Staying True to Creative Individuality

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Hey Makers! Welcome to the first article I’ve written for the new Made by Hand blog!

This is the first of many posts like this, where I will be talking about current events and cultural topics within the fiber arts and maker communities. Sometimes they will be happy, funny articles that highlight good things about being a maker, and other times they might be serious and thought provoking articles about current issues or troubles makers can face in their day-to-day lives. For the first article, we’re going to focus on something fairly neutral, but very important in every creative journey…

Staying True to Creative individuality

We are truly living in an amazing time in history. Look around yourself and really take a moment to realize how much technology helps you through your daily life. Your coffee or tea is made with hot water most likely heated by electricity – whether it be from a coffee maker, a stovetop tea kettle, or even your microwave. Depending on where or when you’re reading this, you might have a light or lamp on in the room. Again, made possible through electricity. Of course, if you’re reading this, you are familiar with the magic that is the internet and the technological power of a computer. All of this technology has greatly changed the way we live our lives and how we share ourselves (and our crafts!) with the world.

Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter are some of the largest social outlets leveraged by the maker and fiber arts community. (I’ll even go so far as to throw Etsy in to that list for the sake of this article). With these platforms we are able to share, be inspired, and even make an income off our artwork and favorite hobbies. We definitely have technology to thank for all of that!

But with all of the good that these services offer, it can also cause some problems for some makers. Far too often I’ve witnessed crafters who are far too critical of their own work because they are comparing themselves to another maker they saw on social media. I’ve seen people obsess over their feeds and express how they don’t think their work is “good” because it’s not like a popular maker’s account. This is something we need to be aware of and try to avoid in our own creative journeys because it can hurt our creative individuality.

Trends and Over Saturation

When we start comparing our work and appearance to other makers, it can sometimes lead to what I refer to as over saturation of a trend.

Over saturation is when a trend or style goes viral on a social outlet. To give you a recent example (recent at the time of me writing this), did you notice how fast “messy bun hats” became popular? (If you don’t know what a messy bun hat is, here you go.) It felt like overnight I went from never seeing them to seeing 4 or 5 new tutorials and patterns for them every day,  all over my Pinterest and Instagram feeds. This over saturation can have a few different effects on the creative community:

  1. It can provide creative inspiration to get some people out of a rut.
  2. It can encourage someone to turn their hobby into a career because they see a market for that trend.
  3. It can inspire someone to create a better version of the trend with their own twist, possibly causing the trend to shift in a new direction.

These are of course all positive effects of an over saturated trend, and I love this stage of the process. It helps the community to grow and shift into the next trend or style. The downside of over saturation, however, is that it can cause the trend to wear out and get old, very quickly.

The over saturation of trends is like a wave, so there are both high and low points of their popularity. Once a trend becomes popular (the high point), it can become common for some makers to latch on and start trying to recreate the trend in the way they have already seen, rather than exploring their own creative take on it. While there’s nothing wrong with learning to make something you wanted to recreate, this is where the over saturation phenomena can become problematic. Everyone starts to see the same thing and it loses its luster (the low point). The trend is no longer exciting and unique and we can start to see ruts develop in our creative process.

Staying Out of Creativity Ruts

When you’re bowling, your goal is to keep the ball from rolling into the gutter, right? Someone’s journey as a maker can often be seen as a bowling lane. You’re creativity is the bowling ball, and the lane is your creative process. If you’re rolling along and fall into the gutter (get stuck on a trend or in a creative rut), you’ll still get to the end, but you won’t hit any of the pins at the end of the lane. You can think of the pins as new, creative ideas. In order to hit them, you need to explore different ways to adjust your form and throw the bowling ball so it stays out of the gutters.

Hitting the creative “gutter” along your journey can have an effect on your individuality as a maker. You want your creations to reflect who you are and what you love about the craft, not what everyone else does. It’s important to often look back on why you started making in the first place to help rekindle that creative fire and spark.

There are many ways to avoid falling into, and even preventing, these creative ruts, and they just take some clever thinking and creative effort. One of my favorite exercises for keeping on top of my creativity is to go shopping! I like to make apparel, so going clothes shopping is a great way to get inspired for creating new projects. Clothing stores are always rotating stock and styles, so you can guarantee that you’ll find something new and interesting every time you visit. If you have a mall near where you live with a wide variety of stores, take a day and just go window shopping. Visit all kinds of stores – even ones you would never, ever buy stuff from – and just look around. Touch materials and textures, take note of color schemes, and start to critique different styles. This is a great exercise in broadening your taste and creating a more open mind about your craft.

If you don’t make clothing, maybe you make home decor, or you paint instead, you can always find inspiration in other ways. Go for a walk in nature, visit a museum, listen to some new music, go to the zoo, or explore a part of your town you’ve never been to. Anything that gets your mind moving and thinking about new things will help to generate creative ideas.

“Creative thinking – in terms of idea creativity – is not a mystical talent. It is a skill that can be practiced and nurtured.”

– Edward de Bono

Defining Your Own Creative “Brand”

When you hear the word “brand” you probably think of a logo and a business that makes a certain product. However, a brand can apply to your own creative style or flair as well. A brand doesn’t have to be an official logo and all that jazz. For example, if you’re a watercolor artist and you commonly paint pictures of plants, that can quickly become what you’re known for, thus “branding” your art as a botanical artist.

Finding this brand can be a fun way to give direction to your crafting. Once you have a direction established, you can start exploring different ways to execute that style or subject in new, creative ways. Going back to the watercolor artist example, they might end up getting caught up painting pictures of succulents because they are very popular. After a while, those paintings might lose their popularity, and the watercolor artist may end up in a bit of a creative rut. In order to stay in tune with what they love (painting pictures of plants), they might start painting pictures of flowers in addition to their succulents. Flowers have a similar radial structure to succulents so they’re similar,  but they provide more variety in color and shapes, thus showing new creative paths for the watercolor artist to explore.

TIME TO REFLECT AND GROW

I want you to take some time to think about what your own creative individuality is as a maker. What is your creative “brand” all about? I encourage you to share that creative story in the comments! If you haven’t quite found your groove or personal style yet, feel free to talk about it. Establishing your creative journey is all about being proactive and persistent. Sometimes talking and connecting with other creative minds is what it takes to create that spark…




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    Knitter, crocheter, seamstress, artist, photographer, designer. I'm just trying to spread the joy of creating and working with my hands.

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