Creativity is an endlessly fascinating subject! Last week, I discussed its importance, our personal experiences and the universality of creativity, especially in children, and how its practice and confident application decreases with age. Sadly, the 2012 Adobe study on creativity, mentioned in the previous post on creativity, showed that only 1 in 4 people – believe they are living up to their own creative potential (http://www.creativityatwork.com/2012/04/23/the-global-creativity-gap/), but the good news is that creativity can be redeveloped!
‘Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits.’ Edward de Bono
In their book : ‘The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators’, Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen describe ‘Innovators DNA’ (https://hbr.org/2009/12/the-innovators-dna). According to them , the ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but also a function of five key behaviours that optimize the brain for discovery :
- Associating : drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields;
- Questioning : posing queries that challenge common wisdom;
- Observing : scrutinizing the behavior of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new ways of doing things;
- Networking : meeting people with different ideas and perspectives; and
- Experimenting: constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge.
‘Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, the just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while’ Steve Jobs
Here are my views on what worked for us!
Creativity can be developed and fostered by :
1. Provision of materials; learning spaces; learning opportunities and inspiration
2. Exercises and practice
3. Recognizing its importance and paying homage to it
4. Praise and encouragement
1a. Learning materials
Spending the majority of our lives on a single income, we have never been wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, at least not in our Western world, but we have never felt poor, because of the richness of our daily lives and our beautiful flowers! And we have always had enough money to spend on material, tools and books for creativity. Of course, the list varies according to the creative form involved, but these are a few of the essential items, at least for us!!
1. Art Materials:
: Paper and cardboard of all types/ thicknesses/ textures; huge wall blackboard
: Pencils, textas, pens and inks, pastels and crayons;
: Paints – watercolour/oils/gouache;
: Brushes and nibs;
: Variety of glues and pastes, hot glue gun;
: Screen-printing and batik frames and easels; printing press
: Palettes and empty jars;
: Compasses, rulers and measuring tapes;
: Recycled items- from jars and tins to old chocolate coloured foil papers, boxes, broken china and metalware; even old milk cartons as used in the photo below.
: Hardware – nails and drawing pins, lino cutting tools, carpentry tools, eye glasses
2. Craft Materials:
: Materials and threads of all types;
: Needles and sewing kits;
: Variety of scissors and cutting boards and tools;
: Sewing machine and overlocker;
: Sequins, buttons, flowers, shells and decorative paraphernalia;
: Fabric dyes/ indigo/ natural dyeing supplies;
: Washing machine, iron;
: Broken tiles and china for mosaics.3. Music
: Instruments; Space; Metronome; Tape recorder.
: Costumes; Home stage; Audience.
: science lab;
: collecting material;
: magnifying glass;
: Books : How-to guides, as well as imaginative stories
: Magazines : for inspiration and collage
: Computer : an amazing and increasingly growing resource, both in content and importance – for knowledge and inspiration – Pinterest is SO WONDERFUL!!!, as well as for word processing, photo storage, communication, selling your work on Etsy or EBay, recording and now BLOGGING!!!
: Camera/ Mobile Phone : For recording the development of your project; the completed product and sending images of your work to friends and family for advice or just praise and recognition!!!
: Tracing equipment : Light box; Tracing paper; Carbon paper; See photo below.
: Sketch pads, diaries and art journals and A4 folders of magazine cuttings, ideas, computer printouts, course leaflets
: Wall display board – for creative inspirations, display or pinning up your work so you can ruminate on improvements/ developments and future directions.: Mood boards are also fun to create, as they make you focus on what’s important to you. In the case of my mood board (shown below) : beauty, roses ( especially Old Roses), textiles, felt toys, the Arts and Crafts Movement led by William Morris and environment are all highly important and significant in my life, though perhaps I now need a new one featuring embroidery as well!!! It includes the famous and meaningful quote by William Morris : ‘Have nothing in your houses, which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’; a photo of the famous Peace rose, whose history was described in Antonia Ridges’s lovely book ‘For the Love of a Rose’; an old pink Tea Rose called ‘Countess Bertha’, very popular in Australia in the 1930s, and my first rose grown from a cutting; Gaia holding our fragile and very special planet Earth, symbolizing my love of environment; a William Morris textile design of roses and my felt Gaia, made from handmade felt, in a workshop with Elizabeth Armstrong.
