Category Archives: Creativity

Creative Play


I’ve always been interested in the origins of creativity so I’ve done a lot of research on the subject. Most recently, I took Brent Eviston’s Becoming Creative – An Artistic Guide to Creativity on Skillshare. It was the last lesson when I had my epiphany.

Research shows that children are naturally creative but we tend to bury it as we get older. I could go on about divergent vs. convergent thinking, connotation, left vs. right brain and a bunch of other high falutin terms. But let me ask you this – what is the one thing that usually sets children apart from adults?


Play at it’s best, captured in Dublin, Ireland.

Creativity is nothing more than tapping into our powers of play. This was so obvious to me after the last video in Eviston’s class. He called it “divergent exploration”. I loved his class but when he described “divergent exploration” I thought the term was ridiculous. Why not just call it what it was – play? I mean, which sounds more fun? “Hey kids, today were going to do some divergent explorations!” or “Hey everybody, let’s play!”

Granted, it’s a more structured, intentional type of play than most kids do, but it’s still play, nonetheless.

I had another epiphany while doing a journal exercise for his class. I design and make a lot of fashion and home decorating related items but in reality, after taking both fashion and interior design classes, neither fashion nor interior design is my passion. I’m not drawn to these fields because I’m interested in them, I’m interested in the creative process inherently used in these fields.

It’s the creative process that is my passion, probably because it is play. I have fun doing it. Making things with fabric and fiber (like sweaters, hooked rugs or quilts) is just my preferred method of expressing it. And after taking Eviston’s class, even though I didn’t know the science or fancy words of what makes the creative process, I realize my creativity hasn’t been buried like most adults. I’ve been intuitively using it all along.

In a video I talked about one of my favorite tools to generate ideas – the stencil. Check out it out here if you want to learn more about it. This got me thinking about other fun ways to spark your imagination. These are not all specific to fashion, they can be used to brainstorm ideas no matter what your medium.

Mr Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head, in case you don’t remember, is a plastic potato with interchangeable parts. You could change the lips, eyes, ears, nose, etc to create a bunch of expressions or unique characters. What if you applied this concept to your design? For instance with a sweater, you could get a picture of a basic sweater and then try different types of necklines, collars, cuffs, ribbings, etc.

Cut Outs

Hooked rug with flower motifs. Paper cut outs of the different flowers helped me determine where to place them.

There are a lot of ways you can play with these. First, I used cut outs to figure out the designs for both of my hooked rugs. I knew one would be circles and the other flowers. I cut actual sizes of the motifs and moved them around on the canvas until I came up with a pattern I liked.

Second, you can cut out words and throw them in a pile and randomly pick some and write something (poem, paragraph, short story) using just those words.

Third, you can cut out pictures from a magazine. You can follow a theme (flowers) or just go with whatever catches your fancy. Once you have 5-10 pictures, play around with them. What combinations can you come up with?

Interior designers use this technique when playing around with furniture placement on a floor plan.

Roll of the Die

Take a pair of dice and assign something different to each number. If you were knitting it might look like this: roll 1 – make a bobble, roll 2 – bind off 5 stitches, roll 3 – change colors, etc. For drawing it could be 1=hash marks, 2=organic shape, 3=body part, 4=thick lines. You get the idea. Part of the fun is thinking up what each roll will be. And every time you play, you’ll create something different.


My friend Jean did a whole video on this idea. This is a fun journaling exercise but if you’re a writer you could use your notebooks and create a mismash of characters, plots, etc. If you’re an artist use your sketchbooks and see what zany combinations – whether it be color, shape or form – that you come up. News stories could create an interesting murder plot or conversation. Use a dictionary to write a poem. Use an atlas to come up with the place to set your story. Your high school yearbook could give you some interesting traits based on personalities of classmates or teachers. It would probably be the most you ever used it.

100 Day Project

The way to come up with a good idea is to have as many ideas as possible. A lot of times the first 10-20 are the mediocre, run-of-the-mill ideas. In other words, pure crap. So the challenge of creating a new idea a day (for instance, a new sweater design a day via a quick sketch) is a great way to push yourself beyond the hum-drum into the interesting.

Many of these ideas are variation on a theme and their sole purpose is to just play, the outcome isn’t important. You’re not trying to create a masterpiece. You’re looking for interesting sparks of ideas, unusual pairings and combinations and ways to disrupt your habitual thoughts.

So bust loose, have fun, connect with that inner child and just play.

Coming out of my rut and triangle quilt update


You know that creative wasteland I talked about a couple of posts ago? Yeah, still there. Having a project like a scrap quilt gives me something to do while I’m figuring out what I want to do, if you know what I mean.

