Process and Ideas

Ah, January 3rd. The first week of January is just about my favorite time of the year. It’s a new year, the momma of all fresh starts.

This evening I am going to Santa Barbara to see Kaffee Fassett give a talk and slide presentation. There’s a trunk show and sale beforehand, and I’ll probably go early enough to ooh and ahh, and possibly buy something.

I realized recently that I’ve been a fan of this man’s work for more than 22 years, since I was just learning to knit at the Knot Garden knitting store in Sherman Oaks [17200 Ventura Blvd Ste 211, Encino, CA 91316-4091 (map)(818) 986-6642]. Before I was married and had kids; before I was a fashion design teacher, before I went back to school and became a fiber artist;  I was a fan of Kaffee Fassett’s. So this will be a great way to start off a new year.

Daryl Lancaster’s New Year’s Day blog got me thinking about my creative process. Daryl talks about warming up her creativity by doing five-minute quick collages. She learned this from Donna Kallner, who writes about creativity exercises she uses and recommends for students “who are stuck / afraid / dithering.” Check out both blogs, especially Daryl’s collages.

Reading this, I know I’m not likely to do five-minute collages. For me, these things would turn into art projects in themselves, and they present a diversion that just doesnt seem to fit into my own process.

Which begs the question, what is my creative process? First off, I never have a shortage of ideas for projects. My brain just produces them non-stop. I used to have some anxiety over the notion that I could never execute all the ideas I had. There was a moment during my volunteer years when I realized that ideas are a dime a dozen.

It was during the playground renovation project when we needed to raise a large amount of matching funds for a large grant. All kinds of people would come up to me with ideas for great fundraisers – for me to do. They weren’t willing to put in the dozens or hundreds of hours it would take to follow through on their idea. But they thought they were giving me this great gift – an idea they were willing to invest a few seconds of their time in. After that time, I accepted the fact that there are some artistic ideas I will just never have a chance to get to. And I wouldn’t want the reverse: too much time and not enough ideas.

Over the past 10 or so years I have discovered and become comfortable with my own creative process. I remember Bee Colman asking us about this one semester during her fiber arts studio class. Her question was: what is your process? Do you come up with ideas and then go out and gather materials? Or do you sit among your materials and then generate ideas?

So how do I develope ideas? They come from everywhere: a story on the radio in December 2003 became the basketry piece Our Layer in April 2007.  When the time came to do it, I went to my materials stash, pulled out and laid out stuff. I did a quick sketch to show the other members of my Eco-art group.

When I get an idea, sometimes I write a note describing it. Then I sit among my materials, pull stuff out and line it up on the table. I might write out more ideas, tape bits of yarn twisted together on paper. Plastic in the Trees I & II started as a note on my yellow pad, “graduated green warp with plastic bags weft, blooming leaf pattern.” I pulled out and lined up every cone of green yarn I had. I gathered colored plastic bags, and laid them out  by color.

work table

Plastic in the Trees in progress

 Right now I need an idea for a piece of yardage. I got this harebrained idea to submit entries to all of the juried shows at Convergence ’10 in Albuquerque in July. I don’t usually do yardage, so now I need to develope a project. I made a note a couple pages back in my yellow pad, ‘disposable/indestructible.” I have a dozen or so cones and balls of yarn lined up on my table. I’m in the process of finishing the prior project on the loom. There will be lots of finishing work, dying and painting will be involved. And while I’m doing that, the idea for the yardage will be cooking on the back burner. When I’m ready to do it, I’ll twist together bits of yarn and tape them to a sketchbook page. I’ll pull out materials and line them up. I’ll pour over my weaving pattern books. There will be lots and lots of math. 

So why does this matter? I think its important to know your own creative process so you can set up your work space so it works best for you, and that includes your psychic work space. For instance, I know I’ll start thinking about the next project when I’m about 3/4 done with the current one. I allow myself to take some time out to pursue it. I’ll pull out yarns and line them up at the back of the table. After a little while, the undeveloped idea fizzles out, and I turn back to the current project. This little diversion is like a creativity warm up for me. I get more motivated to finish the current project when I have the excitement of starting the new one.

Now, will I get the yardage done and photographed in time for the February 15 submission deadline? Check back here to find out.

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2 comments so far

  1. Daryl Lancaster on

    Great post Julie, thanks for the nod. Something for everyone to think about! FYI, the yardage deadline for submissions is February 1st. Each of the exhibits has a different deadline. Good luck!

    • juliekornblum on

      Daryl, thanks for setting me straight on the date. Fiber Art Calls for Entry had it wrong, and I didn’t pick up on it when I checked the HGA website. This makes my personal challenge a bit more exciting.


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