Q&A: Kim Werker, Author of Make It Mighty Ugly

kimwerker072414Kim Werker’s Make It Mighty Ugly (LJ 7/14, p. 85) is a how-to guide to over­coming creative blocks by facing the ugly parts of crafting­—and all creative work—head-on.

Why do you advocate making ugly things on purpose? What’s the appeal?

Ugly is the thing that we avoid. Ending up with something ugly is the thing that we consider to be a failure, and because we consider it to be a failure, it keeps us from trying to do anything. Because what if we end up with something ugly when what we wanted was something good? So screw it, I say. Start with the goal of making something ugly. Then if you end up with something ugly, you win. Getting over that fear can significantly alter your perspective on making stuff.

makeitmightyugly072414But what about people who don’t like making things? Will they get anything out of your book?

Chances are you do make things, you just don’t realize it—you might make spreadsheets or dinner or plans for a vacation—and regardless of what you make, you might be kind of intimidated by the idea of going out of your comfort zone. If you regularly fix dinner, you may have five or six go-to meals that you prepare on autopilot, but why are you not making a seventh meal? Chances are it’s because of fear that that meal will taste terrible. Right? Then you’ve got a ruined meal. But you’re not going to die if you have a ruined meal, you’ll just have a peanut butter sandwich.

A lot of us have had experiences in the past that have made us feel less than competent and less than confident and less than capable, and I think we close a lot of doors on ourselves because of those experiences and we don’t really look back on them, especially as adults. We don’t tend to say, hey, when I was a kid, I used to love making pot holders. Why don’t I have any handmade pot holders in my house now? What happened? Maybe it stopped being fun, in which case, go buy your pot holders with my blessing. But maybe it’s because somebody in our class looked at us when we were eight and said well, that’s dumb, and that’s kind of a sad reason not to go back and revisit something later.

Can people do the projects in the book by themselves? Is it better in a group? Does it matter?

I think it depends on the person. I do think there is something special about doing it with other people. Since one of the major goals of the Mighty Ugly project is to shift your perspective, doing it in a room with other people can really affect your perspective—you can see that other people are suffering, other people are uncomfortable, and some people are having the time of their lives. And so regardless of what your own feelings are, seeing what other people are feeling can make you feel more secure. I love doing this project in groups because I love the conversations that happen and I love the stories that people tell in the end. So when I do a formal workshop, the end of the workshop is like a storytelling session in which participants show off and talk about all the creatures they made. Everyone loves seeing what other people have done. There’s something to be said for doing this alone at your own pace, but especially for people who don’t regularly go out of their comfort zones when it comes to making things, I nudge people to do it in a group.

Can librarians use the book to lead Mighty Ugly workshops in their own libraries?

I think so! I know that organizing and doing and getting groups together is something that libraries are paying a lot of attention to—I just learned that across Canada this summer there’s a major initiative in public libraries to promote books about making—and I have information on the ­MightyUgly.com site specifically for librarians that should make it even easier to use the book for library programs. There are exercises that are not amenable to being done in a library setting (riding public transit for a day, for example) but many of the exercises are—like making something ugly, which is the thing that started it all. There are no specific materials called for, so it shouldn’t involve a significant outlay of money. I have some worksheets librarians can use. We can do a Skype call!

What do you think is the most important thing for people to know about Mighty Ugly?

This should be fun. It can be intimidating but fun. That’s it, really.—Stephanie Klose

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Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (sklose@mediasourceinc.com, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.