Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Keepin' it Creative

In both my Design Intensive and Design Kickstarters classes, I share my "Top Twenty Tips for Continuing Creativity."  Most of us struggle to find enough time in our daily lives for creative work.  And once we find the time, we may run into stumbling blocks that slow down our momentum.  Over the past twenty years as a working artist, these are some tactics that have worked for me: 

 Use even the smallest blocks of time.  Try to find at least 20 minutes every day to sketch, stitch, note down an idea or try something out.  I discovered "the rule of one hour" when I was making bed-sized quilts and hand-quilting them.  If I could stitch for just one hour a day, eventually the quilt would be finished.  Even 15-20 minutes a day, if that's all you have, can be productive.  In fact, I can really get down to business if I know that's all the time I have!

I wove on this for 90 minutes after dinner last night--soon I'll be done with the background and get to start weaving the image in the cartoon!  (Those are my initials in the lower right) 
Keep your supplies out and accessible as much as possible.  Make it easy to get started or to pick things up and work if you have a few free minutes.  More than one artist's dining room has become their studio.  Above you can see my tapestry loom in the family room.  (Do yourself and your family a favor though and keep any toxic supplies out of the kitchen.)  

Tell your inner critic to get lost until the piece you’re working on is finished.  It is artistic abuse to judge it in any harsh way while it’s still in process.  On the other hand, do listen to the small still voice of the piece itself telling you what it needs.  Be willing to let go of cherished preconceived ideas or materials if they don’t seem to be working (“kill your darlings” as writers say). 

 Keep it fun!  If it’s not fun, try some other way of working, some other art form or medium or size or process.  Try cutting up your piece and reassembling it! 

Make visual decisions visually.  You can’t tell from just thinking about something whether it’s going to work—you have to try it out and see it.  And this leads me to the topic my students can count on me to preach about:

If you are working with materials or processes that are new to you, make samples.  Do a model or a rough draft of a representative part of your piece before you do the full-scale version.  Use the exact same materials and techniques you plan to use in the real piece in order to get the most accurate information from your sample.  You may need to do several samples before you feel sure of where you’re going.  The knowledge, confidence and peace of mind you gain by sampling is priceless!  Save your samples—they will become a valuable reference library for you.  I have drawers full.

On the other hand, be careful not to work an idea to death before you start the real piece.  Save room for spontaneity and creative decisions as you work, to keep it fresh and loose.

I wound and beamed this warp for scarves yesterday but I'm not sure yet which weave structure or weft colors I'll use.

I have lots more to share on this topic.  In the Atlanta area, I'm offering Design Kickstarters here and Design Intensive here in the next six weeks.  Would love to see you in class!




  1. Molly, would love to take the Design Intensive but will be out of town one of those weekends. Any way to do part of it? Or catch up at a later time? Thanks. Martha (

    1. Martha, Thanks for your interest in the class! Let me ponder it and get back to you privately.