Updated: Oct 25, 2021
This week we look at five very different books guaranteed to make you think about how you approach your creative work.
Austin Kleon is a New York Times bestselling author. He writes illustrated books about creativity in the digital age. To say he’s a major success is putting it mildly. His fans include people like singer-songwriter, Rosanne Cash, Jason Segel of The New York Times, and Chris Anderson, curator of TED. His book, Steal like an artist is filled with exercises and ideas designed to get the creative juices flowing. It’s also filled with new and old truths about creativity.
Based on a speech he gave to a bunch of college students, the book is shaped around 10 Rules he’d wished he’d been told when he was starting out. The rules at first glance seem incredibly simple, but they are effective.
Here are Kleon’s 10 Rules:
Steal like an Artist
Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
Write the book you want to read.
Use your hands.
Side projects and hobbies are important.
The secret: do good work and share it with people.
Geography is no longer our master.
Be nice (The world is a small town).
Be boring (It’s the only way to get work done).
Creativity is subtraction.
In his second book, Show Your Work, Kleon tackles the idea of how to get known. His take on this subject is both unconventional and kind. He talks about the importance of generosity and how to share your work politely and the perils of oversharing. We’ve all met that artist who constantly bombards people with their work, but seldom has time for anyone else.
Brain Pickings, Maria Popova excellent blog focused on creative people’s ideas said this about the book, “Kleon addresses with equal parts humility, honesty, and humor one of the quintessential questions of the creative life: How do you get ‘discovered’? In some ways, the book is the mirror-image of Kleon’s debut — rather than encouraging you to ‘steal’ from others… it offers a blueprint to making your work influential enough to be theft-worthy.”
The next book on our list, Getting Your Sh*t Together: The Ultimate Business Manual for Every Practicing Artist by Karen Atkinson is the perfect read for mid-career artists, emerging artists, hobbyists, crafts-people, and students.
The book is based on Atkinson lecture series which she gave at the California Institute of the Arts, Side Street Projects, and all over the world. She has written four books on the subject.
Throughout her career, she has worked as a curator, director, editor, writer, installation artist, public projects organizer, grant writer, and teacher. She feels these experiences have given her a unique perspective of the artworld.
She wrote this book to empower artists. It’s hands-on with fabulous instructions and advice, with information about everything from how to archive your work, create a mailing list, and apply for grants. Designed especially to help artists find success on their own terms.
Sarah Corbett‘s How to be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest is a different kind of inspirational read. It’s not so much about how to create, but rather how to use your craft or art form as a catalyst for change. It’s a demonstration of the art of gentle protest. Corbett, a professional campaigner and founder of the Craftivist Collective, shares how her life changed when she went from a traditional confrontational activist, to using craft to create conversational work that engages and invites discussion. The book is filled with snapshots of Corbett’s life as well as advice for novice craftivists. Think about it, wouldn’t you like to change the world with your work?
Archaeologist and medieval historian, Alexander Langland’s book, Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional is a combination of history, scientific analyses and personal memoir. A study of the history of craft as well as society’s craving for authenticity and all things hand-made. It teaches us why we feel this urge. Through the book we follow Langland’s attempts at herding sheep, keeping bees, and tanning hides and learn a deeper appreciation of human inventiveness.
Lastly, if you’re looking for more great reads, check out the Maiwa bookshop. It’s crammed with interesting craft books on a range of topics from natural dyeing to Indian Embroidery to Shetland Lace knitting.