Thursday, May 28, 2009
The Creative Process
It is already Thursday. I never know where time goes. I sat down yesterday to work on a project for a magazine that has been an idea in my head for weeks. A quilting magazine was willing to let me design a wool necklace for them to feature in their fall issue to help promote my newest book "Fabric Jewelry-Wrapped Braided and Sewn". This book is a bridge between sewers and jewelry-makers. I have been working hard to get both quilting and jewelry magazines to pick up a feature to help promote my book due out this winter. So far I have one feature coming out in a quilting and one in a jewelry magazine. So not a bad start.
Jewelry has become my new obsession and everywhere I look I see things that are inspiring new ideas for jewelry. Now here is the problem, I have so many ideas running in my head that when I sit down to make them reality I am overwhelmed and have no idea where to start. If someone were to ask me the hardest part of design, I would have to say starting the project. Once I settle down and start to work out the design and make it become something more than an idea, the rest of the creative process comes so easy (most of the time).
Now just a quick peek of what is in my head right now (Scary I know). I am thinking about finishing up the wool necklace project (due 6/1), have to choose fabric and make a birthday quilt (due 6/7). I have several digital quilts I need to work on (due next week), ten instructions I need to write( most likely past due). I have a tablecloth that has to be made for next week's show, I have to respond to the different design opportunities I got at quilt market or there will be no work in a couple of weeks and I have to work on my new line of fabric due in two weeks. Somewhere in my head (most likely filling the cracks) are a ton of ideas for things I want to make as soon as I have a second to sit down.
I believe what I have is "successful designer sickness" and I am truly blessed to have this. But am a little sad by how many ideas go undeveloped or possibly fade away because I did not have a chance to work them out or write them down. This is where a sketchbook can become handy. I have never been a big fan of carrying one around with me, I used to think if an idea was good enough, I will just remember it. Now I realize this is not always the case and there are times when a great idea was not used because the right job had not come along to utilize it. Then when the job does come I realize I have forgotten most of the idea to begin with. Perhaps it is a sign of age or wisdom, but now I realize how important it is to write it down.
When I have an idea in my head I usually roll it around in my brain and look at it from different angles. I try to visualize how the design will be constructed, what are going to be the challenges with the design, will the design work, do I need a certain materials or tools and where do I get them. I do my best internal designing at night (yes it cuts into my sleep) or somewhere quiet (usually the shower). I usually need to focus on the internal designing one or two nights and then I ready to start. Other designs like the wool project mentioned above had some bigger design challenges and it took me a couple of weeks of thinking about it off and on to solve most of my issues. So what some people call procrastination, I call internal designing. :).
Once I have the idea firmly designed in my head, I am ready to try an make the idea a reality. This is when I am ready to introduce color into the project. This may surprise some because color is so important to my designs. But this is the way it works and who am I to question. I look at what the piece represents (if anything), who the end user is, what supplies I have to work with and any special requests from the client. If the product has no guideline on color, I usually will work with three different color palettes to find which one works best. Sometimes they all work and that is always a happy time.
When I started designing, I was so exciting to dive into the project, I would start with my final materials. The problem here is if my design did not go together as easily as I planned. I wasted my good materials and usually had go with my second choice. Again as I have learned this lesson too many times, I now make a test sample whenever possible. With our deadlines sometimes there is not choice but to just do the final and hope for the best. Once I start making the design, I usually have to make some changes or alter the concept some, depending on the complexity of the project and if the materials or colors dictate a change. I would say about 20% of the time the design looks exactly think the image in my head. The rest of the time I flow with the design and let it become what it needs to be.
It sounds hooky but the object being designed has a voice of its own and the most successful designs are a happy medium between what I imagined and what the object wants to be. That is why not everyone is a designer, you have to let your self and your expectations go while designing something and interact with the piece being made. Alot of people are not able or willing to let go of the control and trust that the design will look good even if it is not what you originally planned. People want to know what the final piece will look like no questions asked. But what they need to have confidence that even if their project does not look like the original, that does not mean it looks bad.
Mary, my mentor used to see me get frustrated with a project and want to trash it to start over. She would say that the project was fine and it was just telling me it was not finished yet. I would step back from the project and return to it with fresh eyes. I would let go of what I wanted to make and look at what I had made up to that point. I would look and see what the object needed to look finished and "listen" to its voice. Nine times out of ten, Mary was right and I just needed to add something extra, that I had not planned to make it spectacular. Looking back these "trouble designs" turned out to be some of my best work. I know it sounds a little zen, but creating is an experience and sometimes the process is more rewarding than the finished object.
No matter how the design turns out, I am always happy and relieved when it is finished. Creating is a process and it is hard work. It is also a passion for most designers and creating is like breathing for us. I am so lucky to have a career that lets me get paid for something I would be doing no matter what. I hope that the peek inside my head was not too scary and it helps you tackle your next project Until next time.....