Monday, October 27, 2008

What's On Your Plate?

Creatively speaking, that is…

The flow of artistic inspiration is never in a straight and steady line. Sometimes we get into a pleasant, productive groove while working on a project. We treasure these types of moments when our ideas come to life easily, and the techniques we employ perform flawlessly. Then there are those other, more frustrating times when it seems the well of imagination has run dry; times when the materials on our work tables fight us and we struggle to craft anything cohesive.

Would we really want the creative path to be completely even and free of bumps and glitches? Though, at first, we might relish the idea of a consistent crafting life, the ruts in the road and detours on our journeys are what expand our creative horizons by pushing us a little further outside our comfort zones. When thwarted in one artistic avenue, we may try a new method, venture into a different craft, or even develop a skill that was hidden beneath the surface of our usual pursuits. Even confronting a stubborn problem and working through it moves our abilities to a new level of creative insight filled with exciting possibilities.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. observed, “Man’s mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.” That stretching may sometimes feel uncomfortable, but it is essential to growth in any vocation or hobby. Take a look at what’s on your plate – or work table. Is it a gourmet meal of perfectly arranged, completed tasks? Or is it a mish-mash of half-cooked ideas and underused tools? Either way, just remember that you can still eat the “dessert” of creative satisfaction at some point in the future. You may just have to do a little mental stretching before you can digest it all.

For a little inspiration, some members of the BBEST Team share what’s currently on their crafting "plates" and suggest ways to jump-start creativity.

Often rearranging your craft area will provide the stimulus needed to move in a new creative direction. Surround yourself with items that you love and that make you feel peaceful or energized, whichever best suits your crafting style. The lovely work space below belongs to Kate of Heron Kate. On the table (left) is a floorcloth painted with a border of chickens and vegetables that Kate is working on to go in a client’s kitchen. The shot on the right shows the whole room with bright morning light coming in through the windows. Kate comments, “The drawing board on the back wall is an antique that my Dad found for me when I was in college. It's very heavy and is one of my favorite things.”











When life changes keep you from pursuing your usual crafts, you may need to spend time becoming reacquainted with one of your other interests. Jill of Jill's Treasure Chest recently moved and is still unpacking. She explains, “One of my challenges is going to be spending more time on my other crafts as moving made a good part of my ceramics/pottery inaccessible to me until I get a shed built. So I'll be spending more time with jewelry, possibly some sewing and crocheting. I may have some ceramic bisque that can be painted with acrylics, that I can still work on.”

Revisiting a childhood passion as an adult may get your creative juices flowing. Elaine of Rosegardenfae has had a lifelong interest in drawing. Recently she took a break from making her lovely jewelry to take an art class where she found she really enjoyed sketching self-portraits. Although she decided not to return to the class, she intends "to continue drawing and maybe get into some water color too." Elaine's series of quick-sketch self-portraits can be found in her online photo gallery at Flickr.


Sometimes a custom order request gets you to look at what you create from a new perspective. Barb of Blazing Needles writes, "A customer for my fundraiser scarves wanted an argyle with their frat name on it - 30 scarves. I had (done) a faux argyle, but never thought of making it a fundraiser. The scarf turned out great and now I am adding it to my website...It was a new design for mass production. It took me a day to figure out how to put in the tassels and get my machine to work on 3 colors. Making one scarf is way different than making 30. But I really liked the idea."

Gunnel of gunnelsvensson was inspired to sew her latest mini quilt by one of her customers, a Swedish woman who asked her to make one as a custom order after seeing Gunnel's work on Etsy. Gunnel sounds excited as she speaks of her latest project. "It´s only 5"x5"...it´s from scraps from old fabrics, and lace, some embroidery and the beads are from an old necklace. I have (been) tea-dyeing the fabrics to get the old touch!"

Holidays and special occasions can lead you to stretch your imagination in the process of preparing items for your shop. Nancy of Katz's Kreations was recently working on a wintery earring idea when she came up with her latest Snowman Earrings. She explains, "I already had Christmas earrings and necklaces but wanted something that was not only for the holidays but for all winter long."


Taking a familiar technique and experimenting with new materials can enliven your excitement about your art or craft. Pat of On A Whimsey elaborates, "I am in the process of trying to paint my waxes on canvas and producing larger pieces. All a bit scary really! My first one I entered into the ArtScuttlebutt.com contest and also loaded it up on Encaustic-International where I have been lucky enough to get some really favourable encouragement from experienced encaustic artists. Always helps to get critiques from people who really know nothing about you! The difference with canvas as a support to encaustic card is that it is more absorbent and, of course, the texture is totally different. This can provide a 'softer' look to the work." Red Flower (seen on left) is Pat's very first work in this technique. The photo on the right was entered into the ArtScuttlebutt contest.