: A collection of inspirational quotes about creativity is also very beneficial, especially of you are having an off-day or are stuck in a rut ! Here are some good starter sites : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/creativity.html
A particularly inspirational site is : http://www.theseeds4life.com.
1b. Learning spaces and environment
1.A special spot is ideal, as you can leave everything out, for easy resumption of your activity when you have time. This may be a studio, sewing room, music room, library or tool shed, but it could equally be just a small corner in the house. The photos are my sewing room and my daughter’s spot in our old garage when she used to make her own glass beads and jewellery. I love her sea beads in the sand!These are some lovely books on the topic :
‘The Textile Artist’s Studio Handbook’ by Owyn Ruck and Visnja Popovic
‘Inside the Creative Studio’ by Cate Coulacas Prato
‘Where Women Create’ by Jo Packham
‘A Room of Her Own’ by Chris Casson Madden
2.Whatever the amount of space, organization is essential, so that everything is easily accessible, especially if the space available is small or temporary or you are renovating ! The year I studied Clothing Assembly, we were also renovating an old house and I was continually having to buy second items to replace lost requirements!!! ‘A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place’ is my mantra !
Not that everything is always organized and tidy all the time, especially when I am working on a project, but I always like to tidy up at the end. Also, keep a check on supplies and top up regularly.
3.Your local environment is important too.
: Cultivate beauty in your natural environment, garden, house and decor
eg Art work on the walls – your own or inspirational work of others – it need not be expensive – it could even be magazine cut-outs or computer print-outs.
Here are some photos of examples of this concept: a staircase made to our design; a beautiful old cane chair decorated with daisies and Vinca major; a birthday cake and high tea and a stunning vase of colourful dahlias.: Also cultivate beauty in your personal appearance and clothing : good health and fitness are very important, as well as looking good and wearing clothes that engender creativity.
‘To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.’ Osho
: Music can promote creativity. Read the following articles about its importance :
4. A special quiet spot for relaxation, meditation and dreaming is also important.
1c. Learning opportunities
: School : Art lessons all the way through, even for science students; choir and drama. I’d like to see special classes in creativity for all school students in the future!!!
: Extra-Curricular activities : local art gallery, artists and craft people, music and drama lessons and performances.
: Adult courses : TAFE/ Adult Education/ Other artists : Design, Colour theory and technique.
: Self education : Books and magazines; Computers and internet – there are so many courses available now.
: Libraries – books and courses.
‘Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”’
Jim Jarmusch [MovieMaker Magazine #53 – Winter, January 22, 2004 ].
Whereas C.E.M. Joad said :
‘Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.’
: 1. Natural World :
‘The world is but a canvas to the imagination.’ Henry David Thoreau
‘An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment.’ David Attenborough
a. Nature : including seasonal changes, gardens and National Parks
b. Old botanical prints and artwork : I love the work of Ernst Haeckel. See : http://www.kuriositas.com/2012/01/art-forms-of-nature-ernst-haeckel.html
c. Books and websites about Nature : Here are some to get you started:
‘Patterns in Nature’ by Peter S Stevens. See : http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4037713-patterns-in-nature
A good starting point. I like to try a pattern out once, then adapt it with different techniques, materials and threads or tweak a recipe like Chronicle of Ellen (https://chronicleofellen.wordpress.com/) did with my Mum’s Apple Cake recipe.
3. Books and Magazines :
a. Old books : I love new contemporary guides, but it is also worth searching out old books from the days when there was more time to pursue creative pursuits. I have some lovely old books on embroidery, toy making and home making, gardening and cookery from the first half of the 20th century, as well as older guides downloaded from :
b. Imaginative fiction: For example, reading the description of the giant puppets in London in ‘Nina in Utopia’ by Miranda Miller sent me scurrying to the internet to read this site : http://www.royal-de-luxe.com/en/company/ and the puppets have since visited the 2015 Perth International Arts Festival : see https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/24540796/strings-pulled-to-secure-giants/.
c. Magazines : To name a few of my favourites and they all have blogs as well:
: Frankie : http://www.frankie.com.au/
: Tickle the Imagination : http://www.tickletheimagination.com.au/
: Selvedge : http://www.selvedge.org/
: Paper Cloth Scissors : http://www.clothpaperscissors.com/
: Country Living – English edition : http://www.countryliving.co.uk/
: Victoria : http://www.victoriamag.com/
d. Libraries : The library is a wonderful place to find inspiration and on that note : another wonderful book is ‘Bibliocraft: A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects’ by Jessica Pigsa.
