2: Beginner’s Mind
Welcome to the creative process! In this section of the workshop, you’ll introduce a creative practice (artistic habit, craft ritual, get into the groove, whatever you want to call it) to your schedule, which helps you expand not only your practical skills, but also support creative imagining in other areas of your life as well. Whether you’re innately driven to create, or don’t consider yourself creative but always find yourself seeing handmade items and thinking “god, I really wish I could do that…” you will benefit immensely from developing a creative practice.
In the case of this workshop, it is viewed through the medium of embroidery, but really the following can be applied to any artform. Read through parts i-iii, then do the journaling suggested in part iii to develop your ritual. The remainder of the workshop i
RELEASE THE BEAST
To start off with, we need to immediately get rid of the idea that some people are creative and some people are not. I wrote an entire blog post on this, but in short, all humans are creative beings. Many of us have been lied to by well-meaning teachers, parents, or friends who say “Your art just isn’t that great” “you’re not that creative” or “don’t waste your time with that stuff” but if you’ve even gotten this far in the course, it is evidence you have a desire to create. Nurture and embrace this creative energy. The more you do so, the less power this lie of not being creative will have over you.
To be in a space of beginners mind is to be in a space of allowing. It's a time of learning, of receiving information and allow it to flow through you. This can best be accessed by designating time specifically for your creative work. I’m not talking about time for you to finish projects, I’m talking about developing a creative practice. A ritual of sorts, time set aside for exploring the possibilities of the materials you’re working with.
We constantly hear inspiration quoted as the source of some of the greatest works, but the inspiration can only come through when there is a practice in place for it to travel through.
This holds a similar application to spiritual work. While there are plenty of times where people have been blessed with epiphanies or awakenings spontaneously, having a spiritual practice creates a wider channel for divine knowledge to come through on a regular basis, and the stability to know how to direct it. I love combining these two practices as a way to enhance both areas. Since our spiritual lives can look so vastly different from one person to another, this workshop will touch on this area in a way that I hope is open, graceful, and inviting for all.
MAKING USE OF GREY MATTER
Your brain is filled with neurons, sending electrochemical signals to and from the brain and the body via the nervous system. When your muscles (including your brain) repeat an action frequently, it becomes "myelinated" which is a process that strengthens the neurons most used / needed.
To achieve strengthening of a skill or familiarity with an action, it is important to isolate this action, or neural circuit, for periods of time. In other less anatomical words, engaging in deep and uninterrupted work with high levels of concentration makes it physically easier to return to this work over time.
I find this to be true in the creation of artistic work as well as in the building up and breaking down of personal habits.
If you've myelinated (strengthened) your ability to stress out at the slightest upset, maybe it is time to try train your neurons to have a different reaction. You are the master of your machine.
The mind is not your enemy, it is your greatest tool. Once you learn how to work with it.
THE CREATIVE PRACTICE
Intentionally developing your creative abilities is a way of liberating your mind from previous experience. Allowing the brain to work in new and unusual ways re-wires neurons and creates new pathways.
Our current programming essentially means our body is living in the past, so it responds and reacts as such. When we learn to consider new possibilities on a regular basis through our creative practice, we liberate ourselves and allow space to embody new ways of being.
What you're doing is creating consistent conditions that allow artmaking to become like second nature to you. A way to relax you, give you confidence to keep going. Coming at the process with this confidence means you'll feel better about the process and have a stronger belief in your abilities, not just in your artistic skills but also in other areas of your life.
JOURNAL PROMPT: What does your ritual look like? what kind of environment makes you most comfortable? candles, music, incense, create a relaxed atmosphere. A brief physical action can help loosen up - I love a good shake up of the body - see illustration.
Imagine this process as building the house of your creative work. What energies do you want to invite in? What environment would they want to hang out in? It doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t) be complex or require many steps, but it’s great to have some anchors for your ritual.
Try and allow yourself at least 30 minutes for your creative sessions, but fitting it in your schedule on a regular basis is more effective than constantly putting it off because you’re waiting until you’ve got enough time. Doing it twice a week is great. Four times a week would be wonderful. Finding time for it everyday is absolutely marvelous.