For Carolyn of Lil' Baby Thangs developing a new version of an item that she has been making provides creative satisfaction as well as new opportunities for recognition within her crafting field. Carolyn is currently working on a new pattern for ballerina baby booties. She details the pattern-making process. "For me, developing patterns in various sizes, is a long drawn out process. I have my basic sole pattern that I use. Then I design the tops of the booties. I do a lot of sewing 'drafts' in muslin to make sure each piece in each size go together just right. I then hand create the patterns on the computer in color coded sizes, to make it easier to see the size you want to make. This pattern is different in that the length of the bootie is not based on my 'base sole pattern'. It extends beyond the sole to allow little toe to grip better, just like real ballerina slippers. I then sew up my newly printed patterns in cute fabrics to double check my pattern piece fits and see my finished results. Then I am off to take pictures and write up the pattern directions and make my pattern covers. I publish and print my own patterns and I also convert them into PDF files so they can be downloaded. Two of my patterns have been picked up by Clotilde.com and are included in their catalog. My NEW Airplane Bootie Pattern will also be in their next issue. It is exciting to me that this avenue has opened up."

Finally, there's nothing like playing with color to spice up your crafting life and supply endless inspiration. Myfanwy of Sassa Lynne offers a glimpse into her current felt dyeing process which produces a rich rainbow of hues to treat the eye. Myfanwy expains how she brings color to her felt. "These dyebaths show one of the methods I use to colour the fabrics I sell in the Etsy shop. It is the method that is probably most familiar to buyers. Fabric is crammed into a tray and the dye added, thoughtfully and carefully. After the fixer is added it is left to stand for a minimum of three hours, but preferably overnight. (photo on left) The next stage is the rinsing. This takes a long time as the water must be totally clear by the time it is finished. Finally it is left to dry. It's hard to believe that these colours emerge from such a mucky water bath!" (Dyed felt is shown on right.)

To see what other new and exciting projects our BBEST team members are working on, search for BBEST Team on Etsy or flip through the pages of BBEST's photo album at Flickr.

19 comments:

Carolyn West said...

Wow, Thank you so much for including me in your write of the Boomers. I am honored.
Carolyn West
Lil' Baby Thangs

~*~Pearl~*~ said...

Lovely spot as always liv!

AltheaP said...

What a beautiful, beautiful post! How lovely to see what everyone is doing and to be reminded by Liv's flowing writing of the importance of stretching our creative possibilities!

ZudaGay said...

Great article, Liv!! I love your writing style! And a good reminder that the slow and hard times help us grow.

On a Whimsey said...

Gosh, thank you so muchh for making a mention of me!! It was wonderful to read your words Liv, you always have a lovely way with them! Also, to realise how the art/craft works for others. Thank you!

Nancy said...

Great entry Liv. Thanks for including me. Love hearing about other Boomers!

Gunnels blog said...

Great article! Thank you so much for including me !!

joonbeam said...

fil, this is wonderful! Thanks so much.

circleinthesand said...

Oh what fun reading!! Except that work space of heronkate puts the rest of us to shame, I'm sure...I know it does me, haha.

I love reading about how you all get your "inspirations"...and all of you do such beautiful work!!

MagdaleneJewels said...

Great article, Liv. I well know those dry spells when all items escape us; but you managed to present some beautiful and talents works from those artists who just keep going.

maryeb said...

Wonderful post.
I'm seriously envious of Kate's lovely workspace. Maybe it will motivate me to improve mine.

The Filigree Garden said...

I want to thank all the BBESTers that responded to my call for input for this post. I enjoyed learning more about what you are creating!

Judy Nolan said...

Great post, Liv! You did a wonderful job describing how challenge stretches the imagination, as well as showcasing some interesting BBEST artists.

Rose said...

Wonderful post Liv..love your writing and feel honored to be included.. it's great to know what others are doing:)

Diane ~Ever so Dear jewelry said...

what a great article Liv! ♥

Pam said...

What a fabulous look at imagination and creativity, its ups and downs, and I really loved reading about each of the artists you have portrayed! Fantastic post!

Chauncey said...

Liv, thanks for the great post. It's always fun to see what the otheres are working on.

Brett Ward said...

Great idea Liv! Nicely put together too!

Myfanwy said...

I could have sworn that I had left a comment on this blog before now. Thanks for such a lovely post, and as always information we need to know about each other...