e. Poetry : I love the poetry of Dylan Thomas, whose use of words is highly imaginative and creative.
f. Art guides and Artist books are very inspirational, as are visits to :
4. Art Galleries, including visiting exhibitions and sculpture shows . Some of our favourites are :
National Gallery of Victoria: http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au
Art Gallery of New South Wales : http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au
National Gallery of Australia : http://nga.gov.au
Ivy Hill Gallery : http://www.ivyhill.com.au/
Narek Galleries : http://www.narekgalleries.com/
I absolutely adored Narek Gakkeries’ recent exhibition of Annie Franklin’s exhibition ‘Small Kingdoms’ of her amazing paintings and exquisite fine porcelain bowls. See :
http://www.narekgalleries.com/previous_exhibitions_2015.htm and http://anniefranklin.com/
5. Museums and collections :
My siblings and I all had separate collecting hobbies from stamps and shells to gemstones, fossils and butterflies.
I used to love the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery : http://www.tmag.tas.gov.au – it is still one of my favourites!
6. Performances : including plays, music and film.
7. Dreams : often weird and wonderful, but make perfect sense at the time !!!
8. Computer and Internet :
I often cut-and-paste inspirational ideas to a Word document and save the folder on my desktop or print it for later use and store in A4 folders, though I have so many now that, despite my organization, they are still sometimes difficult to locate!
As for Pinterest….! It opened my world !!!
9. Travel : the ultimate aid for developing creativity!!! Take lots of exploratory trips! They are refreshing and informative and inspirational!
1.Critical analysis and Art Journals :
With all these wonderful sources of inspiration, it is important to try and work out what it is that you like about the image/idea and note them down, including techniques used, in an art journal, inspiration diary or travel sketchbook.
I love the latter, often as much as the completed art work, and it is good to see the inspirations behind the art. I am also a sucker for books about creating art journals:
‘Artist’s Journal Workshop : Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures’ by Cathy Johnson
‘Making Journals By Hand’ by Jason Thompson
‘The Decorated Journal’ by Gwen Diehn
‘Create Your Own Artist’s Journal ‘ by Erin O’Toole and
‘Creating Sketchbooks For Embroiderers and Textile Artists’ by Kay Greenlees2. Cross-fertilise :
a.Cross-fertilise activities : Try out and practice different techniques and courses across the board – it all goes into the Creativity-generating pot! eg cooking, gardening. Remember more begets more – it opens the floodgates of creativity! The photo below shows my daughter’s CD cover, which she designed herself, combining her love of guitar playing, nature and zentangle drawing. If you want to know more about creating zentangles, see : https://www.zentangle.com/ .
b. Cross-fertilise patterns : Often knitting and cross-stitch patterns can be used interchanged. I have a wonderful book by Alice Starmore called ‘Alice Starmore’s Charts For Colour Knitting, which is one such book. See : https://www.virtualyarns.com/store/books/
2. Exercises and Practice
There are so many books, which offer methods and techniques to develop creativity and improve the left brain-right brain balance. Look for books by :
a. Edward de Bono : http://www.edwdebono.com/, especially famous for his concept of ‘Six Thinking Hats’ : http://www.debonothinkingsystems.com/tools/6hats.htm
b. Betty Edwards : http://www.drawright.com/. Her book ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ offers much information on the right and left hemispheres of the brain, as well as techniques including : drawing upside-down or with the non-dominant hand, using negative space, speedy gesture drawing and drawing blind.
I once did a course using her methods and I remember sketching a lady with glasses using the latter technique. As soon as I could look at my drawing, my critical left brain immediately kicked in, when I saw that I had drawn one lens square and one lens round. I was only when I really looked at her properly and the angle that I was drawing her from, that I realized I had drawn her glasses accurately, but it was a real lesson in the power of the left brain !!!c. Julia Cameron : ‘The Artist’s Way’ and ‘Vein of Gold’ : http://juliacameronlive.com/
d. Sark : http://planetsark.com/ : ‘Succulent Wild Woman’; ‘Inspiration Sandwich’ and ‘Sark’s Journal and Play! Book’ and
e. Tony Buzan : For brainstorming and mind maps. http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/~charles57/Creative/Mindmap/
If that is not enough, there are also some wonderful websites including :
The Creativity at Work website above cites a study in Creativity by Exeter University, UK, which showed that excellence is determined by:
• motivation, and
• most of all – practice.
