Digital Activism

I learned a lot after reading all the digital activism articles. I really had no idea what Digital Activism was or anything about it, but “The 6 Activist functions of technology” was a very helpful read for me to get started. I learned how people were using the internet to aid their activism. I then went on to the other articles and learned more about how today’s teens are using it effectively to fight key issues they face.

Maybe it is just because I am from the Midwest, or I have the wrong friend circle, but I rarely see people actively engaging in digital activism on my Facebook or twitter feed. The only thing I can honestly think of is anti-suicide campaigns that come across every few years. But when reading the articles I was able to see how teens are effectively spreading their word and cause via Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. Each like and sharing making it bigger and stronger. Slowly but surely gaining more followers.

With social media and the internet teens are able to stay up to date almost instantly about issues and they stay on top of issues that concern them, like bullying and depression. I think another great thing about digital activism is it can give people a voice that may be shy. Some activists can be keyboard warriors, in a good way. They can express concerns through a screen they would be too scared to say in front of a crowd.


A finished piece

Well this week I finally got to sit done and flower tool something from start to finish. I also got to try some new leather dyes. My new tools are great and helped a ton; I love them. I settled on pattern I’ve been sketching on the past couple weeks and I think it turned out pretty good. I’ll try to explain the process I went through to make this.

I first put the drawing of my design on the damp leather, then traced over it with a pen to leave a small depression of all the lines on the leather. I use a pen because it is harder and also I can see what parts I haven’t traced. I then go back and re trace all the lines with a swivel knife to cut them into the leather. After that I go back through and bevel all the lines, this gives the raised or lowered impression and makes my flowers or vines “standout” from the leather. After that it is a time consuming task of using veins, thumbprints, and camo tools to add the details to the flower pedals and leaves. The final step is to use a back grounding tool to flatten any leather that is “Behind” the flower tooling, to make it stand out even more. After this I tried some new oil dyes. Before I have always used gel dyes that stain the leather one color, then gone back through with paint to add color or darken areas. But with these new oil dyes I can stain different areas different colors. It was tough to figure out though because when the brush touches the leather the oil dye “bleeds” out into the leather so it will take some practice to get precise with my dyes.


Overall I’m happy with this piece and it got my confidence built and makes me want to work at this even more. It still isn’t great but I’m getting there! Already have projects in my mind for next week!

Feeding My Feed

I could not get “How to Cultivate your Personal Learning Network” to load so I could read but I have a few good ideas on how to clean up and expand my personal learning network. First off I did do a large spam follow to a point and am no regretting it. I followed some pretty useless accounts that either tweet things I have no interest in, retweet other accounts I already follow, or don’t even tweet. I need to pay attention to what accounts these are and unfollow them as they are doing nothing for me. One nifty tool with twitter is it alerts me when so many of my followers, follow the same account. So if a new account is made or discovered that would be beneficial to me, it isn’t that hard to find!

I was surprised at how many accounts followed me back and new accounts followed me after I reached 100 followers. I actually have people to “inform and educate”. I want to be able to relay any cool facts, tricks, news, etc to my followers and keep them in the loop as well. I also want to someday get good enough at leather tooling to start my own page and gain followers that admire my work and want to learn.

The only real challenge I see with continuing to feed my personal learning network is that most of the great leather toolers are very old, and probably don’t even know what twitter is. I’m learning from my generation, which isn’t bad, but I’m sure those old boys know some tricks and tips to help me.

Casing Leather

I spent some time this week working on flower tooling on some scrap pieces of leather I had laying around my house. I tired some new techniques that I had read about and watched some videos on but I just could not get things to come out as well as I wanted. My outline cuts just wouldn’t cut as deep and clean as I would like and my tools didn’t leave as fine of edges or burnishes as I wanted. The last picture I posted I borrowed some tools from a friend so I finally came to the conclusion that my starter tools were not going to get me the results I wanted.

So after reading reviews, asking questions, and window shopping I broke down and bought a new batch of tools. Mainly a new swivel knife to make cleaner and deeper cuts. As well as a new beveller to round out my flower edges, and vainer to leave the deep marks and impressions in the petals, and a bar backgrounder to flatten the leather “behind” the flowers and vines. While these are not all the tools you use in flower tooling they are some of the most important and felt that they were the necessities to get and that I could afford on my budget. Being a college student sucks.


