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Interviews

Conversations about Creativity with Monica

April 6, 2015

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On Monday mornings around here, I interview people who inspire me. In April and May, the theme is CREATIVITY and I’ll be chatting with some wonderful (and very creative!) friends about how they incorporate creative talents and impulses into their lives and schedules.

Today’s interview is with Monica. Monica and I have never met in person, but we’ve been online buds for over a decade now (how weird is that??). Monica is a self-taught crafter – she makes fantastically beautiful creations (including gorgeous jewelry) out of wood, bone, and leather. Be sure to check out her portfolio and shop here.

It baffles me that Monica is able to find the time in between chasing three active boys to create and practice her craft (something she addresses in the interview), but I’m so inspired by the work that she does and by what she had to say about creativity during our interview.

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative?

Unlike some, I didn’t considered myself creative as a child. I had no taste for decorating or sewing, much preferring to duck out and ride a horse or take a walk. I don’t even have much fashion sense. I gained a reputation in our family for a general lack of creativity, and really believed it of myself. Eventually, I developed a crippling fear of failure that kept me from trying anything at all.

Then I met my husband, and everything changed. He’s a very creative sort (“artsy”, my mom calls him), and implicitly believed I could do whatever I liked. I could draw if I wanted. I could paint if I wanted. I just had to work hard at it. That really brought me to a new understanding of creativity. You can’t force it. Your creativity is bound up in what excites and energizes you. The challenge becomes finding out what it is.

What are your creative outlets?

I love leather. I love the smell of it and the feel of it. I love making useful things out of it. For me, sewing leather is a relaxing, exhilarating, and sometimes infuriating experience. The potential is amazing, and while sometimes the result is disappointing, making an object that will be in daily use really inspires me. I also get excited about trying new recipes in the kitchen, writing occasionally for my blog, and playing music.

Everyone is so busy! How do you make time to be creative?

I hate to admit it, but I make time by not doing housework. Also, by not reading much, not playing mandolin, or doing anything else relaxing. I manage an hour or so in the afternoon, and then another two after the kitchen is cleaned and the boys put to bed. If my husband didn’t feel so strongly about the importance of creativity, I’d be sunk. Don’t get me wrong – I do clean my house. But it is never, ever in a state of perfect cleanliness. And I do read, but 75% of the time I listen to an audiobook.

Who inspires you?

My husband and his friends had a conversation at work over the course of several years, discussing the difference between being a consumer and someone who contributes something real to society – ideas, art, or something more tangible. I find that idea hugely compelling. I am also inspired by people who work hard, and people who are humble and passionate about what they do.

What do you do when you’re in a creative rut?

I used to experience a lot more creative frustration. I felt that to claim originality, I had to create new ideas out of a vacuum. It was extremely frustrating, but I felt anything else was cheating or plagiarism. After spending a year working on my own, I realized I would never get anywhere until I immersed myself in the subject,, which also meant getting involved with people and making myself vulnerable by showing my work. Now I spend a good hour a day seeing what other people make, trying out their ideas, and trying ideas that often don’t work. I found that learning is imitating, and once you gain enough experience, you can start adding small innovations of your own. And the process has rewarded me with several unexpected friendships along the way.

One friend likes to say that when it comes to solving a problem, everything is relevant. You can find the answer to your creative dilemma in the strangest of places, be it in your kitchen, or related to the book you just finished. I’ve learned to be open to cross-pollination between my hobbies. Often times, I tried something new, and while I didn’t end up liking it permanently, it sometimes improves my abilities in another, unexpected area.

Now when I get the between-projects doldrums, I spend two or three days surfing the web and reading a book. It feels like wasted time sometimes, but it’s really just part of the process.

Why do you think it’s important to make time for creativity. 

I think creation is bound up in the nature of God, and if we’re made in the image of God, then creativity is in our nature as well. I think we find contentment and happiness in the act of creation. I was content before I discovered my passion, but I didn’t regularly experience the excitement and intense satisfaction I do now. I want my kids to see that life can be exhilarating and fulfilling, not just a 9-5 grind of normality punctuated by searches for amusement.

What are ways you’ve challenged yourself or grown as a creative?

At first, my husband had to talk me into new creative endeavors. He’d help me assemble all the tools and he’d try it first. I’ve come a long way since then, thank goodness. I’m ready to try some things I would never have dreamed of even a year ago. I’m learning to take my failures without feeling too embarrassed, and trying things that are out of my comfort zone. I love it when someone asks me to make something special for them. Usually it’s not something I would have considered, and it forces me to learn how to do something I’ve never done before.

What are some creative goals you have for yourself?

I have a lot of far-fetched goals, one of them being boot making. Maybe one day. Practically speaking, it’s less a matter of goals, and more a matter of hours and hours of practice and experience. However, one of my pet goals is to start making time to teach my boys how to make some cool accessories for themselves.

Thank you for sharing, Monica!
Check out the other interviews in this series with KatieLindsaymyself, and Gwen.

And for more practical encouragement on incorporating creativity into your schedule (especially a schedule involving small children), check out the wonderful book by Amanda Blake Soule (of SouleMamaThe Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections.

NOTES:

Connect with Monica and Jacobson Leather: Instagram | Pinterest | web site.

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