Here are some of my thoughts on the subject :
1.Don’t be afraid of mess ! It’s all part of the creative process, especially during its execution. You can tidy up at the end. It is why having your own space is so beneficial! This concept is particularly important when encouraging your kids’ creativity or teaching your husband to cook!!!
2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes ! They are a quintessential part of learning and can be a plus and lead to new ideas or a totally different result than planned. Remember experimentation is essential to creativity. You can always unpick or cover over mistakes. For example, my daughter’s doll, which she made aged 8 years old.‘The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.’
Sylvia Plath, ‘The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath’
‘If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.’
Ken Robinson, ‘The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything’
‘To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.’ Joseph Chilton Pearce
3. Leave your critical left brain at the door.
4. Be prepared to be flexible and allow the work to gain its own momentum. Start with the germ of an notion about its development, but avoid a totally preconceived idea of the end product. It is not about reproducing a perfect facsimile or a bland industrial product, but rather individuality, difference, uniqueness and home-made! I often found when making dolls and soft toys that the characters take on a life of their own and it is amazing to see, when doing courses with the same pattern, how no one doll is the same and how they tend to take on their creator’s personality. The former was very clearly demonstrated at a Shellyback Bogle workshop at the Millennium Madness : First Australian Cloth Doll-O-Rama in Brisbane, August 2000, with Jeraldine Just (http://www.thingsilike.net/justau.html). Shellyback Bogle are mythical creatures, who stowed away on convict boats and live underground in drains. They have dull colours and are very textural. Here are photos of all the different versions, made with the one pattern, as well as my warrior and his bride, who I made later on to keep him company.‘Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it’ Salvador Dali
‘Individuality of expression is the beginning and end of all art.’
Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) ‘Proverbs in Prose’
Similarly, if you don’t have all the correct materials or thread colours, be prepared to experiment and use what you already have, unless it is absolutely necessary to have the desired ingredient or requirement. For example, on my Seabird cushion cover for my Mum, I didn’t own any grey perle threads at the time (I do now!!), so I used purple for the sea eagle (very regal!) and light blue for the seagull (very marine). When I finished the latter, I realized its tail was directed upwards, which my left brain condemned, but because I felt its orientation was indicative of the cheeky nature of these birds, I left it – only to see a seagull with an upward tail later on !!!And remember if you want to represent an image and you have no confidence in your drawing ability, you can always trace, then adapt!!! Light boxes and photocopiers/ printers are indispensable!!!
3. Paying Homage to Creativity
Recognize and vindicate its importance by making it one of your main priorities.
a.Make time for creativity
My experience of full-time work showed how difficult it was to find free time to practice my creative pursuits. Not only do you need time to relax and dream, but also for ideas to develop and for completion of the actual task.
A deadline is also quite useful. My classic way of working is to dream up the idea, do a little research, let it sit for a bit to ferment, start one element of the design, procrastinate a little, especially when things don’t quite go the way I want or I’ve had to unpick or am not in the right zone! Then, especially as the deadline approaches, I get a run-on, I have a few successes and suddenly I’m nearly finished and very very happy with the result !!! Not to mention, getting it all done on time!!!
Although sometimes, I don’t! I have to admit that I do have a pile of past UFOs, but not so many these days!!!
I often find that 3 am – 4 am is often a peak creativity time for me – whether it is because I’ve already had a sleep or my subconscious has been working overtime or it is something to do with sleep stages and brain waves, but if I happen to wake up at this time, my brain is overflowing with ideas and I find it best to write them down straight away, so that a) I can get back to sleep and b) I don’t forget them!
Of course, it annoys my husband like hell, because invariably he has already been awake for an hour or two and neither the lamp switching on and off all the time nor the scribbling sound of the pencil is conducive to falling back to sleep. So I try to be as quiet, quick and non-obtrusive as possible and jot down my notes in the dark ! Often, I will accidentally overwrite my notes, making it very challenging to decipher them in the morning – most of this essay was written that way ! – but it does use up a lot of pages of my notebook and I dream of a lighted pen or being able to download my thoughts on a personal Hard Drive – I know that is supposed to be my brain, but there are just so many thoughts twirling and whirling away in that tiny little space!!! Sometimes I think that speaking into a tape recorder might be quicker, but that would be even noisier !!!
b. Practice often and daily – in any form of creativity from art and craft to music and drama, gardening and cookery and even blogging !!!
