Thursday, November 25, 2010

inspiration and perspiration

Lena Gurr sketchbook examples
from the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian


The images here are from sketchbook No. 7 dated 1930Many of the sketches show nudes but I have included three I find interesting as a seamstress.  First, in the back of the sketchbook is a list of projects with notes on progress and outcome.  Look at the scratch outs and doodling.  We often think of art as being "born" of a single inspirational thought...but this page in the sketchbook shows how much effort, thought and analysis went into Gurr's pieces. 




I sometimes find myself stuck in my sewing journey, balanced on the edge between creativity and productivity.  I am unwilling at times to STOP and examine what I truly want in a garment...I plow ahead in a frenzy of "git 'er done", and when that happens, I lose some of the joy inherent in this process.  




Another example from the sketchbook is found here.  It's a quick sketch and while incomplete, captures the focus of the seamstress.



Finally, here is a sketch with more detail and an interesting series of notes which give evidence of how much effort went into each piece.  




The next few entries here at kf-biblioblog will focus on how creativity is fostered and nurtured in my own life.  I hope many of you will join in this conversation, and add your own insights to the mix.   Let's start...



Step One: Inspiration

Spontaneity, intuition, risk-taking...all these terms conjure the artist's way for me.  All involve being in communication with my deeper self, and trusting that part of me.  I know that fruitful, or good, ideas are often mixed with awful ideas and I also know I have to sort all those ideas in order to find some gems.  How do I sort them if I am being self-critical?  Impossible task, so it is important to be accepting of that deeper self who holds all these ideas (good and bad).  Creativity experts say that I should toss 90% of my initial ideas, and if I am getting lots of good ideas fast, I am not taking enough risks.  

Inspiration comes when I am focused and engrossed in a project-sewing, writing, drawing, cooking.  My task is to learn to maintain that focus in order to allow the inspiration to flow through me.  

Readers, where do you find inspiration and how do you maintain your focus?


  1. Focus is hard! I force myself to work only one project at a time; otherwise I'd be in the middle of too many. I also keep a list of what I'm planning to sew. Unless I'm really inspired to make something else, I move right on to the next item on the list. That keeps me from wasting time in indecision.

    Inspiration? For me, I think the joy of sewing is more in the skill, the process, so I'm inspired by things I haven't done before and things that seem challenging - as opposed to what's on the runways (:

  2. Guilty of not allowing myself to enjoy the process of sewing as much as I should. It's one thing when I "need" to crank out so many t-shirts or whatever, and it really doesn't involve a lot of inspiration. On the other hand, I never seem to find the time to make the things that I dream up that cannot be rushed. I do try, however, to add some "point of interest" on an item, whenever I can. What am I inspired by? Many things, but mostly pictures of garments, regardless from what age, as well as sewing magazines and sewing books.

  3. I think I am hopeless at this; I get inspired by so much it's difficult to narrow down my focus and decide what really suits me and which direction should I be taking with my sewing. Plus, since creating my wardrobe is my thing, I need to concentrate on making it all "go" together! I need to do more of this, and not get side-tracked by beautiful, and unsuitable, fabrics so much...
    I like your statement that you might be not taking enough risks, and I resonate with this one too. Am I being too safe in my creativity? This one interests me... and I look forward to hearing more from you on this.

  4. Regarding sewing, I am mostly inspired in two ways. First, by the fabric. Rarely do I buy a pattern, fabric and notions all at one time. I see a swatch I like or am drawn to. I purchase it, and I think about it...a relation to other fabrics, my style folder, and the patterns I have. Sometimes an idea comes to me out of the blue. I'd hate to admit how much time I can spend thinking about what a particular fabric should become. The second way inspiration unfolds is by admiring something I've already seen that I want to recreate adding my own twist. Then I can mercilessly hunt down the fabric, patterns, and notions. Regardless of which method produces my plan, the next step is easy. I am focused because I am excited to see the end result. I don't have trouble staying on task once I've begun "the look." I am blessed to be able to sew for pure enjoyment not out of necessity. I believe this encourages my creativity and willingness to take risks. Great post by the way. I'll enjoy following it!

  5. On our looooong drive for Thanksgiving visits, I listened to the CD of the book "Drive" by Daniel Pink. "the surprising truth about what motivates us". FASCINATING current (2010) research about what REALLY motivates us. I HIGHLY recommend it. Talks about how the old school carrot/stick rewards/punishments MAY work as successful motivators for LEFT BRAIN tasks, but for right brain creative tasks, carrots can DE-motivate. So beware of how you set up rewards for yourself. I think of PR contests. They're POSITIVE in certain motivational aspects, but I've been finding that the carrot of positive reinforcement can encourage me to churn out easy items quickly, rather than "bothering" with more complex items ... i.e. if one is rewarded for producing ANYthing, one leans toward producing ANYthing, but perhaps LESSER things. All that said, the PR feeling of "sewing along with others" is indeed motivating to me.

  6. Anita, I will look for this book immediately. :-)I'm motivated. I agree with you that some contests are not motivating and that both the fabric stash and the pattern stash contests might be improved by rewarding in a general way to all participants. I am motivated by the community and the camaraderie.


I love your comments and enjoy the conversation that results.