PUTTING THIS INTO ACTION
Now that you’ve thought about how you can frame this ritual, you’re probably thinking “OK but what the hell do I do now?” The rest of this section walks you through some exploratory exercises. I recommend working with one of these exercises for each 30 minute creative session, but if you want to binge over a few hours (like taking a three hour workshop) then feel free! One important thing however, is to leave a little in the well. It can be easy to work ourselves to the wee hours, or until we are falling asleep over our work. Cut yourself off before you’ve totally depleted yourself of energy, leaving a little in the well to work off of tomorrow.
Throughout this first session, we are leaving behind the ideas of what we want to make to create room for ideas not yet explored. We are starting with the absolute basics, and spending the week building them up and considering visual representation in its most pared down form.
Through the experimental process of a creative practice, room is made for new visions to come through. This class teaches you to keep an open channel, so that when the good, great, genius shows up, you’re there to catch it.
We are on a quest for new ways of seeing, new ways of interpreting the world around and within us.
This will probably be uncomfortable at points.
Breathe, shake the body around a little, get up and stretch if you need to.
Then return to the work and continue your explorations.
Design Exploration Worksheet
For each section of this course, a few projects or opportunities to expand are presented. You can do none, try a couple out once, or do every one and practice them habitually. It is none of my business how deeply you choose to engage in these, but try to do each practice for at least 15 minutes.
With the simplest of elements, the line, we will begin to express perceptions. Using the back stitch and the running stitch, take some time on your fabric to create a variety of lines.
Explore shapes. Curves. Corners. Waves. Straight lines.
Consider concepts of movement and stillness.
Describe in stitches through line or shape the following ideas:
Do not overthink this, allow the response to move through to your hands without having to involve the brain too much. Come up with your own words to describe using just the element of line. Some lines may inevitably turn into shapes.
(BACK STITCH AND RUNNING STITCH HOW TO)
Take all the thread options you have and snip a few 2" pieces off each. Create 3-5 color stories, either on swatches of fabric or otherwise differing background shades. Haven't got much in thread color options? Cut out 10-20 different color squares from a magazine, and slice a few 1/4" strips of each. Now create different combinations of shades with these.
For extra points, glue them down in pleasing arrangements.
With the Satin Stitch, create a small shape in a single color, outline with Back Stitch in another color.
Now repeat, reversing these colors. How do colors sit next to one another?
Inside and outside one another?
For extra credit (just kidding I'm not grading anything) try making three or four shapes in a row in a single color. Outline each one in a different color, varying hues, lightness, and saturation. How does the initial color respond to the colors around it?
(SATIN STITCH HOW TO, DEMO OF COLOR SHAPES WITH OUTLINES)
Discovering harmonizing colors and textures with scraps of fabric or paper - cut 10-20 shapes out of whatever medium you’d like. Now cut out a "frame" and freely arrange these pieces (frame can be rectangular, square, circular, or even star shaped).
Photograph or sketch a few of the most pleasing to your eye to save for your design library. Translate one of these into a stitched concept.
While there is plenty of good to be said about meditation, one of my favorite mind games to play is giving ten minutes to allow the mind to wander and engage in as many thoughts and ideas and creative possibilities as possible.
Allow yourself to daydream wildly, without distraction.
You can close your eyes if you’d like, or stare up at the trees, but the only requirement is that you do it in solitude with the intention of creative exploration. What visual concepts or imagery find its way into your mind?
Give yourself the full ten minutes, then spend some time drawing afterwards.
If this exercise gives you anxiety or keeps you in mental loops, spend the 10 minutes seated with your eyes closed focusing on the insides of your eyelids. You'll notice shapes being created, moving about. Study these shapes.
Breath deeply yet steadily.
Allow these shapes to move freely, noting what their transformation looks like.
Any time the mind wanders, take a deep breath and return to watching the movie playing right in front of you. Feel free to write about what you saw afterwards if that comes more naturally than drawing.