But this week was not all in vain. I learned how to “Case” my leather before tooling it. Leather tools best when it is wet, it is easier for your tools to cut carve and mold the leather. But if it is too wet it becomes mushy and leaves a crappy mark. So all the while that I am tooling I have to constantly stop, re wet my leather, and let it dry a little before continuing. But I found a video on how to “case” leather. If you get your leather wet, wrap it in a plastic bag, and let it sit in a fridge overnight, it allows the water to really soak into the leather and keep it moist, but the surface dry to keep the tools from blemishing it.

Expanding my Personal Learning Network

I learned that Personal Learning Networks are far more complex than I thought but after spending some time on Google it was actually really easy to expand mine and follow people, company, and pages with the same interests as me. At first I found just popular leather craftsman, and followed them mainly to look at their photos and admire their work. But I soon found pages of companies that posted tips, videos, and tutorials on tooling things. On top of that I found some business to follow that posted sales and new products, which I ended up buying but I will talk on that more in my next blog.

To expand my Personal Learning Network I simply googled leather work and found some Facebook pages of craftsmen that had links to their twitter accounts. After following a few of them, more and more popped up on my suggest follow and it was easy from there! A few businesses also came up on suggested follow so I clicked that little button just because. I also found a few leather craftsmen that had blogs, also containing instructional videos with tips and ideas to help me with my flower tooling.

As well as following some leather craftsmen and companies I also went ahead and followed some rodeo accounts. I had no idea how many organizations and bull riders that I looked up too had a twitter! It was great to be able to keep up to date with what is going on in the PRCA and PBR as well as some smaller organizations. They had live up to date tweets on rodeos in process as far as scores times etc. which is nice for me because I do not have TV and usually get updated on Facebook the next few days or in magazines. It was also fun to follow some professional bull riders and read what they had tweeted. It showed me that even though they are my idols they are just people too. I found it comical to read them complaining about how a flight was laid over and they had to sit in a terminal for six hours or tweet their favorite song lyrics.

Overall I’m glad I expanded my personal learning network and look forward to expanding it even more in the future and reaping the full benefits that I can receive from Twitter as well as blogs.

A weekend with a Legend

Well I hate to disappoint but I did not get any flower tooling done this week. I had a very busy week and was waiting till the weekend but something that seemed more fun came up! I got the opportunity to go too Gillette Wyoming to help Bobby Welsh but on a bull riding school.

I was nervous but I’m glad I went and did it, it was great experience and learning curve for me. Obviously Bobby did the main instructing but I helped out every chance I got. We started the school off introducing ourselves, telling our experience level, and listing our goals for the school. It was exciting to see so many young kids, many just starting high school, fired up to get on their first bulls.

From here we discussed riding technique, what to during a hang up, how to get off properly, and did some basic drills on the bucking dummy. I received more than enough of a workout running that might I add. Around noon the first day we finally started loading bucking bulls.

It was quite the experience being around so many bulls. They had brought about 40 or 50 head ranging from bulls that did little more then walk around the arena to bulls that have been in the PBR. They kept me on my toes all weekend trying to move them around and load them. Luckily I always made it up a fence when one decided he didn’t like me! I spent most of my time opening chutes and helping the young riders as much as I could. It was inspiring to me to see this kids so hungry to keep getting on more bulls even after taking a hard hit or fall to the ground.

I even learned some new things just watching and listening, and of course I could only watch so many bulls be bucked before I finally had to get on one. Bobby owns many bulls himself and has one that is very large, weighing around 1650 pounds, which is on the bigger spectrum for bucking bulls. He had hauled him to rodeos all summer and said not very many people could ride him. Not because he bucked so hard but because he was so heavy many guys got jerked around. I started a good ride but ultimately came to the same fate and got jerked down by the gentle giant. Over all the weekend was a great success for everyone and I am very appreciative I got to be a part of it.


Passion and Inspiration

After cruising the website for a while I came across the articles /code by Maurice Elias and by Betty Ray. I settled on these articles because they pertain to teaching and motivation of students. As I have mentioned in previous blogs I am big on motivation, I aspire to bring the best out in people and help them achieve their best; student or otherwise.

The first article “Finding Students” talks about students having their talents hidden because they are never presented with an opportunity to show them off.  Just think what great inventions or masterpieces have been dismissed because a student’s talents where “hidden”. It goes on to explain that as teachers it is our job to reveal these talents. Let students explore and try what they want. One idea I liked is have students in class tell what impresses them about other students. Moments their classmates inspired them with a talent.

