As a wellness and creativity coach for makers, the question I receive most is, “How do you stay creative?” It’s not always easy! Even though I’m polycraftual (I’m a quilter, writer, embroidery artist, jewelry designer, and gardener), I sometimes lose my creative way. Today I’m sharing 10 ways to feel creative every day. It's a method I designed to help me stay creative, even when it doesn't come easily.
To feel creative every day, I intentionally lean into three areas — practice, process, and lifestyle. For our purposes, I’ll focus on how these can benefit your quilting, but strengthening them can help you feel creative in ANY pursuit!
Many quilters feel they’re not creative because they use patterns or kits. I vigorously disagree — you make gorgeous quilts appear out of thin air! As a human, you’re inherently creative; you use that skill all day long as you make and do things. By nurturing your creativity every day, even the most mundane moments will feel more special and you’ll feel more authentically, abundantly creative.As I describe each area, ask yourself: How can I apply this to my quilting? What works for me might not work for you, but once you start thinking creatively, you’ll come up with methods that suit your unique creative spirit.
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Defining Creative Practice, Process, and Lifestyle
Most of us have a narrow idea of what it means to be Creative with a capital “C.” That definition comes to us via our capitalist, productivity-focused culture: To make creative things. This leads us to make the mistake of defining ourselves as creative only if we produce works of art that we can show others.
That feeling is reinforced when folks say, “You should sell your quilts!” They mean well, but their urge to commodify something in which we invest emotional, spiritual, and creative energy can disconnect us from our true purpose and joy.
Defining our creativity by our product is unnecessarily narrow, and ignores three significant areas in which we can feel creative:
- Creative practice: This is how you intentionally lean into your art or craft. What’s your preferred medium (like quilting, knitting, dancing, or writing)? What are you trying to say with your work, and what’s your style? What kinds of things do you create, and how often?
- Creative process: This is how you go about making your art or craft. You likely have organizational methods, note-taking rituals, and step-by-step actions for making quilts. These are all part of your creative process.
- Creative lifestyle: This is how you allow creativity to infuse every moment of your life beyond quilting. To me, this is the most crucial of the three, and by strengthening it, you can feel creative every day – guaranteed.
1-3: Enrich Your Creative Practice
We start here because it’s all about your “why.” Why do you quilt? Why do you create? Why should others care? By putting more intention into your creative practice, you’ll feel a sense of purpose behind everything you create – and feel creative every day as you do so.
There are many ways to enrich your creative practice. Here are three that come to mind for me:
1. Write an artist statement.
Many creative people (not just fine artists) have an artist statement, which explains what they make and why. For example, check out quilter Heidi Parkes’s artist statement. Crafting one will clarify your “why.” You can watch Heidi's classes on creativity here.
It can also be a decision-making tool when you’re not sure about your next project; use it to investigate if the project you’re considering fits with your artist statement, and if not, is that OK? (At Quilters Take a Moment in October 2023, Heidi is teaching a workshop on writing artist statements, and Suzy Quilts Creative Operations Manager Laura Hopper is teaching about writing labels and storytelling with quilts!)
Above: Magical Thinking Attempt no. 7 by Heidi Parkes.
2. Journal about your practice.
Spending daily time journaling about your quilting practice can unlock lots of creative ideas. While you’re at it, consider your journal a place to get more creative with colors, lettering – even your journal cover offers an opportunity!
3. Learn from those you admire.
Consider a quilter or other artist you admire. What aspects of their work can you emulate? Consider things like color palettes, hand quilting styles, or their passion for working in a series as jumping-off points. I like to spend a few minutes every day on Instagram to inspire me. (I never miss a single one of Suzy’s posts! One of my favorite Instagram features is the ability to create a favorites list so you always have inspiration at your fingertips.)
4-6: Enhance Your Creative Process
The daily aspects of your creative process provide abundant opportunities. Here are some of my favorites:
4. Consider your work space.
Consider how you organize your supplies and projects. How could you make things pretty? Tidy? Organized? I love looking at the #HonestCraftRoom tag to get inspired.
5. Document your quilts somehow.
Some quilters keep a detailed project journal complete with tiny scraps of fabrics for each project. Some use online project management systems like Notion or Trello. Explore how you can make your note-taking and documentation feel more fun and generative. Ask other quilters what they do or search online for inspiration.
6. Make it feel fresh.
How can you make all the action steps of quilting feel more creative? Could you collaborate with a friend? Experiment with a new color palette? Learn a new technique, or refresh an old one? Where online can you learn? Who inspires you? Would a cute new notion make you smile? At each step of the process, look for opportunities to make it feel fresh and fun.
7-10: Expand Your Creative Lifestyle
This is where the most magic happens for me. Imagining my life as one big art project means I consider the most mundane actions as creative opportunities. Even folding laundry can feel inspiring if you’re open to it! Here are some things to try:
7. Invite more color.
As a quilter, you think about color all the time. Do you do the same in your wardrobe? When plating your meals? Choosing linens and throw pillows? Putting on jewelry and other accessories, makeup and manicures? By playing with color (and pattern, texture, and scale) in everyday objects, you get to feel more creative.
8. Invite more inspiration.
You love to see inspiring quilts. But when was the last time you gathered inspiration from daily tasks? The other day I saw some of my and my husband’s socks next to each other and thought, well that needs to be a quilt.
The changing seasons can provide new color palettes. Your kiddo’s geometry homework can teach you new ways to use shapes. The way your remote work team collaborates can give you new ideas about organizing complex quilt projects. Practice noticing new colors, patterns, shapes, juxtapositions, and methods. They’re everywhere!
9. Invite more fun.
When was the last time you listened to a new music genre, or played a new game? Blew bubbles or drew on the chalk with sidewalk? Danced in the kitchen with your partner or traded silly jokes with a friend? The more fun you invite (and generate) day-to-day, the more fun you’ll feel when you sit down to quilt.
10. Invite more connection.
Online or in-person, it’s important to connect with others. And not just the usual suspects… I want you to consider stretching yourself to connect with new neighbors, old friends you’ve lost touch with, quilt guild members – even total strangers.
When I saw Bisa Butler’s brilliant Art Institute of Chicago quilt exhibit, I had the enormous good fortune to stand next to a woman who sang to all the quilts. She and I spoke about what it meant to see art about Black people portrayed prominently and exuberantly in such an old institution, and I was deeply moved.
I think of that woman often, and to this day, I can’t see one of Bisa’s quilts without singing to myself. Connection yields creative energy.
Above: In March of 2021, Suzy's whole family (even Joanna in utero) got to experience the Bisa Butler exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.
All Three Can Help You Feel Creative Every Day
In a perfect world, you’d practice breathing creative life into your practice, process and lifestyle every day. For now, I want you to start small. Pick one area to focus on this week. Experiment and notice what works. Keep trying new things.Which will you try first? Jump in the comments and let us know. If you try something new and document it on Instagram, tag me so I can celebrate with you! Be sure to tag @suzyquilts and use #SuzyQuiltsBlog, too!