Finding your creative voice

As a ceramics teacher the most obvious thing I teach are the techniques and technical aspects you need to know to make something with clay and have it survive the firing process successfully most of the time but I also firmly believe that each of us are inherently creative (by creative I don’t just mean good at art or crafts) and encourage all my students/members to develop their creativity.

Over the years I have had a number of students join my classes and workshops saying that they aren’t very creative but they fancied having a go with clay. In these cases I find clay is a great medium because it does have so many technical aspects that people can concentrate on that side of making and not get overwhelmed by the need to ‘be creative’ while they make. But at the same time, the more they learn about the techniques, the more they begin to think about what they want to make, why and what they want it to look like, without realising that they are beginning to make creative decisions and are starting to develop their creative voice! It’s almost like creativity by the back door!

With beginners I teach the three main hand building techniques by making a sphere (pinch pot) that they can then make into a vessel, animal tea light holder; a box (slab building) and a bowl, vase or mug (coiling). This is the only stage where I put any restrictions on what students can make (unless someone specifically asks for me to set them projects or themes to work from). After this students make what they want to make and I help them. My classes are small so I can offer all the one to one support that is needed and I don’t want to stifle their creativity by telling them what to make. I want them to find what they enjoy and feel confident enough to try out new things but at the same time accept that not everything is going to work out the way you want or expect. We learn so much when things don’t go according to plan and accepting this when making with clay really frees you up to play and experiment. Happy accidents can also be great!

For myself I tend to work through one main concept for a fairly long period of time, developing and refining and transforming it many times during its lifespan but I also keep open to new inspirations and ideas to either incorporate or keep for the future. I find inspiration in lots of different places and that inspiration feeds my creative voice but, like in so many aspects of life, if I’m too busy and rushing around, stressed and thinking only of what has to be done, I don’t have the head space to even notice something inspiring let alone consider what I could do with that idea. So sometimes I have to slow down and give myself the time and space to just be so that I can start to pay attention to the details around me again. I do this in a few different ways that you might find help if you are ever finding it difficult to find inspiration and your creative voice.

  • your creative voice Take a walk, breathe deep and look around you. I take a walk on my own, starting by just paying attention to my breathing and my posture, consciously relaxing. Once I feel a bit more relaxed I pay attention to the small details around me not just what I have to see to keep safe. I look for colours, patterns, textures and shapes that appeal to me. I often take photos of what I find and save them in an inspiration folder or on pinterest. (I found this erosion pattern while waiting to be picked up after a hospital appointment.)
  • I have an Inspirations Notes-book and try to write any new ideas in this when I think of them. If I leave it until later I inevitably forget what the good idea was so I try to have my book somewhere close to hand or I make note of it on my phone and transfer it later.
  • I love inspirational quotes and proverbs so I have a few books filled with them that I read a few pages of when needed.
  • If I’m looking for a theme or am at the beginning of a project and looking for initial inspiration I will sit down with a favourite cuppa and either my laptop or a notebook and simply write words that pop into my head. I don’t edit or discard at this stage, I just write for maybe 10 or 15 minutes until the words are no longer flowing. I then have a look at what is there, group any with a commonality and see what really starts me down a project idea. I may take 2 or 3 to this next stage before picking the one I want to concentrate on for now. I can always come back to the others later if I want.
  • I will try something new or just do something in a new way. This can be anything and seems to work particularly well if I try a new way of doing something I do all the time like baking or cleaning. It breaks the pattern and habit and makes me think in a different way so then I can take this freedom of thought with me when I start to think about making.
  • Collaborating with someone works in a similar way in that it makes us think about why we do things in a certain way so that we can explain this to someone else. This mental refresh gives us the chance to review then by working together you have the input of your partner to really develop your ideas and potentially go in a direction you alone would never have considered. If collaborating isn’t possible, having others to chat through ideas with and bounce new concepts around with can really help too. Sometimes just explaining an idea to someone is enough to give you a different perspective.

There’s nothing revolutionary in this list and I’m sure you’ve heard much of it before but sometimes it’s good to be reminded that sometimes we need to rest to come back stronger and that giving yourself permission to take time to be and think without pressure is important.

I hope you found that useful and if you have any tips you find helpful for uncovering inspiration and finding your creative voice please share them in the comments.

For makers in clay my new Online Membership includes lots of technical know-how videos and information, as well as an expert on hand to answer questions (me! ) and a community to chat through ideas with to help with developing concepts and finding your creative voice.

You can see some of my inspirations on my pinterest board.