It is probably the most frequent question that I receive as a designer. . .
“How do you keep coming up with so many new ideas?”
It is a big question and one that really has no quick answer. There are so many things that factor into creativity. Our mood, general health, and overall attitude are things that immediately come to mind. It is difficult to be creative if we are overwhelmed or exhausted. It is for me, in any case. While some great designers and artists are at their best creating in a chaotic environment, I need to have things clean and orderly. It is just the way I am.
I remember seeing a slide show on Facebook not too long ago which showed photos of many famous artists’ studios. Some were neat as a pin and others were full of clutter and disarray. No matter which side of the scale they resided, they all were well-respected ‘masters’ that produced some of the most timeless and inspiring art. It was a good reminder that our own needs to be creative are as unique as we are. I think that is a good thing.
Lately, I have had trouble connecting with my creative side. Part of me feels as if I am making excuses for myself, as I haven’t gone through a spell such as this in quite a while. But a larger part of me knows better than to blame myself or feel back about it. This is part of a cycle that all designers go through, and with the many changes that have occurred in my life this year, I feel that this lull is warranted. It is part of the process.
That doesn’t mean that it is comfortable, though. I have so many ideas that I want to implement and it just doesn’t seem that I have had the time or energy to do so. It seems to have been much easier for me to either create from others’ designs or to do the non-creative part of my job like cut surfaces. It isn’t that I don’t like that part. I do so very much. It just feels that I haven’t produced a lot of my own patterns from either scroll sawing or painting or even embroidery. I had to try to figure out why.
I have come to the conclusion that part of the problems is that I haven’t been taking enough time for some ‘me’ creating. I like to call this “Creative Playtime”. I define it as “Making something just for the sake of making it.” It is something that as a successful designer, we don’t always have time to do. The more successful we are, the less time we have to relax with our Creative Playtime. It is something we have to watch and be aware of, I think. Especially if we are finding ourselves going through a lull in our own designing and creativity.
In any case, I don’t want to be too lengthy on the subject. I thought though that this was something that I wanted to share with you all because so many of my friends and followers are creative people and I know that many of you go through this yourselves. While what works for me may not apply to you, it may help you at one time or another when you feel stuck or uninspired. It is something to think about, anyway.
So how do we kick-start our creativity when things are like this?
I have been trying several different things with marginal success. Getting away from work was one thing. My only problem was that when I returned, it seemed that I spent a great deal of time catching up with things. That only seemed to add more stress and sometimes even made it worse.
I also tried taking some time to really organize things. That did wonders for me, as I felt a bit more in control of my life and as I mentioned before, I work best in a clean, organized environment. But I still wasn’t feeling that I was back into the creative mode that I hoped for. There was still that feeling of being anxious and uncreative.
I tried to look at myself as objectively as possible and came to the conclusion that I had lost the time that I used to spend doing things for just ‘me’. For the past two years, I have been working on some large embroidery projects in the evening, and I truly enjoyed them and found them both relaxing and fun. I had so many lovely supplies that I purchased and when moving and organizing things, I saw them again and wanted so much to use them. But time hasn’t allowed. It seems that since we moved, I have been working on my business just about every waking hour, and not getting the emotional ‘downtime’ that I need. I realized that it had to change.
So I made a pledge to myself that most evenings, I will be spending my time doing things for myself. I realize that this is not always possible, but I need to make a commitment to myself to take some time doing things that may or may not pertain to the business and must first feed my creative soul. That is probably the clearest way I can describe things.
Keith often tells me that my play time looks an awful lot like my work time. He is probably right and on the outside, it probably does. That is because I am fortunate to be able to do what I love to do. Not everyone can say that.
But there is a difference in doing something that you want to do for the sake of doing it and something you have to do for ‘work’ or profit. You can’t see the difference, but you know it in your heart. Sometimes after creating it, it turns into something that is profitable, but that is only a bonus. The first priority is to fill your need to create and anything else that comes along is extra. So if you see me doing some off-topic creative things in the future, you will understand why. In the long run, they will help me create for my business and for my customers and I think I will have better projects because of them. I think it is a win/win for everyone.
Last night I took the time to make something new. As I mentioned, I have so many lovely embroidery supplies that I can’t wait to use. I have silk threads and ribbons, glass beads, and even metal threads for goldwork embroidery, which is something I have wanted to explore for the longest time. I dug into my arsenal and quickly drew up a small design and spent the evening ‘playing’. Here is the result of last night’s work:
I chose a scarab because I have always loved Egyptian art. One of my greatest memories I have is when my son took me to see the artifacts of King Tut when they were on display in Chicago several years ago. I was in complete awe at the designs and craftsmanship of those artists over 4000 years ago. The colors, materials, and designs were amazing.
The scarab is created on gold linen. The black thread for the head is cotton, the red spot on the back is rayon, the blue variegated back shell is silk. The beads are glass and the gold stripes and outline as well as the black jaw are metal threads. Being the first time that I used these goldwork supplies, it was a bit of a challenge. Most of the threads were purchased from Valdani (www.valdani.com) but the goldwork metal threads were purchased from The Crafty Attic (www.craftyattic.com) They have lovely metal threads, supplies and kits for goldwork, as well as many free educational videos for those interested in learning.
My scarab isn’t completed yet, but I will work on him more tonight. I don’t know what I will do with him, but I don’t think it really matters. He has already served a purpose in getting me excited about designing again. I have two designs for the scroll saw that I want to work on today and a new painting design as well. I feel as if the floodgates are about to open.
Never underestimate the value of taking time for yourself. No matter how much you have on your plate, it is important to take some time to do something that will feed your soul and help you feel refreshed and emotionally rested. What will work for you is as individual as you are. No one can tell you what it is. You need to explore and find what your own personal formula will be. Once you find it, you will be amazed at how much it will affect your life in other ways. You will be happy you took the time to explore.
I wish you all a wonderful Tuesday! Have a beautiful day and enjoy it to the fullest!