Soooo, I’ve been really busy lately and just haven’t had the time to stop and think which meant that I was struggling to know what to write for this blog….Finding ideas for my blog can be tricky and there wasn’t anything obvious from the videos and other work I was doing that I thought would make a good topic to write about and then it occurred to me, I was struggling to find an idea, something I also hear many of my clients say when thinking about what to make. I’m often asked where do I get my ideas for my work so I decided that would be good thing write about 😃
For my ceramics I am rarely, if ever short of ideas about things to make. I usually have at least three ideas swirling around in my head waiting for the time when I can turn them into reality. Most are an evolution of previous work or inspired by a new technique or material I want to play with. At the very beginning of developing new work I follow a fairly traditional (or at least I think of it as traditional!) creative process. I start with a basic idea, word or theme then explore that in a sketchbook, researching different aspects of it, making connections, considering what I want to say in my work and what is the particular part of the topic that I’m attracted to most. I paste images in, I draw, collage, paint anything that helps me connect with the topic more closely and moves my thinking forward. It’s a very free process, I don’t place any limitations on my thinking or making at this point, it’s all about expanding the subject and my ideas, collecting everything in one place.
After I feel I’ve collected together enough material I review it and decide what I want to develop further, what to keep and what to discard. There may be more than one idea to take forward from which I may just choose the one that appeals most at that moment or I may take both to develop. I then start considering my limitations – materials, process, technique, time, cost etc. – and apply them to the design mix. This usually brings me to the point where I’m ready to make in clay. I’ll make some test pieces trying out different aspects of any new designs, maybe looking at new finishes, working to find the best way to build and fire. At this point I’ll make my first ‘finished’ design, then this design will lead to another evolutionary piece with slight variations which leads to another and another and so on.
I’ve done this process so many times that it’s very familiar to me and I’m very comfortable with it, can even take shortcuts through it at times but for something like my blog, it’s a different process as I’m not so comfortable with the medium of writing. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and using words to share my thoughts and passions but writing a blog is fairly new to me and so finding ideas for things to write about is more difficult than ideas for my ceramics. I’m also much more aware of what my audience might want/need from me when writing, which is different to when I make my art. When I make my art I think about how the viewer will react to the piece and that influences what I make but not to the same degree as when I write. Knowing what people would find useful in my blog is important, so important that it’s my main focus for finding ideas to write about.
From all of this musing I came up with a list of tips to help with finding ideas when you need one (which I really should have followed myself when I was struggling!). I really hope you find them useful.
- Give yourself some time – sometimes a bit of deadline pressure can help but I find, when looking for a new idea it’s best if I give myself a bit of time to think. I think about what I’ve done in the past, what I want to achieve with the new project, the ultimate goal and why I’m doing it.
- I often start with a single word. I’ll just write down single words that come to mind when I think about the project then, once I’ve naturally stopped, I’ll review, group and look for themes.
- What do you love? This can be a great place to start for new ideas as it means they’ll come from a very positive place. It could be people, places, objects, values, words, colours, or anything else that comes to mind!
- Why are you doing it? Is it to say something specific, for a particular event or audience, to share a life experience, help others, etc? This again can be a good place to start as it gives your ideas purpose and makes sure they match your values and principles.
- Make connections. I love this one although it’s really skipping to step 2! It’s all about finding connections between things that are apparently unconnected. It gets you thinking outside the constraints of practicality and frees up your creativity.
- Is there a need? Is there something you need yourself so you want to make it, have you found something you need but can’t find anywhere to help you get it or is it all about needing to express yourself? This goes back to the ‘why are you doing it’…
- Look at what other people are doing. Now, I don’t mean copy their ideas when I say this, I mean have a look at what they’re doing to become inspired. Ideas are formed from sparks of recognition and inspiration that make connections between existing things or ideas. It’s about seeing it a new way, putting your unique perspective onto it.
- And finally…take the pressure off! If you can… Find the place you’re most comfortable, grab your favourite drink, a notebook/sketchbook and pen and/or a laptop, and sit back, relax and just write notes, doodle, let your mind wander and give your subconscious time to think about an idea. Don’t edit, cross out or delete to begin with, just go with it and see where it leads you.