Do you consider yourself to be creative? I used not to, but over the last few years I have become much more comfortable with believing myself to be creative. And I am really interested in the ever increasing research into what makes us creative.
I have been sewing for as long as I can remember. But I always worked off someone else’s pattern, so in my mind I wasn’t being creative – I was just copying the outcome of someone else’s artistic talent. This didn’t require me to be creative – I just needed to be good at following instructions. Also, my professional training is in maths and science. This professional training only added to my own assessment that I wasn’t creative – I was a scientist. (Of course, with wisdom and experience I would now argue that a good scientist needs to be creative too :))
Then in 2007 I enrolled in the Canvaswork Masterclass at the Victorian Embroiderer’s Guild. Every month we would meet for a few hours at Guild House and learn something new about canvaswork, as well as being given a design brief for the sample we needed to work on over the next four weeks. Every sample piece had to be our design – an original piece of work. Initially this was an incredibly daunting prospect. For someone who had worked off patterns for over thirty years, I was suddenly faced with producing a whole body of work which was all to be “created” by me. To make it worse, I felt like I was surrounded by people who already had a flair for embroidery design. They seemed to produce wonderful pieces effortlessly – my work felt clunky and awkward by comparison.
And then in one session, we learned to use Tyvek. If you haven’t heard of it, Tyvek is a synthetic, non-woven material that is very strong – almost impossible to tear but easy to cut with scissors or a knife. It has a wide range of industrial uses, but from an artistic point of view it has one fascinating property – when you apply heat it melts in predictable but irregular ways, creating fabulously interesting shapes. A small amount of heat, from an iron for example, causes the material to shrink and “bobble” – more heat and it starts to melt through the material completely. Tyvek can be coloured in just about any way you can think of – paints, coloured pencils, dyes, inkjet printers etc. So it is a creative material with almost limitless possibilities. Click here for a good introductory video.
During our class we produced a range of Tyvek samples. Here are some of mine mounted in my portfolio. The orange sample at top left has been ironed until it starts to deform heavily, whereas the red, blue and white samples have only been lightly heated.
Our challenge then was to include a piece of Tyvek in a “modern” interpretation of canvaswork. I created this journal cover, using Jill Carter’s book, “New Canvaswork”, as inspiration.
I think this was the first piece where I really started to feel like I was creative. It wasn’t easy, and at the time I remember ranting about how I “didn’t do modern” – I was a “traditionalist”. But this piece worked its way into my heart and became one of my favourites. And from then on I was hooked on creativity – the fun of coming up with an idea; the hours of work that going into realising the idea; and the satisfaction of finishing and knowing “I created that”.
Creativity like that is addictive – and it gets easier with practice. Somehow your mind and body become more and more comfortable with the creative process and so you don’t fear it anymore. And coming from a scientist who spent decades believing she wasn’t creative, that is a pretty cool thing!