‘You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.’ Maya Angelou
‘You see things; and you say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not’?”‘ George Bernard Shaw
‘Every day is an opportunity to be creative – the canvas is your mind, the brushes and colours are your thoughts and feelings, the panorama is your story, the complete picture is a work of art called, “my life”. Be careful what you put on the canvas of your mind today – it matters.’ Innerspace
c. Keep your eyes open all the time for any opportunity to practice our creativity. Constantly question- what if ?– and use your lateral thinking skills and imagination to solve problems and deal with issues. Use it in all areas.
For example, I have printed my resume in green ink in the past and for a job advertisement for a floristry position, I once wrote a very corny little ditty ! It got me the initial interview with the job agency, but unfortunately the florist changed her mind about employing extra help. And this was before I studied floristry!!!
d. And remember age is irrelevant – it is just an excuse for fearful procrastination. Far better you start now, if you haven’t already, than when you are 80 years old!
Mary Ann Shaffer wrote her bestseller and one and only book ‘ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ just before her death in 2008 at the age of 73 years old. See : http://www.randomhouse.com/rhpg/guernsey/book/.
Mrs Mary Delaney produced her exquisite floral paper collages back in the 1700s when she was 68 years old. See:
http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/articles/m/mary_delany_1700-88.aspx and http://littlegreennotebook.blogspot.com.au/2010/04/botanicals-on-black-paper-and-mary.html and my previous post :
‘Ambassadors of Spring’ (https://candeloblooms.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/ambassadors-of-spring/)
We used to visit a wonderful pair of older ladies in their 80s and early 90s, who used to run an art gallery in the delightful National Trust town of Millthorpe, near Orange, NSW. Ada Clark was so inspirational. Even though she was blind in one eye and had various health issues, she painted beautiful pictures and still travelled regularly in her 80s to places like Morocco, Turkey and Greece, as well as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, from where she imported their pottery and wonderful felt Shyrdak rugs. For an idea of these rugs, see : http://www.shyrdak-felt-rugs.com/. Ada’s sister made beautiful embroidered purses and bags and the sisters arranged all their sale products in very attractive colour ranges. They inspired me to research and make a textile postcard, employing the technique used to make the rugs (see photo below). Quite difficult on such a small scale! Unfortunately, Ada’s Place is no longer open, but for many years, this wonderful pair inspired me (and still do!) with their joyous use of colour, their passion for life, their energy and vitality and their positive get-up-and-go mentality. I hope that I have her energy when I am older!!! Ada even has her own website : http://www.adaclark.com, so you can still see her wonderful paintings and make purchases.
‘There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.’ Sophia Loren
4. Praise and Encouragement
a. Be gentle on yourself ! No one can be an expert initially – it takes time and practice and everyone is unique and has their own style.
b. Share your achievements with family and friends for encouragement, suggestions and just sheer adulation !!! But don’t necessarily take any criticisms on board, unless you asked for help and the critique is positive and done in good faith and you feel the advice has merit! Listen to your Inner Voice and not necessarily the over-critical negative one!
‘We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own and other people’s models, learn to be ourselves and allow our natural channel to open.’ Shakti Gawain
‘A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.’ Charles Brower
‘Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it at the bud.’ Alex Osborn
c. Praise others’ artwork and support their efforts – financially, by purchasing their work if you can afford it, or psychologically.
Kids in particular thrive in a positive nurturing environment. I read Kaffe Fassett’s autobiography ‘Dreaming in Colour’ recently and it was not only fascinating, but an ideal example of the success of the latter principle! See : http://www.kaffefassett.com/Dreaming_in_Color.html
I know, from a personal angle, that I owe an enormous debt to my ever-supportive husband, who encourages me constantly with positive feedback, no matter how wacky or changeable my ideas (Gemini girls – a Libran partner is your best bet !!!), and also allows me the time (by continuing to do the cooking and sweeping!) and resources to pursue my creativity. My kids, family and friends are also great supporters of my work.
So thank you everyone! And may your creative adventures continue to blossom!!!
‘The highest prize we can receive for creative work is the joy of being creative. Creative effort spent for any other reason than the joy of being in that light filled space, love, god, whatever we want to call it, is lacking in integrity. . .’
Albert Einstein can have the final word :
‘The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.’
‘Old Man’s Advice to Youth: “Never Lose a Holy Curiosity.”‘ LIFE Magazine (2 May 1955), p. 64