I love making quilts and I have enough fabric to make a few. I decided to make a triangle quilt. It’s done by cutting four inch squares, drawing a diagonal line down the center, sewing a quarter inch on either side of the diagonal line and cutting them apart. As this is a scrap quilt, I just cut out squares and randomly sewed them together. No particular design – a “no-brainer” of a project. It gives my hands something to do while my brain is incubating.

Creating my half triangles

Scrap quilts have a long history in America. Patchwork quilts were often made from sewing scraps and old clothes. Nothing was wasted. One of the tennents of the sustainability movement is not to waste anything and use what you have on hand. Some people might see this as restrictive and feel deprived but it’s the opposite for me. I love the challenge of using what I have. It’s strangely satisfying to use stuff up and see my stash shrink.

The quilts I’m making will be donated to a non-profit. This one will be queen size and requires 930 half-triangle squares (30 squares X 31 rows). I had already made 300 squares and over the weekend I cranked out the rest while watching some bad Netflix movies and reruns (if you have any good Netflix viewing suggestions, please tell me).

Squares are all done, now laying them out to sew them up for the quilt top.

A couple of thoughts emerged during this sewing marathon. First, I finally figured out where I could pin my quilts. While I have the floor space in my apartment (I don’t have a lot of furniture) it’s carpet so essentially useless. I realized I have access to a huge space where I could pin multiple quilts out at a time. Even though I will have the room to do the whole thing, I’ll do it in two pieces because it is so much easier to quilt smaller pieces on a regular sewing machine than one large piece.

Second, sometimes when I’m in these “lows” I find great clarity. Not being able to move forward could be my brain/soul/authentic self’s (or whatever you want call it) way of saying I’m on the wrong track. I believe this dry spell is one of those times. I happened upon a Youtube channel and it got me thinking about what I am really trying to accomplish. I’m focusing on the wrong things – on the outcomes – things I don’t have any control over. I was getting caught up in my old nemesis, outer validation, worrying about what other people think and trying to do what the “experts” are doing instead of following my own passions, curiosity, wants and interests. The best thing I could do to get out of my rut was to give my hands something to do while my subconscious worked things out.

It sounds cliche but we each are given one life to live. I’ve already lived too much of mine by other people’s agenda but it’s a hard habit to break. I still fall into the trap of comparing myself to other (seemingly more successful) people and thinking I should be doing what they’re doing. But it’s just that, a trap. Because when I focus on what “they’re” doing, it takes the focus off of what I want to do, what would truly make my life meaningful and fulfilled. It’s like my brain slammed on the brakes as if to say “whoa, you missed your exit!”

So I readjust my internal GPS and head back to where I’m suppose to go and the creative juices start flowing again.

Craft Show Goodies


The holidays always give me the itch to do a craft show. The snowmen are my new favorite. I had some old styrofoam ornaments and crocheted over them with white yarn. I’ve had them laying around in that state for about 3-4 years now. This year I finally decided it was time to do something with them so I made them hats, gave them those adorable faces and I am in love!


Art Journaling



I adore art journals. I have many blank books just waiting for me to fill up the pages only to remain empty. I finally decided to devote some time to it. I chose a regular spiral bound artist’s sketchbook for my first one (so I don’t “ruin” it). I am trying to overcome my resistance to creating the “perfect” page and started in the middle of the book, took a Sharpie and just started drawing (after consulting with myself as to what I might want to draw). I love flowers, so I decided to draw some fantasy flowers. I would draw a couple and then go do something else. And come back later and add more.

For this project it was important for me to focus on the process, not worry about the finished product. As a matter of fact, my goal was to “draw one shitty page.” I’m trying to practice baby steps and lowering my expectations (to overcome my blocks).

Overall, it was fun and I want to explore flowers more but I think my next page is going to be about animals. I’m checking out my National Geographics as I write this and for this page my goal will be to draw a bad interpretation of my inspiration.

It’s better to set the bar low so that I will at least do something rather than do nothing at all. My only expectation is forward movement.

Crafty Guys


Crafting is not a female only sport. There are many guys out there who are creative and crafty – whether it’s rebuilding an old mustang or making sculpture from junk. Ben Venom happens to be a quilter who uses rock t-shirts as his medium and incorporates lyrics from his favorite and obscure rock and punk rock songs.

His stuff is incredible – check it out.


Redefining our Homes


Saturday I took a trip down to Huntsville, Texas, to visit Pheonix Commotion, Dan Phillips construction company that specializes in building small homes from reclaimed and leftover building materials (which I mentioned in a previous post). Basically stuff that was either headed for the dumpster because of  botched orders (“Oh, you wanted 10 ft boards, not 8 ft boards), leftover inventory or just general waste (bottle caps, wine corks, bone).

