Although it feels strange to talk about myself in these terms, when I step back, I have to admit that I was raised in a very “creative” environment. My parents are both practicing artists and I was surrounded by their art and immersed in their working practice from an early age. Since I was home schooled, I was also taken along to every gallery opening, workshop, studio visit, and collaborative event that they attended, so I was exposed to, and looking back I think absorbed by osmosis, the creative energies of all of their friends and colleagues. When I saw it like that it all sounds so hippy-dippy and mystical. But the reality was that in my world as a child, and even now as an adult, the practice of making, of generating something out of nothing, is just…whats done. At home in the evenings my mom and dad would often both be working of various projects while we all watched TV together, this in turn lead me to take up beading, sewing, crochet and knitting in turn. Idle hands were just not part of our household dynamic. Rather than a spiritual presence, a muse, or an energy, I tend to think of creativity as a problem. i.e. in order to create something new and original, what you want to do is find yourself a problem and then use all you best critical thinking skills to solve it, and by the end you have something new and unique.
But I didn’t really start thinking of myself as a “creative” person until fairly recently. To me the act of making and the act of creating were somehow seperate. I still don’t think of myself as an artists in anyway. The thought of standing before a blank canvas, either literal or symbolic, induces me to a state of panic. Too many options – complete freedom – gives me a strong sense of anxiety. I’m not the only one either, the smarties of the world have pretty much proven that too much choice leads to feeling overwhelmed, and ultimately takes a toll on our sense of happiness. I have to have something to start with, some basic rules or requirements that I can build off of or manipulate. That, I think, is why I have taken so well to knitting design. In designing a knitting pattern, providing a blue print for someone else to use, places a certain degree on constraint on the creative process that I find to be extremely helpful. Too many options overwhelm me. But if I sit down to write a sweater pattern for example, I know it has to have certain elements…usually those are elements like sleeves, a body, a button band, a neckline, these are places to start. The instructions also have to be recorded in a way that other knitters will understand. With this set of constraints a set of options starts to open up in my mind, and an idea starts to take form.
As I have continued to work on “Isla & Friends,” my first collection, I have found this notion of creative limitations to be increasingly more useful. For example, when I start the collection I knew that I wanted to do a series of baby patterns, with a corresponding adult pattern for each. That was pretty much it. I’ve loosely structured the series around a sort celtic/Irish theme because of Ilsa’s name, but to be honest that has had a huge impact on the look of the final collection. I was still sort of muddling along…the collection felt a little bit nebulous and I didn’t really have a grasp on it.
Then a few months ago when I knew that this collection was going to be featured as a trunk show at Dublin Bay during the yarn crawl, and I realized that I wanted to use this as an opportunity to highlight Dublin Bay’s signature yarn line..solstice…suddenly, everything snapped into a clearer focus! Thanks to Tricia, the creator of solstice, that line has a very beautiful and clear sense of personality.
There are a lot of jewel tones and rich fibers like cashmere and superwash merino. To me solstice is all about timeless elegance and luxury. By limiting myself to that one line of yarn, I suddenly felt like the collection had an identity, like I had a clear picture of the people who would wear these patterns and how they would fit into their lives.
I all the pieces in the collection had to be timeless, classic and speak a certain delicate femininity that would work well with the luscious textures of the yarns themselves. It was a really great feeling and almost immediately afterword a million new ideas spring to mind. In fact I am still hit with new ideas almost every day, I think I am going to have to divide the collection into two parts haha.
This was as great practical lesson in the power of creative limitations and parameters.
In fact, I already have some ideas for my next collection….and utilizing this idea of limitations is making me so so excited about it!