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Something has been on my mind and heart lately and I wanted to share it here. I have no idea if you’ve already seen this post I shared on Instagram as well, my apologies if you did, but maybe you’ll still leave me a comment with your thoughts? You can also just email me if you prefer to keep your thoughts private.
The issue that I’ve been pondering is how do I create anything that feels completely authentic to myself when I can easily identify so many outside influences on the way I create something? Do I have to remove myself from outside influences, such as Instagram or YouTube (GASP!)
Yeah, that probably isn’t going to happen. I actually asked this question in a Facebook Group I’m in that is hosted by Carolyn Dube called Rediscovering Your Creativity, someone shared a video from Kirby Ferguson called Everything is a Remix.
First, let me suggest you take a little time to go watch this amazing video. The full length (remastered) version is about 37 minutes long but it’s WORTH THE TIME! This is where Kirby talks about the elements of Creativity and so that is what I am referring to below. I suppose this video has given me a way to feel less guilty about being influenced by everything around me and seeing those influences in what I create. So keep reading for my interpretation of these elements. Also, Kirby calls them elements, but I find they seem to be more like stages in a progression of my creative journey. I’m sure I can jump back and forth between the stages, especially to add interest, I might want to go to the Copy stage to learn something new (such as ceramics) but for the most part I feel like they are stages so I refer to them that way as well.
When I first started to “do” art and mixed media, just starting about two and a half years ago, I wanted to absorb ALL the information I could! I had no problem following a lesson (thank you to LifeBook and all the amazing real time lessons from Tamara and other artists!) step by step and spending HOURS learning something! I struggled and had to fight with my inner critic (which I didn’t even know was hiding in there!) This was also true when I first started quilting back in 2007, I wanted to buy ALL the premade kits and make my quilt exactly like the one in the picture on the pattern. Following instructions, not a problem, I just wanted to MAKE STUFF! And for the most part, I did. And I have enjoyed that learning process, and I am still learning but I can feel a major shift happening.
I feel like I’ve been in this “stage” or using this element of creativity for a few months at least. I know pretty clearly I’m doing that in my quilting because now I hate following instructions, I want to DO MY OWN THING! In a presentation to the Gulf Coast Modern Quilt Guild yesterday, which happened to be on the topic of Creativity, Ana Buzzalino, one of my favorite textile artists (I aspire to this title as well!), mentioned that she will take a quilt pattern and change one element of it to make it her own. I think that is the PERFECT example of the use of Transform in Creativity. Personally, I still dislike following patterns, I prefer to do “improv piecing” which literally means, grab some fabric and sew it together without worrying about the outcome. (Although I think the amazing quilt artist Irene Roderick would disagree with me, but really it’s all open to interpretation) If you know me or have been following me for any time at all, you probably know that I’m super laid back and rarely worry about the outcome in my art or quilt making.
This element reminds me of the encouragement from Kasia Avery (Everything Art) during our Wanderlust 2021 lessons, she always says to not worry about trying to copy her completely (which would actually be pretty much impossible because of the way she makes her art) but to follow the elements of her project and then add something personal to us to make it different. That works well, if you’re in the Transform or Combine “stage” but if you’re still in the Copy stage, you might feel stuck by this guidance. I know a few things I like to add to my projects include music paper (I’ve always loved music and played the flute for 8 years of my life), sewing pattern tissue (a nod to my sewing/quilting roots, since I will never make a garment and I promise these are patterns for clothes from the 80s that will probably never come back into style, I like putting those tissue patterns to good use in an art journal page), book paper (I love the look of the text and I love to read) and usually some cool color, blue/aqua, green or purple. Those are currently my signature things to add to my work. But at the moment, even if I add those when I’m following a tutorial, I’m still trying to copy the teacher while I learn, then sometimes, if I’m really in the FLOW, I’ll just fly off down my own path and play with paint and collage and do whatever I want! That’s when the fun happens!
OK, truthfully, I don’t know if this is a different stage or just another element that can be used along with Transform and if they can happen in a different order, because I feel like sometimes I Combine elements before I Transform them. I’ll see the way Tiff from Southern Gal Designs (Link to YouTube) adds stitching to a page and the way Jenny Grant does a bottom layer of collage and then a layer of paint, and the way Nicole Watson adds Payne’s Grey and the Stabilo All pencil to the work and somehow when I’m working, I pull all of those ideas that are floating around in my subconscious and I DO them, ALL IN ONE PAGE! And yes, it’s a lot. I haven’t quite learned how to emulate the white space that Dina Wakley is so good at creating in her work (but I’ve definitely enjoy using her bright colors and graphic elements which is easy to do with her collage paper and gloss sprays!)
But then again, I’ve been quilting for more than 10 years and I’ve only just figured out in the last few years what my QUILTING style is, and that is because people TOLD me they always know which quilts are mine (usually the ones that stand out because the lines are not straight – that’s the improv design, the colors are aqua and chartreuse and there is some sort of big stitching element, oh and it’s probably not finished yet!) And maybe the sad thing here is that ever since discovering Mixed Media, I’ve had a hard time returning to the world of quilting because it seems so SLOW compared to the instant gratification of PAINT!
I guess what I’m trying to say and what I’ve struggled with for a few months at least, is how can I find a signature style when my style still feels like I’m copying everyone else’s style? I think Sylvia Plath (an amazing poet whom I share a birthday with!) says it well, I actually got chills today when I found this saved image as I was looking for images of my work for this post!
So what do you think? Is it important to have a signature style? Do you prefer to copy, transform or combine the elements from the designers you see around you?
I hope you have a wonderful day and thanks for reading! I’d love to hear from you, just drop a comment below or send me an email!