Hi! My name’s Katie Pingree-Shippee and I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria studying seasonal predictability of extratropical storm activity. I’m currently in, dare I say, the home stretch of my PhD – I’ve completed my data work and am now in the writing stage. I have one manuscript published and two others in prep. Introduction and conclusions chapters are also on the ‘to do’ list (along with a couple appendices of additional figures) in order to complete my paper-based dissertation. So it’s write, write, write in my little world and make my committee happy! Needless to say, I’m a bit busy so I don’t have a ton of time for crafting but I try to fit some in when I can.
Visiting Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.
When it comes to crafting, I’d call myself a dabbler, primarily due to my lack of time to really get working on projects. Nevertheless, one crafting activity I return to when I get the chance is sewing. I’m not particularly great at sewing, owing back to, once again, lack of time to develop my skills. Nowadays, my sewing is pretty much limited to mending holes in clothes and reattaching buttons to shirts from time to time and, more commonly, preforming “surgery” on dog toys – the most recent “patient” awaiting surgery is a stuffed sloth toy whose arm is half ripped off due to an overexuberant game of tug of war between my husband and our 90 lbs. of muscle chocolate lab, Denali.
Denali out for a walk in Mt. Doug (a.k.a. Pkols) in Victoria, British Columbia.
Tucked away, though, I do have a nice little sewing machine that I’ve used in the past to primarily make skirts (mostly because I struggle with finding ones that I like in the stores). Aside from the practical reasons to sew, I’ve always enjoyed the activity for the activity itself – the hands-on component, the attention to detail required, the planning of a product, the sense of accomplishment when the project comes together and eventually is completed… it’s a bit like doing science without necessarily doing science. Eventually (post-PhD), I’d like to expand my sewing skills to include quilting – it feels like there’s endless creative opportunity there! For now, though, since sewing is a solo hobby, it will remain on the back burner with free time spent on activities such as camping and hiking with the husband and dog.
Camping outside Port Alberni, British Columbia.
Camping and hiking does allow me to more frequently dabble in my other main interest – photography. When I was younger, I wanted to be a photographer and was strongly influenced by the work of Linda McCartney (this was one of various ambitions throughout my formative years, which included being a member of the Boston Pops, being a color commentator for the NHL [Go Bruins!], being the person with the light sticks on the tarmac directing airplanes, and closest to my chosen profession, being a hurricane hunter/storm chaser). Nowadays, photography is still just a hobby, my equipment is a smartphone, and my ‘muse’ is usually Denali or just natural landscapes. While I have no training in photography (I’d like to take a photography course or two someday), I like to think I can take a nice picture (and when you’re printing and framing photos for your own house, you’re the only critic that matters. Well, maybe your partner, too. But that’s debatable 😉 ).
Denali and an Arbutus tree on top of Little Mt. Doug in Victoria, British Columbia.
Near Rogers Pass, British Columbia.
I enjoy thinking about how to get a nice photo – how to use the natural landscape to frame the picture, how to force a certain perspective, etc. Of course, having your ‘muse’ being a dog can make having these thought processes challenging as time is of the essence (after all, there’s so many things to smell and squirrels to chase when you’re a dog!). The great thing nowadays, with digital photography, is that you can, essentially, take all the photos you want (space permitting of course) and not have to worry about wasting film as you work on taking that “perfect picture.”
Denali looking extra large as he cools down at Qualicum Beach, British Columbia.
When Megan first asked me about writing a post for this blog, I thought “Sure! I’m not the craftiest person but I dabble, so sure!” Then when I read Megan’s post and her hope that the blog would provide some insight into the unique lives of academics and advocate the importance of crafts and hobbies in general to a healthy work-life balance I thought, “This is awesome!” But I don’t think I quite got it until I started writing my post. It really is easy to get caught up in academics and have that become the main focus of your life, but hobbies outside of academics are key! Even when academics are thrust into the forefront, and understandably so, such as during PhD candidacy exams, the importance of even just getting out for the evening dog walk is highlighted as it provides a much needed sanity break.
Denali’s version of “helping” with academic pursuits.
As I first started to write this post, I struggled to think about what crafty activities I do – I thought, “Beyond sewing, what is there? I suppose photography as well. What else?…” But then I realized all the hobbies I have in my life that get me away from academics – cycling, cooking or baking when I get the chance (which is often a team effort [I’m usually the slicer-dicer and my husband puts it all together into something delicious], going to the symphony [Beethoven’s my jam!], and even just sitting down to read for pleasure from time to time. When I think back to my Masters degree, other than walking the dog and going to hockey games (go UMaine BlackBears!), it was pretty much academics all the time and I was burnt out by the time I was done (just over 2 years). Nowadays, I have a much better (though still far from perfect) work-life balance and thankfully don’t feel burnt out despite being a few months into year 5 of my PhD. Writing this post really has served as a nice reminder of the importance of my hobbies, both big and small, to my sanity. So thanks Megan for inviting me to contribute and thanks to those who’ve read this post! Cheers!