The Creative Block. It happens to all of us, right? The dreaded, proverbial block to our creativity process and energy. I call it “Hitting the WALL”. When it happens, we go through whatever we hope will unblock us and release that creative energy that we all have.
Sometimes it doesn’t last very long, other times it lasts longer than we would care to admit. What causes it? How do we work through it? Many folks smarter than I have written about it, discussed it, theorized about it, and proposed solutions.
I don’t know that I have a solution per se, but I do know that I hit “the WALL” a little over a week ago. The trip to Estes was beneficial, but even when I got home I was stymied. I couldn’t believe it. Here I had all those beautiful stones that I had just purchased at the Denver Gem & Mineral Show and every design I tried looked blah. They all started to look the same. Here’s the stone, here’s the stone shape…maybe a texture, an overlay, or nothing. BORING! At least it was boring to me. I wanted to showcase these stones and do justice to them, not detract from them.
Most of you know that Lexi Erickson is my friend, teacher, and mentor. Lexi has a wonderful ability to tune into others and get a sense of what may be happening with them. I am convinced she has an extra sense. After I got back from Estes, she asked me to come to her home for another lesson. I quickly agreed and told her I was having trouble with designs all of a sudden. She assured me we would work through it.
On Monday evening, off to Denver I went to spend some quality time with Lexi. My design journal and recently purchased stones in tow. As is our custom, we sit and catch up for a bit. She asked to see my designs and could tell my frustration. She commented that she knew I had been frustrated for a while even though I hadn’t vocalized it until that evening. As we looked at my designs, she shared my thoughts about how some of them were just plain boring. She kindly pointed out that there was nothing wrong with them, but I was growing as an artist and what was a perfectly good design was just too plain and boring for where I wanted to go next. She picked one design that centered on my favorite stone; a heart shaped Chinese Writing Stone. Effortlessly, she drew several beautiful designs for this stone to show me examples of how to create Emphasis in a design. Those were signature Lexi designs, just as individual as her handwriting. The key is they were the beginning of what would help me to break out of the constraints of “the WALL”.
I’m a very visual learner and just to see some examples of where designs could go was exhilarating. I didn’t understand why I hadn’t come up with that on my own, but I know that’s just part of the learning process too.
The mentor and her padawan learner; we went over the basics of design.
Lexi was kind enough to write these in my journal and I am referring to them! She said it’s not uncommon to experience being blocked after getting the sensory overload from the Gem and Mineral Show. I’m certain that had a lot to do with it. All these beautiful stones and I am so committed to doing justice to each and every one of them.
And then she turned to me and said, “How about going out for a gelato?”. It kind of took me aback, because to me, it was “what does that have to do with jewelry design?“… oh little did I know what was happening to break through my artist’s block. Well, I had never had a gelato and wasn’t really certain what they were, but no matter, we got in her truck and headed out after a little more discussion and review of the stones I had purchased and the stones she had purchased at the Gem and Mineral Show.
On the way, she said that she didn’t think I needed a lesson so much as an evening to relax, talk about goals, art, and life, enjoy a gelato and watch the sunset on the mountains.
I thank those of you who have hung in there to this point, because I finally got to the part about gelato and mountain sunsets!
We enjoyed our respective variations on chocolate gelatos and conversed. A true heart to heart. Sharing our thoughts about our own unique life experiences. Let me tell you, those moments in life are precious and meant to be cherished. I do.
When we finished our gelatos, we headed to one of her favorite mountain viewing areas to watch the sun set. She pointed out that as the sun sets, the light on the mountains shows the variations that you don’t see during normal daylight. It reminded her of metalwork with all the depths and contours. She was right. I never looked at the mountains that way before. We took in all those wonderful colors in the sky as the sun sets too. Inspirational!
She asked why I was ‘blocked’ and the answer that came to me was fear. I was afraid of making a mistake. Gee, that’s how we learn! And believe me, I recognize fear is the worst emotion that can attempt to govern our lives and our decision making process. I KNOW THIS and yet it was holding me back. Calmly, Lexi said, “It’s only metal”. Yes, that’s true and I don’t work in anything expensive like gold or platinum yet. I’m still concerned about the cost of Sterling Silver, but on an individual item basis, it’s only metal and can be recycled into something else when you do make those inevitable mistakes as you are learning or working. It’s ok….you are going to make mistakes. Geez, duh, I know this…time to confront my fear and eliminate it.
Lexi reminded me that her series “Conversations with Harold” came out of a very similar situation; she was enjoying an evening of discussing life, art, and more with her friend and mentor Harold O’Connor. Wow. My response was maybe I’ll have a “Conversations with Lexi” series!!!
So much came out of that evening. We watched the sunset create new lines and outlines of those beautiful Rocky Mountains. I realized, as odd as it was, I needed her permission to venture forth and go beyond what I knew how to do metal work wise. She gave me her permission even though I shouldn’t need it. We’re both over achievers. We both got straight A’s. Neither of us can just do something simple and easy the first time, we have to try to do something more complicated and advanced. We laughed. We discussed our goals. What did success mean? Philosophical topics, dreams, hopes, aspirations, how fortunate both of us are with the wonderful husbands we have. Quite refreshing.
In order to grow in one area, sometimes you need to let go of other areas. I’ve been conflicted with my love of glass and this newfound love of working with metal. I’ve started to come to terms with this. I can’t stop creating things with glass; I enjoy the process too much. Yet, I’m just beginning to understand that art jewelry work is where I am even stronger as an artist….or maybe I should say, where I have my greatest potential. I truly have become consumed with the process. You will still see me posting my glass art as I cannot completely give that up.
She expressed concern that maybe this discussion wasn’t helping me, but I explained that I generally need time to process things like this. She understood because she does the same thing, that is, she needs time to process information about important subjects. I told her that knowing me, my subconscious was taking all of this in and I would probably have my break through in the middle of the night. Typical to wake up at 2 AM with an idea, solution for a problem I’ve been working on, well you get the picture.
We enjoyed the sunset and I headed home. I was drained.
At 4 AM, the flood gate opened and design ideas emerged. I had my break through AND it was faster than I even expected! I think three designs came to me while I was trying to go back to sleep until the alarm went off at 5 AM. The good news is I was able to capture all of those designs on paper. And I’ve been on a roll ever since. Oh what a feeling!
As I reflect on that evening, I think it was more about Soul Searching. You guessed it, my new art jewelry line will be called “Soul Searching”. I have at least 6 designs in that series and I’m running with it.
The next time you hit “the WALL”, remember chocolate gelatos and mountain sunsets. Gelatos are delicious and well, mountains are breathtaking. Find that friend and mentor who will listen and encourage you, while you take in the beauty that surrounds in nature. The point is take in something that is beautiful to you, enjoy something delicious, and just relax. Your internal creative energy will come to life! Trust me, it really will.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I am sharing this in the hopes it will help you to unblock your creativity. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences too.
Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person! I know I am.
Thank you Lexi.