What to do, or not do, when going through an artist block
Have you ever hit an artist block? That awful, almost stifling feeling that happens when you, the artist, can’t seem to produce—or even entertain the thought of creating a single piece of art. It’s that virginia-woolf-like-moment where you’re wondering ‘fie, whereto hast’ all my creativity forth-gone’ (or at least I like to imagine that’s what she’d say).
I know that this does not happen to everyone. Case in point: my mom. That lady can get up every day and start a new project at the drop of a crochet pin. But I believe my art is directly tied to my emotions (yah, yuck—I’m that kind of artist). It can be a good thing! Once *inspired* …there’s nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing stopping me. Food—who needs that! Sleep—that’s for the weak! I believe this is where my ‘binge weaving’ habit stems from. Because once I feel that wave of inspiration I know I must fully embrace and ride it for all it’s worth. A surreal “I-want-to-feel-creative-forever” sort of feeling. It completely rushes over me, and I let that energy flow and freely produce whatever wonder it decides to bring.
But when that flow of creativity clogs up, things can get rough. Man—do those creative droughts stink. I recently had a weaving drought that I had absolutely no clue how to get out of. Have you had those artist blocks? One where you absolutely cannot seem to move past?
The evolution of my thoughts during my block? “Maybe I just need to take a break….Have I hit a plateau? Did I even spell plateau correctly? Actually, I think this may just be it—I’ve reached my creative ceiling, IT’S BECOMING HARD TO BREATHE, WHERE ARE MY IDEAS—I’m done for…over. Elizabeth, I’m coming home!”
Again, to artists like my mother this is a completely foreign concept. And I ask you to comment below and let me in on the secret. Because I’m gonna call it—this past block, this drought, may have been my worst to date. I tried all of my usual tricks, and none seemed to kick it in the pants and make it go away. I *do* know that since being diagnosed with a chronic illness—MS, I have learned that stress does quite a number on the creative part of my brain. I’m not sure if my brain goes into “safe mode” and shuts off every part that does not have to do with survival and general everyday functions (eating, mom-ing). If I hit a certain level of stress or distress GONE is my ability to create, gone is my ability to express myself in any form of artistry. And let’s just say that my stress level the past oh, 5-6 months has been on level 11. In fact, even the super smart doctor community details how stress 'kills' creativity.
So for my fellow emotionally driven artists, here are my tips to get things flowing when in the midst of a creative drought.
Spoiler: This is kinda mostly almost all conflicting advice. (Ok this is all a bunch of conflicting advice. But isn’t art the product of conflict and passion filtered through your medium of choice?). Nevertheless, I’ve made it through the drought—and if you are suffering through an artist block of sorts, or if you’re currently w’rassling with your warp and frowning at your wefts, I have all the answers (well, that’s a lie too). I have my truth, of how I got through it. Because all jokes aside, when my will and/or drive to create is dulled—a part of dani feels off-kilter and lost inside. Art, including weaving has wove its way that deep into my being. And no, I will not take back that pun. :)
ADDITIONAL WARNING: When trying to get back on the proverbial horse, do not by any means take that particular moment to attempt to channel your inner craft she-hulk, and dive into a complicated project. I somehow thought it would be empowering and freeing but I ended up weaving myself into questioning my sanity.
1. Go OUT in search of things that inspire you. Whether it’s colors, nature, smells—texture, other people’s tapestry work that inspires you, just get out of wherever you are. Get out of your head and just breathe in some of the beauty that attracted you to this craft originally. It’s all about creating that spark again!
Alternatively, you can vow to not leave your room or loom until you produce magic. Having tried both I can say that this one does not seem to produce magic.
3. One perk of having a mirrix, is that it is so portable that you can virtually take it anywhere—and sometimes a change in scenery is a literal game changer. There is no other loom that will give you that same level of detail and finesse in a tapestry piece that’s as portable as the mirrix.
4. Play. Play, play and repeat. The last thing one’s mind needs when trying to refresh your creative gears is the pressure to produce to perfect.
Thankfully, I found the mirrix adapts to my needs while easing out of such a block and struggling to execute what’s in my mind onto the loom. Its brilliant side-kick—the shedding device—allows my fingers to keep up with my flood of ideas; to just relax and weave. I don’t have to worry as much about “up/down” or lack of tension or the misadventures regarding finding yourself repeating the same row (I can’t be the only one who still does this?!). Little hiccups can be easily fixed, unlike on a framed loom where you risk ruining chunk sections of your piece! The last thing you need are set backs when you are just beginning to get back on the horse—the saddle? The loom. Get back on the loom.
What was the one thing that brought me out of this haze? It’s the strangest, most random thing.
It was my daughter. Apparently, she noticed my many, many, MANY, attempts at starting a new piece. She saw me warping and cutting, and re-warping, picking out various colors—sketching up designs, crumbling up designs. And this was new to here. To her, Mommy *always* knew how and what she was doing, especially when it came to art. So one day, I received a package in the mail. It was filled with goodies, and a sweet note that Ava noticed included her name. She ‘decided’ that she knew what the note said: “that the sweet lady who owns the shiny looms wants her to weave too”.
It was the cutest proclamation ever. She dug deeper into the package and fell in loveeee with the silk Saori cloth, and from there—we went to work to weave “our piece”. She was confident from the start to finish. She was fearless even while warping the mirrix. I’d like to note that it took me about a week of reading and measured breathing to work up the courage to start. (although from there I realized it was not nearly as hard as my mind made it out to be!). Together my daughter and I “weaved through” my block. She even caught me trying to micro-edit a small section, and said “mommy, mommy leave it, it looks great”. A SEVEN year old! She had the idea to sort the colors out in a sort of ombre pattern, and we sort of stuck to it, but we mostly had fun.
And just like that, somehow, I was cured. It’s raining ideas, and I couldn’t be more pleased.