Some people don’t like the digital.
Digital is my medium. More than that, it’s my home. In my traveling lifestyle digital spaces are the only constant I share with family, friends and readers.
Digital space is an extension of geographical space. It is no longer just a tool. It’s a meeting place, a dwelling place, a location as real as any coffee shop, art museum or suburban house. Like any of those places, the value of what happens there depends mostly on the company you keep.
There are people who feel they’re missing something by meeting online, by reading or creating or consuming online. People felt that way about the written word once, too.
There are artists who miss the sense of manual creation.
I feel the opposite. Is it fair to say that creating something digitally is just as satisfying as creating something by hand? No. That doesn’t go far enough. It’s far more satisfying to create something digital.
For the past two years I’ve moved toward almost exclusively digital work. My first book was digital-only, my blog is digital, even my freelance work is digital. But now I’m moving backwards. I decided to start a business that is very much physical.
Two weeks ago I opened the doors on a new website, altmagic. The purpose of the site is to sell beautiful handmade scrolls enchanted with real magic. It’s fun. I’m the kind of artist who works in fits of inspiration: a few long nights are better than a lot of measured mornings.
You can check out these magic scrolls yourself.
Is it satisfying to work in a physical medium again? Yes and no. I enjoy the process of making the scrolls. I love the challenge of choosing the right figures, the thrill of sketching the designs and planning the rituals. I get artless with it.
But it’s also deeply frustrating. There is no copy and paste. No ctrl+z. You can idealize that in any sepia-tinted way, but it translates to: unnecessary work. Wasted effort. Spoiled materials.
But then I made the altmagic website. It’s the second blog I’ve started, and the only one where I knew what I was doing.
As I went live I could directly see the impact my creation has. It shows in numbers on a graph; more importantly it shows in conversations. People contact me. They teach, praise or slander me. They react.
Unlike any other medium, their living reactions are included in the work itself. The twitter feed and the comments embed human moments in the digital work. At its most basic that means that any emotion I provoke can be part of the work I create. But that’s nothing. My audience can actually provoke my creation itself, changing its shape.
Birthing a website means seeing those vital signs start. It’s breathing life into digital clay.