Kuumba and the Kwanzaa Creations Kit

Kuumba, or … Creativity. The formal Principle states: “To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.” Clearly Kuumba means so, so much more than art and music or whatnot, or even the creative process that leads to such. It means nothing less than the making of all of life better–however this grand ideal may be achieved. It follows beautifully and rather meaningfully from the immediately preceding Principle (Nia, or Purpose); is backed by its successor (Imani, or Deep Faith); all three of which in turn rest on the foundation of the the first four (Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, and Ujamaa–Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, and Cooperative Economics).

Yet there is no doubt that Kuumba is most often associated with creative and artistic endeavors; and, for good reason. Is art and culture not a significant part of who you are? Who a people are? Can the arts–music, film, art, whatnot–not convey the highest ideals of love and learning? Can they not soothe you during hard times; help connect you to others and to your culture; or remind you of what really matters, grounding you in a better reality? (Yes, I know a lot of art does not necessarily do all these things … and that is okay and even needed. Not everything worthwhile in life has to be of a profound nature. But art most certainly can do these things; and, sometimes, it does.) Moreover … is the creation of art not quite a process sometimes? With everything from inspiration to actual creation, to all the effort that may take, to finished work and shared enjoyment? A process that does sometimes leave life just a little more beautiful?

Collection logo image for the Gather 'Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit at The Draw on Zazzle

Logo for the Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit on Zazzle
© 2018 Darren Olsen

The Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit is the most complicated and drawn-out “project” I have yet done for The Draw. It took about four months from conception to completion–usually two-to-three hours a day–feeling at times as though the work involved was only growing. Yet while I am not of African descent, the Principles of Kwanzaa do speak even to me, at least a little … and not least of all Kuumba. While in deference to and respect for Kwanzaa and its non-commercial nature, I had long decided against doing a Kwanzaa drawing, the key there is “a” drawing–one lone drawing like any other, soon done and placed upon several products. When instead, I hit upon the notion of doing several drawings–pieces of innumerable unrealized drawings, really–whereby families and friends could gather at their computers and themselves create something truly special and unique–it was suddenly so much more workable. Hopefully, I could create something that would allow others–families, most of all–to truly create something unique and special for their Kwanzaa celebrations … and, of course, all while sharing time together, collectively creating!

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Kwanzaa Creations Image Catalog

The Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit is a rather unique collection of items. Although each one only shows a handful of images at any one time, in fact, all of them contain over 80 (most of which simply are not visible by default). This means that through Zazzle’s design interface–one feature of which is the ability to show or hide available images–the options for customization and personalization are very great; certainly much, much greater than those of the typical Zazzle item.

Gather 'Round Kwanzaa Creations, colored pencil drawing by Darren Olsen at The Draw

“Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations”
© 2018 Darren Olsen

This “catalog” shows all the images available, so that if you’re interested in designing your own Kwanzaa Creations item for you and your family (ideally with your family!), you have something to help you get started. This includes a few walk-through videos too, to truly show you all the ins-and-outs of working with the images in the design interface. For even a seasoned Zazzle designer could easily be overwhelmed with the sheer number and unfamiliarity of the images alone. And, if you have never worked with Zazzle’s design interface before, trying to get your item just right could otherwise be much harder–and even much less enjoyable–than it ought to be. (After all, it should be creative and fun!)

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Drawing for a New Day

I first heard of Nowruz about three years ago, from a classmate who was kind enough to bring some cookies to class in celebration and observance of it. For those of you as yet unaware of Nowruz, it is a 3000+ year-old holiday that, at least as I best understand it, celebrates the arrival of spring, and the renewal not only of nature, but of one’s health and fortunes and such as well. Though it emerged with Zoroastrianism, for which it remains a holy day (as it does for certain other faiths as well), today, it is largely a secular holiday–most notably enjoyed by Iranians worldwide, but by many other peoples from Western Asia and the Middle East as well.

Maybe it was because of my general interest in holidays that I became inspired to draw something in honor of Nowruz (also known as the Iranian New Year or Persian New Year, and alternatively spelled Nowrooz, Nourooz, Nauruz, and so on). Certainly, that I occasionally draw for select holidays played a role, and being so secular and, might I say, universal, perhaps it was simply a natural choice. Throughout the process, I found myself thinking of Nowruz celebrants I once knew as well, including my aforementioned classmate.

Whatever my underlying motivations (and sometimes, with art, one’s motivations remain as special mysteries), “Nowruz” not only took a lot of time to actually draw, but quite some time to fully conceive of as well. I can only hope that it does justice to the holiday; a time that holds such deep, rich meaning for so many people, yet one so widely celebrated and secular as well.

Nowruz, colored pencil drawing by Darren Olsen at The Draw

“Nowruz”
© 2017 Darren Olsen

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Remembering Ms. Deal

For my “Ms. Deal Progressive Nostalgia Soda Set“, a collection of products centered around a vintage-modern soda, here is the (fictional) backstory of Ms. Deal: the soda, the woman, the history, and the hope. Enjoy.

The story of Ms. Deal, if only a footnote, is nonetheless an interesting one. It begins in 1883 in Seneca Falls, New York, when the woman named Patty Fallow was born. Patty’s parents owned and ran a corner drugstore, which, like most drugstores of the time, served all manner of sweets and drinks. Young Patty was quite fond of these things, though her favorites were the various sodas of the era. Indeed, she loved little more than a good soda, and was always eager to try out the newest creation of some local fountain, even as she helped out at her family’s own. An inquisitive and clever child, perhaps it was only a matter of time before she invented her own unique version.

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