The second article “How Passion in Education Can Drive Change” talks about teaching with a passion. It has some testimonies from teachers about their passion in the classroom and why they do it. Majority of teachers get underplayed and underfunded, so why do they do it? Because they have a passion for teaching, which is what I want to have. I want to break through and help students overcome problems. I want to someday in the future have a former student see me and tell me I had an impact on their life. I’ve had professors like that in my life and they are great role models for me as a teacher and a person as to what I want to be like.

I really enjoyed both of these articles and found them fitting for this week to blog about. I hope to keep finding encouraging posts like these that bring some light into the world of education, as we can all agree it is headed in the wrong direction right now.

The drawing process

The first step I needed to take in improving my flower tooling was become decent at drawing up patterns and designs. As some of you know this week and next is the black hills stock show and rodeo in Rapid City. I spent hours walking around looking at other peoples work taking pictures and studying. I tried to pinpoint what tools they used where, how they made flowers and leaves and vines intertwine. I also bought a book from Sheridan Leather Company that helps guide you on how to draw these patterns.  I am starting to get a basic idea on how to draw a good pattern.

After doing my observing I decided to give my hand at drawing my own patterns. At first everything was chunky and didn’t go together. But I just kept drawing and erasing, working at it. I went through a pile of paper but eventually I got a piece that looks decent and I plan on tooling it soon. The biggest thing that helped me was just letting my pencil flow. I was trying to be too precise with my curves and placement of pieces. I just let my vines do their own thing. Putting in leaves and flowers at random. I’m pretty happy with how the final piece turned out. Another thing that helped me was shading with my pencil to get an idea of where I would background and it made the final image clearer in my head for what the end result would be.

It has been awhile since I made anything for myself so I want to expand on this piece and tool a new belt for myself to wear. I haven’t decided if I want to bead a belt and flower tool the ends if I want to try and do an entire belt and work my name into the vines or something. I might work on that next week and decide.

How to build your creative confidence

I chose to watch the TED Talk “How to build your creative confidence” by David Kelley. I wanted to watch it because it goes hand in hand with my independent learning. To draw designs and patterns for flower tooling takes creativity and confidence, which I lacked severely in that area. This video gave me some support in reminding me that you won’t be perfect from the get go, it takes practice and time. It also reminded me not to listen to negative influences.

He makes some great points about how we as teachers need to push a student’s creative confidence and not destroy it. If a student loves art, encourage their drawing until they get good. If they like to play the piano, don’t tell them they would be better of doing something else instead encourage them, lift them up until they are at the level they want to be at. As a teacher I want to help my students pursue whatever goals they have, but also make them realize their goals are limitless and to pursue a true passion not what society wants them too.

One thing I did not enjoy about this TED talk though is that towards the middle and end of the video he seemed to talk less about how to boost confidence, and more bragged on stories of how his friends accomplished it.  I want to learn more on how these people did this. How did they train their mind to change are pursue ideas. How did they just let go and open their mind to let the ideas flow? This is something I wish he would have went into more detail on.

But he does bring it back together at the end saying “People are naturally creative, and we need to let those colors fly.” Imagine what great ideas and new technologies or material creations we could have if we didn’t divide society into creative and non-creative. Everyone is creative and could have a world changing idea. They just need the confidence.

Devoting my time to work

So when I started this blog the first time I immediately wanted to learn how to fly fish. I love fishing and it is a dream of mine to hike the Mountains of Wyoming just fishing for a summer. Long story short my laptop crashed and guess who didn’t save their work. This guy! Now that it is up and running again I re read the assignment and realized we need to constantly be working on this learning process, and it would be hard to learn how to fly fish in the winter so I’m changing my idea.

3 or 4 years ago I got into a hobby of doing beadwork and leatherwork. It started off because simply I wanted a beaded belt but couldn’t afford one, so I taught myself how to do it. As I did it more people started to like my work and present day I make a living off of it and have been for the past 15ish months. But I was always hesitant to flower tool any of my work. It is a very time consuming process that involves specific detailed work. Over Christmas break I spent the money and bought a nice set of flower tools, which I used to carve this piece to wrap around a boot jack for my step dad for a present. This is only the 3rd piece I have ever flower tooled so don’t judge to hard.

sketch tooled Stained Final

The process of flower tooling starts with drawing up the design, which is the part that scares me the most. I struggle with making the flowers and leaves and vines flow so I plan to spend the first week or two working solely on drawing patterns and ideas. The actual process of carving and tooling the leather is more time consuming and requires finesse. But I feel that it will be easier with my new tools. The final step is staining and or painting, which I’m very comfortable with. I’m excited to pursue this and look forward to posting progress pictures!!