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The Ebb and Flow of the Creative Process

Masterclass.com says creative individuals generally go through five steps to bring their ideas to fruition—preparation, incubation, illumination, evaluation, and verification. Well, if that is true, then I have been ebbing through the first two stages for quite some time now. I feel like the saying, "Life got in the way" should be tattooed on my forehead for the past two years. Seriously. And possibly in a neon ink.

This is actually quite ironic, when I think about how much I enjoyed my personal study of creative flow while we were in the depths of the pandemic. I found it fascinating to see how we all reacted to stressful situations and genuinely needed a creative outlet at those times, to keep our sanity in check. I had fun sharing creative prompts online with friends, peers, and students through those stressful times. I would like to think that those prompts helped them keep the creative cogs oiled and moving.


So, what happened to me? As I mentioned, life got in the way.

About the time we began emerging from our hand-sanitizer-laden homes and our N95 masks, my husband and I embarked on a long anticipated construction project. A top-to-bottom renovation began in our home. We had waited 23 years to do this and it was time. We moved out, the demo began, and I slowly watched all my creativity flow into decisions on our home - tile, flooring, toilets - you name it and I chose it. Don't get me wrong - I am not complaining! I am so happy that the choices we made reflect us, our lives, and the things we love. I talk a lot about "bullet points" when beginning a new quilt project. I always suggest to jot down on a Post-It note what is important to you to accomplish. When you get lost, or frustrated, refer back to those bullet points. My renovation Post-It note had only one bullet point. All my choices needed to make my heart flutter.


I can honestly say, now that it is done, my heart flutters as I walk through the spaces -- especially my coveted art studio that was built from the ground up. More on that topic in another post.

So again, I ask, what happened to my creative flow? A move out of the house, over a year of remodeling, a stressful family health scare, and then tripping and breaking my right hand the day we moved back home. Yeesh, trying to settle into our home without the use of my hand was quite a challenge... should I keep going?

I found myself standing in the doorway of my beautiful new studio and truly not able to move, or sew, or cut, or draw. Nothing. Nada. Holy Cow.


I received some sage advice from a dear friend about this. "You need to live in the space for a while. Get used to the set up, take your time organizing things so it feels right." That made so much sense! We have all experienced that block that happens sometimes while setting up for a class or a retreat. It takes a bit to settle in, right? The chair isn't quite right, the lighting is different, and you rearrange your tools a few times. What I was going through as I stood in my doorway was, basically, this block on steroids. I literally could not even sit at my machine. It found itself tucked away under the desk for weeks.

I knew my schedule was about to get crazy, with 2 weeks in Portland, and then off to Iowa to teach at the Iowa Quilt Museum. I didn't have the luxury of time to sit and live in my space. So, I cleaned up. I folded fabric. I straightened my book shelf. At least with everything being neat and orderly, I could be ready to tackle this situation when I got home from my travels. I also knew that my Portland trip would be quite laid back, as I was to pet sit for my daughter while she was in Ireland. I packed as many hand working projects, inspirational books, and art supplies as I could fit in a suitcase. Clothes were an afterthought in a duffel bag.

As I sit here in Portland, in week two of fur baby duty with 2 cats and 2 dogs, I am truly feeling like I have slowly begun to move out of those first two stages of the creative process that I mentioned at the beginning of the post. Every stitch, every snip, and even my quick sketches in my sketch book are becoming easier. My right hand still does not work like it used to, and I am not sure it ever will. But, I knew if I didn't get those stiff fingers moving again, I might forget how. This may have to be the new norm for me, relying more on my left hand and less on my right.

This is what I am working on today. I wanted to take all the lovely fabrics that I have been painting, dying and screen printing over the years and give them a home in a scroll-like format that I could add hand stitching to. It will take a while, but I am in no hurry! Spike, in the background has spent the past two weeks overseeing all that I do.


I am off to Iowa next week for the 2023 Iowa Quilt Festival . I know I will love teaching and sparking creativity into the students that signed up for my From Scraps to Treasures class.

I am hoping that their creative flow will reflect back on to me, and that when I arrive home, stand in the doorway of my studio, I will begin to feel comfortable in my new space, and get back to doing what I love.


Thanks for listening everyone! It actually helps to put this all down in words.

Have a great week!

Pati










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