Acceptance The Croppie's Ten Point Guide to Happy Circle Making

Today's crop circle makers seem an unhappy bunch. Look in the right places on social media and you can see some of their number casting a gloomy shadow over what should be an inspiring and thought provoking subject. When they moan they do it well, the two most regular complaints being (a) they're not getting rich when photographers, merchandisers and cerealogists apparently are, and (b) nobody recognises their names as artists. It's as if flattening some wheat in a field should bring fortune and fame by default. It doesn't just stop there though. There are stories of circle makers criticising the work of their peers, verbally claiming ownership of a crop circle its visitors and even withholding the location of new circles to ensure certain photographers get exclusive images. The Croppie has even come across one or two circle makers who have hung up their stompers after just a few attempts, extremely dissatisfied by the quality of their own work.

It must seem to the wider world that circle makers endure miserable, soul-destroying lives that are devoid of any happiness or value. Yet it really doesn't have to be this way. It surely is possible to make crop circles and to find it a rewarding experience. Here then, guided by the expert views and perspectives of certain people who know, are The Croppie's ten points to becoming a more contented circle maker. Accept them and be happy...

“Zen is the "spirit of the valley", not the mountaintop. The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.” - Robert M. Pirsig (Photograph by Nick Bull)

1. If you claim authorship of your work it ceases to become a crop circle. Instead, it becomes just another piece of land art.

Any individual or group of circle makers with sufficient skill can craft an attractive formation in just a few hours, but what they subsequently do with their creation can have an impact upon the future of the crop circle phenomenon. They can, as some prefer, noisily tell the world what they have made thanks to the accessibility and popularity of social media. Alternatively, they can simply keep their secret to themselves. The difference between these two paths are identified in the second half of In Circles, a 2017 indie movie that tells the story of Brazilian documentary maker Lara and her attempts to learn more about the origins of crop circles in the heart of Wiltshire’s Pewsey Vale.

Having made the acquaintance of a local mystic known as Hatter, Lara learns of his clandestine work as a circle maker and plans to expose him. Hatter argues with Lara in front of the camera, explaining his compulsion to make crop circles as something he does not understand. ‘What we see in a circle,’ explains Hatter, ‘tells us everything about ourselves. Look at it as a huge Rorschach design deciphered explicitly by the minds who choose to look at them [sic] … [a crop circle is] like a temporary temple: some people want to be there to dance, some people want to be there to meditate, some people want to be there to explore.’

Although Lara is unmoved, her cameraman Yossi takes up the cause of the circle makers. ‘If we expose what they’re doing we’re gonna end [the crop circles]. We don’t have that right. If you force the circle makers to stop then everyone is going to lose everything … and why? Just so you can make a name for yourself?’

Although In Circles is largely fictional, the inherent core of the crop circle phenomenon is identified in these few moments of conversation. The words of Yossi and Hatter continue to be relevant: to be spiritual temples, to be more than patterns or aesthetically beautiful artworks flattened into fields of plants, the crop circles need to be objects of mystery, just as they were in the heyday of Doug and Dave. A circle maker who openly exposes their own work is doing no more than damaging that mystery in the name of self publicity.

If you should doubt the necessity of secrecy, consider the poll run by the Crop Circle Ground Shots page on Facebook during August 2018. The question posed was a straightforward binary choice: If crop circles were all man made, would they be any less significant, in terms of what we can learn from them? Of the 160 respondents, 71% answered in the affirmative. It seems that some people are only interested in a mystery.

2. You rely on photographers, the media, circles reporting websites and merchandisers to publicise the circles you have made.

These people, in turn, require your work. The relationship truly is symbiotic, but don't necessarily expect them to like you. Circle making isn't an exercise in making friends.

Photographers: you need them. Photograph by Karen Alexander.

3. You cannot expect to make any financial income from crop circles unless you take your own photographs, produce merchandise, seek out commercial work or speak and write about the circles for a wider audience.

History is littered with the names of circle makers who have hoped to make money from the circles they have created overnight in the fields of England. Circle making isn't something you do to get rich.

If you want to tap into the mythical money pool that crop circle researchers, certain circle making teams and photographers are supposedly drowning in, you are best advised to follow their lead. You may fail in this but at least you have attempted to be proactive.

Famous names? Doug Bower and Dave Chorley achieved infamy rather than fame. It never made them rich men.

4. Ignore pressure from third parties to make crop circles at a specific time or in a specific location.

Question why someone else would want you to work in a particular field. Perhaps they are just being helpful, which is fine, but trust your instinct: make your crop circle in a location that is comfortable for you at a time which is good for you.

Work in locations of your choosing.

5. Leave nothing to chance before entering a field. This includes checking you have sufficient and working equipment, and ensuring the field you have chosen is suitable with good access.

There are enough things that can go wrong in the field without adding to your difficulties through inadequate preparation. Make life easier by having spare tapes and stompers. Perform a thorough examination of the field you plan to work in, checking the consistency of the crop and the direction of the tramlines.

6. Choose the people you work with carefully. Avoid those who are reckless, unreliable and can't keep quiet about what they have made.

Enter the field with someone who is drunk or high on drugs and the chances of your circle being a stinker increase by a significant amount. Similarly, choose team members who share a similar philosophy to your own; that new addition may be a great circle maker, but if they can't stay quiet then your circle will be dead within hours.

"It's just flattened corn." - Dave Chorley

7. The complexity of your designs are limited by the number of individuals in your team, their abilities and the time you have available to you.

It would be great if you could execute the most complex circles you have down on paper, but the days of the big circle making teams have all but gone. Work within your confines and appreciate that beauty and complexity are not mutually exclusive. Zen aesthetics and elegance are just as pleasing to the eye.

8. Things will go wrong and you will make construction errors in the crop circles you make. Learn from these.

Recognise that things can and will go wrong in the field. Tapes can break, stompers can snap and mistakes can be made. These events are normal. In the case of errors, accept that no crop circle is perfect (although some errors are more noticeable than others). Salvage what you can and adjust your design accordingly. Remember, the public do not know what is on your construction diagram.

Even legends get it wrong sometimes. Cheesefoot Head, 1991. Photograph by Andrew King.

After you have finished, evaluate what has occurred and plan to avoid similar situations in the future. Beating yourself up about mistakes achieves nothing.

9. Once you have left the field let go of the crop circle. It now has no owner.

Your crop circle is now in the public domain and the design can be exploited by photographers, artists and merchandisers. Likewise, not all tourists and farmers will leave the circle in the state they entered it.

It seems the farmer and at least one visitor were unhappy. Photograph by Nick Bull.

10. It is inevitable the crop circles you have made will attract at least some negative comments on social media.

Everyone is an art critic in the 21st century and your work will invite comments as inspirational as 'man-made' and 'shit. But remember that many people who comment have absolutely no idea as to the complexities and variables involved in circle making. If they are clued up remember that you can't please everyone all of the time. What's more, they have all produced disappointing efforts at some time or other.

From time to time you may attract comments which are very personal or drop hints as to your involvement. Consider the agenda of those involved and ask yourself if it's really worth responding. Very often these posters just wish to appear relevant or have an axe to grind. Remember that the general public aren't interested in tittle-tattle on the whole, they just want circles to look at in photos or on the ground.

Funny how the maker of these two beauties from 1999 sees fit to criticise the work of other circle makers as 'shit'! Photographs by Steve Alexander.

If social media comments upset you that much then stay away from those Facebook pages where they get left. Remember, you make crop circles for the sake of the phenomenon, yourself and nobody else.


Created with an image by Pezibear - "wheat field wheat cereals"

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