Bear said...

oh my! what a sumptuous purse!
not to mention your photography always floors me!
on day if you are ever in these parts (Wa.state)I will have to come find you and pick your brain on that score!)
something I noticed on the orange buds,my eye goes to orange first, always!
is the bit of light stitching to draw the eye and make it look like it was "sunkissed" and imagine my surprise when in the last picture it was just a bit of rubbed off ribbon! but it gave me an idea of how to use a little bit of lighter floss to make the "sunkissed" impression.
talk about seeing things in a different way!)

Sheila said...

Hmmm! So interesting. Thank you for the tour through the photographs. Great job, once again. :) Plus, rather off topic, but I like your newest header. ~ Sheila

Connie Eyberg Originals said...

Gorgeous purse. I've noticed now that I do more stitching I pay much closer attention to the details. I think your brain likes photography because you always have the most wonderful images here on your blog.

Jillayne said...

Everything you said here I have experienced. Sometimes I think it's also because there is always only so much that can be absorbed at a time, especially when we are stopped dead in our tracks by something that has struck us. Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees and sometimes we can't see the trees for the forest...

Cyn ;-) said...

This is a wonderful post! I love how you invite us all to look and look again. You've given us a lot to think about... I will be back to read and study this post again. Thank you for writing about and sharing your artistic insight.

Mary said...

Thank you for opening my eyes to such beautiful ribbonwork. As an 50+ year old, I'm hoping it's not too late to look at things through a different lens.

Catherine said...

You make it so easy to see more than the ordinary with your photos! Thanks for sharing another beauty!

Nicki Lee said...

Gorgeous purse and beautifully written post. My eyes were immediately drawn to the colors and textures of the various ribbons and threads. As I continued to read your words I found myself wandering to the beading and stitching and going back and forth to each picture. Your photography work always amazes me and helps me see things that I might have missed.

Sandi said...

Great post. Thanks for helping me look at things in a different way.

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

When I first started reading the post, I was thinking of a recent situation at work regarding detailed certificates that I must review for each job. I understand better now about that situation.

Then I looked at the stitching and immediately noticed the shading in the leaves because I am currently trying to perfect shading my stitching. I never noticed those thorns or the picots on the ribbon. (I don't do ribbon work). So I see that one would first notice what they are most interested in at the moment.

I think I'll look for the book.
I totally agree about the pictures too.
xx, Carol

elmsley rose said...

The ombre ribbons are so well worked- it's directly transplantable (by my brain) to needlepainting. That's what I saw. Coz I'm hungering to do some needlepainting.

Bénédicte said...

What a georgous purse! I was immediately interested in the multicolored leaves, than in the use of the picot ribbon, which I love to use. The purse gives me nice ideas of embroideries. How talented was the person who disigned and stitched it... Where did you have the opportunity to admire such a marvel : in a museum?
PS : your blog is a pleasure for my eyes, you work marvelously!
Bénédicte

Wanda said...

The work on the purse looks like perfection in artistry to me. And I wonder about the woman who made it. Was she appreciated? How many others knew she was an accomplished artist?

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