Well, it's Tuesday and we are back again answering your questions in EtsyMetal's weekly blog post called "Ask Auntie EM". If you're new here, this is a weekly blog post written by Sue and Ann where we tackle your metalsmithing and non metalsmithing questions. Having trouble with your solder? Need some help with stone setting? Have a problem 2 year old? We and EtsyMetal's 100+ members probably have the answer. If you'd like YOUR question answered in the future, please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get to it as soon as we can. If you'd like to read past posts, they can be found here.
I've decided to take on this interesting question this week-
This 2 part question came from Kelly:
1) What's a good way to stay inspired?
2) How do you deal with inspiration guilt (as in, the kind of guilt
that comes with seeing another artists AMAZING design, and you
emmulate aspects of it to kick start your own creativity)? And, such
inspiration, is it acceptable or to be avoided at all costs? There's
only so much you can DO with metal, and some artists require a
constant flow of inspiration. I DO NOT CONDONE RIPPING OFF OTHER
PEOPLES' DESIGNS, but I've never been offended when my designs
encourage other artists into similar intellectual and creative
pathways, but some folks guard their designs and techniques like rabid
(and justified) tigers. Generosity is a mark of a great community,
however, and I'd like to think Etsymetal is one such community, but
I'm interested in what you think regardless.
Your first question is a lot easier for me to answer and sort of addresses the second one as well. First of all, you have to find what inspires YOU. What makes you happy? What do you find beautiful? Interesting? I personally find inspiration in midcentury modernism so I might go to an antique store or look on line at midcentury sites. I am inspired by the shapes, the fabrics, their use of materials. I'll give you a direct example. Here is a piece of my work that was directly inspired by the atomic shapes on a piece of 1950's bark cloth. After looking at it, I decided I liked it as a dandelion seed head.
I am also inspired by nature and will take walks in the woods, our parks, and my own garden for inspiration. Sometimes a trip to our local museum will inspire me. I love strolling through the sculpture garden and am often inspired by Noguchi, Henry Moore, and the like. I could show you countless examples in my work but the point is to find what YOU love and to draw from it.
I do NOT look at the work of others for inspiration. In fact, I make it a point not to. This is not the place to find your inspiration- your work will end up looking like theirs. While some may say that copying is the sincerest form of flattery, I am very much opposed to the idea. Certain things are what they are- a round hoop is a round hoop is a round hoop. But, if that person has a unique clasp on that round hoop, don't copy it. Instead, think, "wow that's really cool, I wonder what I can come up with?". If after making something, you can't tell the difference between your work and "your inspiration"- well, you've gone way too far.
I'd like to share with you a couple ideas that I use on a regular basis to keep my originality and inspiration going. First, if I have a problem to solve in a piece I am working on, I ALWAYS think of 3 different ways to solve it. Why would I go to all that trouble? Because the first way you think of is almost always the obvious way. The obvious way is usually not the most original or interesting way. This technique has helped me come up with unique bails, clasps, and a much better ability to problem solve.
Secondly, schedule a workshop if you can. Nothing will light your creative fires more than learning something completely new. It might take your work in an entirely new direction. If nothing else, you will meet other metalsmiths with whom you can share ideas.
Thirdly, just get out there and make work. The more you make, the more you find your own style and your skill levels will increase immensely. You can't make anything original if you don't have a good skill set. Some friends say to me, "I can't make anything unless I'm in the mood". I thoroughly do not believe this. If I only went to the studio and worked when "I was in the mood", I wouldn't get much done. Develop a strong work ethic and routine. I aspire to be like Alexander Calder who went to his studio to make stuff every single day. If you do, you will get inspired. Trust me on this.
Finally, I'd like to share a handout I got at an Andy Cooperman workshop. Andy is such an original thinker and he was a big inspiration to me. When I need some help, I read this again.
SHAKING THE TREE- a little help to get you started or to help you dig out...
-Not building a wall but making a brick...
-Take a break
-Use an unacceptable color
-Do we need holes?
- Look closely at the most embarrassing details and AMPLIFY them
-What mistakes did you make the last time?
-Are there sections? Consider the transitions
-Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do and do the last one on it
-Turn it upside down
-Don't be frightened to display your talents
-Don't be afraid of things because they are easier to do
-Honor thy error as a hidden intention
-What would your closest friend do?
-Go outside. Shut the door.
-State the problem in words as clearly as possible
-Just carry on
-You don't have to be ashamed of using your own ideas
-Trust in the you of now
-Faced with a choice, do both
-Give way to your worst impulse
-Make a sudden, unexpected move
Well, those ideas should get your creative juices going.
Kelly, I hope this helped you and anyone else feeling in a creative slump. Go out and find your muse. Happy metalsmithing,