Friday, December 17, 2010

Thoughts on the Creative Process

I've written here before about creativity.  I believe that it's important to understand how that part of you works in order to get the maximum benefit of it.

There are a lot of people, even serious quilters, who don't think they're very creative.  For most people creativity is something "artists" and "inventors" do.  I suppose that's understandable because those people make something "new" when they use their creativity, their results are more visible and easily identified as acts of creation.

However, everytime you take a new route to avoid traffic, or put together a meal with whatever's in the freezer, you're being creative!  We create constantly, everything from putting on makeup in the morning to figuring out the cheapest way to feed your family off a fast food menu.  Humans by nature are creative or we wouldn't have moved from caves to huts, or from huts to castles.  It's our nature to build, and then tear down and rebuild because we're constantly innovating.

Today I had the opportunity to do something I haven't done in a while, work on putting together a project with one of my clients.  This particular client is also a friend I used to work with, and that I know very well.  Today we were putting together a presentation box for her to give to her customers as a holiday gift.

You'd think that making a box look good would be easy, heck we wrap packages all of the time!  However, when you're designing a box to hold an assortment of food including brownies, cookies, and assorted nuts, it's a little more challenging.  Fortunately, my client, who also worked in design, had picked out the boxes she wanted to use.  She Fedexed me one that I used as a starting point for my design process.

I was able to get the interior packaging design done easily, created a motif she loved for the front, and then could not come up with any idea I liked for the interior lid.  I'm sure you feel this way sometimes too.  I came  up with design after design, and everytime there was something just not right about it.  Too much of one color, too much background, the motifs weren't the right color, I didn't like the size of the logo.  It went on and on and on.

My friend was happy with one of the first designs I did but I knew it wasn't right.  It's one of those things I just can't explain, it looks OK, but it isn't perfect, and that drives me crazy.  I know in my heart that the right design is out there, I just need to find it.

So, today was assembly day.  My friend knew I hadn't solved the interior card problem but she had more confidence in me than I did and was sure I'd figure it out.  When she arrived we immediately started "playing" with it.  Discussing what we liked and what we didn't like.  Before she arrived I had been playing with some lengths of ribbon and it occured to me that we didn't have to wrap the box in ribbon, (that's too predictable), but there's no reason we can't wrap the interior box with ribbon.

This turned out to be the turning point.  My friend loved the idea but we kept hitting snags about making the card work with the ribbon across it, and also with making the card coordinate better with the outside motif.  So, after multiple design changes, (thank God for Photoshop Elements!), we finally ended up with the ribbon wrapped the other way, and a design we both liked.  It took several hours but it was loads of fun and it made me realize how much I enjoy the whole process.

Since my business is very slow my skill set of thinking outside the box all of the time had become rusty.  The experience today opened that door again, I guess the old girl's still got it!

It also made me more aware of something I keep telling the young people I know, that art doesn't come easy, and that creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum.  You have to have some give and take, even if it's just yelling at yourself.  You need to question and experiment, and not toss an idea away because you think someone might think it's stupid.  If there's one time you can give a stupid idea a chance it's when you're in the midst of the creative process.

It's easy to give up when things aren't going your way, but that's exactly the time when you shouldn't.  Those niggling doubts are a sign that you might need to take a shift in your thinking, and those shifts often lead to major discoveries.  I can't even begin to tell you how many times I made a shift in direction that took my work to a whole other level.  My favorite example is the quilt that  made it into Quilting Arts' 2003 Calendar,  I'd started off with one idea that wasn't working and I was just about to give up when an odd thought hit me, and before I knew it I was off and running.  The same thing happened with the Mojo Doll that just won first place from Quilter's Home.  It was not my first doll.  The first one was a disaster, but I persevered and worked my way through it.

Creativity is all about perseverence.  Remember, never retreat, and never surrender.  You never know where that may lead you.

Happy Stitching!


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