The Act of Creating
My husband woke up before me this morning as usual. I set myself in a very comfortable fetal position and started thinking. I started thinking about this blog which I planned to write once I was ready to escape my sheets and stoke up my computer. While I lay there under the soft sheets and the warm wool blanket (hey it may be spring where you are but here it once again snowed and this house is chilly) I wrote this article in my head. Not verbatim, but I pretty much blocked out the themes, the ideas, the paragraphs, the main points. I created a visual of it in my head. And because I had really thought through the whole thing all of it remained there as if cooked into my brain. As my husband kissed me goodbye to head off to an appointment I said: you might not realize it but while I was lying here looking like I was sleeping I actually wrote an entire blog post. We have been together a long time. He was not surprised. And then we started discussing the design process. This blog has now become its point: how I create both writing and everything else. And that is the subject of this post.
I don't create everything while in a fetal position under warm blankets. I can do it anywhere: in the bathtub, taking a walk, riding a horse, sitting at my desk, sitting in front of a loom. Frequently I create for one medium by doing another. For example, I often use knitting to think about tapestry. My knitting is very simple. I knit endless afghans for family and friends. They are enormous (six by seven or eight feet) and are created from a variety of stitches that I decide upon as I go along. The yarn is all hand painted by me. The act of making these gifts uses my hands and allows me to look at pleasing colors. With my mind thus freed I can then create other medium designs in my head.
I also, as Elena says, weave endless silk strips. They are very useful but I can weave them from an entirely uninspired state. They are much like the blankets knit from hand-painted yarn. The hand-painted silk has the same effect of chilling me out why I allow my mind to wander elsewhere. It is my version of the writer's version of sharpening pencils. I can also use crochet in this matter. I at times make endless little crochet bags out of hand-painted silk. Frees one's mind to think, imagine, sore.
One thing I do when in high creative mode is I disappear. I lose track of time. I can not multitask. I can bounce from one thing to another. And I do bounce. When I am easing into creative mode I notice everything in my studio that is not right. I get terribly annoyed with dust motes, cat hair on the rug and beads and yarn swimming at my feet. Zoom. Off to the closet to get the vacuum. Noice, noise, noise. Done. Oops just saw some dust on those shelves. Gotta clean it. Sit down, start at the loom, see my baskets that hold all my stuff are in disarray. Can't create in chaos. And so it goes until everything is just right. My workspace has to be clean and orderly with my potential supplies neatly arranged on the table. Within an hour I will have created a complete mess. I know myself.
High creative mode is actually the step after coming up with the idea for the weaving. This is the part where I actually warp the loom and weave without knowing if it will work. Often there is a sketch, something to shove behind the warp threads. But it might not work, I might hate it. Cleaning is also my way of avoiding my anxiety about starting something new.
For every let's say ten hours of making stuff, only about one percent of it is really inspired. I think that's why artists tend to go off on riffs. They pound at one theme until that theme is emptied of all possibilities. As they work on this concept with piece after piece after piece it mutates, it grows, it shrinks, it takes on many lives and then it is over. Time to move on. Sometimes a concept can get played out and then revisited years later. I find myself doing that right now. Although the current results are quite different from previous ones. Something had changed. I had changed. Just image how many brand new cells I am rocking since last I wove in this style fifteen years ago. So a new me working on an old concept makes a new concept.
Then there are the times when I must create something entirely new. At least new to me. I set up a slideshow in my head. I keep running it again and again and again trying to see the shapes, the colors, the movement in my head. I tend toward "abstract" with a purpose. So for example, this one,
Window Rock was taken from a photograph of that actual Window Rock that I took while on a trip out West. My challenge was to weave certain images with geometric shapes. I wanted the difference in background and image to be created by having contrasting color values. It worked. I wove several of these.
Then there were my triangle days. I realized that triangles are very convenient shapes to weave especially when trying to create movement. I envisioned again the contrast of color values that would create the shapes. I saw in my head where the black would be and how it would move the other shapes upward. The fun thing about triangles is they can be woven rather independently of one another. I wove about ten of these. Eventually, they were not fun anymore until recently when I sort of employed that concept on this piece.
I remember going through a stage where I was creating scribble landscapes. this amounted to having a solid background color of white or black and then scribbling colors that sort of resembled landscapes inside those shapes. (Image). It took me at least two years to get bored with this concept. I think I am almost ready to try it again.
An idea will suddenly come to me from whence I do not know. It just flies into my head and then I freeze and indulge in the beauty of this new idea. No ideas are the most precious things our brains can do. When one comes along it is magic. But the magic can get destroyed, be false or be impossible to realize. The chances of failure are enormous at this point. At least half of my ideas are epic failures. I have mastered the art of ripping out, cutting off the loom. I can't stand to live with failures. At some point, you cut your losses and move on to a success. There is no reason to dwell on failures. They are the seeds for the next thing. Sometimes they just need to mature.
Creativity is the greatest human gift. It is mysterious and beautiful and for some of us the foundation of our internal existence. Why do we create? I ask myself that on a daily basis. I guess the answer is it sends us into a place of deep flow and contentment. But it also can be filled with intrigue and adventure and excitement when that great idea takes hold and you are flying with it. I can't imagine life without it. I also can't imagine life without a good pair of glasses!
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