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?
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.
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.