I like Dan’s philosophy in making use of these materials to build housing for artists and single moms. The construction industry has tons of waste and using it keeps it out of the landfill and costs down. Not to mention that many new building materials are treated with chemicals that out gas and cause health issues for many people. Reclaimed or recycled materials (like using old barn wood or salvaging stuff from buildings that will be torn down) don’t have that problem because they are old enough that the chemicals have already leached out.

On the tour ($10 per person – very reasonable) we got to see the inside of only 3 of the houses (as the other’s are private residences) – the Bone House, the Tree House and I don’t know if the third house had a name but the front fencing had wine bottles as part of the fence, so I’ll call it the Wine House.

Some of these homes had artist’s studios with them as separate buildings. Personally, I could never live in any of the houses. I found them too confining and with the multitude of patterns on practically every surface, too busy. I like a cleaner aesthetic. Also, I want a flat counter top surface (the counters in the bone house where done in a bone mosaic – as in actual bone). I can’t imagine trying to cut something and having my cutting board bouncing all over the place. Plus keeping it clean would not be fun. The floor in that kitchen was absolutely beautiful but impractical, from a cleaning standpoint, in my opinion. 

I found the artist’s studios much more to my liking, which were mostly one big rectangle with a bathroom. I’m thinking I need about 800 square feet and properly planned will seem spacious and be very comfortable. And most important – paid for. I don’t plan on using bottle caps for flooring (I’m going to go with a stained cement – way cheaper and less time-consuming) but I will be looking in unusual places for my materials rather than hitting up the big box stores.  

It’ll be at least a year before I can even move and probably longer than that before I get another house as I decide on where I eventually want to settle down. Being an empty-nester will free me to go anywhere I want so I am going to explore my options. But Dan’s opened my eyes to lots of options so that when I am ready to build or remodel, I can do it without taking on a mortgage and customized just for me as long as I am willing to put in some time sourcing cheap/free materials and doing some of the jobs.

Blue (or green or purple) is the new black


I came across this post on my internet travels today.

While it seems more geared toward the graphic design crowd I thought the concept of not using black was very interesting and wondered how I could apply it to my work. If nothing else, I am going to be looking at shadows a lot differently. And maybe just observing color, actually trying to pinpoint what it is, might be all I need to learn.

Bloggers and Copyrights


I just came upon this article at Huffington Post about some e-books that violated copyrights. Apparently these were recipe books and all the recipes and pictures were taken right off of blogs but the true authors were not credited, nor did they get any money from the sales. Blogs with recipes were the main target but in this day and age of the internet, it could happen to anyone.

This reminds me of a passage I read in Carl King’s book (which I read on my Kindle) So, you’re a creative genius…now what? He says:

“It is my belief that in a Creative Career, product-based selling is worthless. We have to evolve beyond “product-centric” thinking.” 

He goes on to talk about how “In this new world of copy-everything-with-one-click” that anything that can be downloaded is free. Let it go, give it away. Don’t try to get in the business of selling something that everyone can get for free.

While I don’t condone what happened in the article (these titles were hit with tons of comments damning the books and they were eventually pulled), I think King’s advice is spot-on for those of use who are trying to carve out creative careers for ourselves.

Unlike these copyright thiefs, we are blessed with wonderful new ideas everyday, so use your creativity to come up with different methods to bring in revenue.

Learn how to Draw


I’ve always loved to draw but I was way too critical of my work. I thought that “real” artists came out of the womb drawing like da Vinci.

Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we demand perfection and great technical skill right at the beginning? If we demanded that of our children we would have never evolved.

A couple of years ago, instead of coming up with New Year resolutions, I declared that it would be a year of my art. I took several art classes and a bookbinding class.

One of the art classes was at SMU and the teacher taught Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Drawing is like any other skill – sewing, cooking, driving, etc. You can learn it. I think the big hang up to learning how to draw is most people don’t learn how to see.  Your teacher tells you to draw your shoe, so you try to draw what you percieve as your shoe. In other words, your perception of “shoe” gets in the way of actually seeing your shoe.

I would highly recommend that you learn how to draw. I think Edwards’ book is the best because it really breaks down the skills you need. Some other fun books are:

Drawing Lab by Carla Sonheim

Any of the Zentangle books

Drawing for Older Children and Teens – A creative Method for Adult Beginners, too by Mona Brookes.

All you need is some paper and a pencil to get started. Relax, doodle, let your mind wander and be free. Learning how to draw will help open up your creative channels.