Conversations about Creativity.

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Mission Bay, San Diego | The Orange Slate

While I’ve been investing a bit of extra time behind the scenes around here to line up some exciting topics for the late summer and fall, I’ve been sharing interviews from past series. (If you are excited about the upcoming interviews, subscribe by providing your email in that box in the right-hand column.)

I’ve so enjoyed talking to the friends who have been willing to share their hearts, but one of my favorite topics (and one of the focus points of this blog) is creativity, so this series was especially exciting for me.

In this (over)busy, (over)connected age, it takes intentional effort to make time to create something truly significant. If you haven’t seen these before, I hope you enjoy the encouragement, inspiration, and rich examples provided by the lovely friends who were willing to be interviewed for this series:

Here are some quick takeaways from this interview series. Pin them as encouraging reminders to yourself!

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Craving more inspiration? Check out these links:

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 SouleMama) The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections.

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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

Conversations about Creativity with Katie

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Creativity with Katie Albania | The Orange Slate

On Monday mornings around here, I interview people who inspire me. In April and May, the theme has been CREATIVITY. Today I’m excited to introduce you to Katie, a fellow blogger and new mommy (she also has two of the cutest dogs!). Katie and I have never met in person, but we have so many things in common that I feel like I know her (among the things we have in common – our babies were born days apart!). I love it when the world of social media feels small and cozy, don’t you?

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative?

Honestly, I haven’t. And I’m not sure even do now, at least not in the sense that it’s my strongest trait, a specific hobby, or part of my career. So I had to think hard about the ways I am creative. I think any creativity I have was developed from two very specific sources when I was a kid- observing my mom and being in 4H. We never had tons of money growing up, so a huge garden and homemade cooking were staples for us.

Watching how my mom tackled everything on the budget {that requires tons of creativity!} was always fascinating to me. And 4H? I know it seems random. But I was in it for 10 years {with projects from foods and gift wrapping to health and consumer clothing}, exhibiting nearly 100 separate projects over that time. I was so stretched to be creative and think outside the box and push myself! Both of those have poured over into my life now.

What are your creative outlets?

I would say I am most creative in how I encourage others. Maybe the sounds silly, but as a social worker and therapist, I have learned so much about relating to others and identifying emotional needs. Every single person needs to be heard and feel understood, but that can look a million different ways.

The way I approach people {whether in actual therapy sessions or in my everyday relationships} is unique and creative. I like to show up for people in ways they maybe aren’t used to and don’t expect, but in ways that encourage them. This could be sending a letter in the mail, dropping off fresh baked brownies on a doorstep, or planning a really fun girl’s night out!

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

Because my creative outlet {relationships with others} is a part of my regular life, I think this just happens naturally for me. Sometimes I’m crazy busy and don’t have time to connect with people in creative ways, but I always feel that gap. I am in a routine of mailing one package a month {a different friend each time!} and two letters a week. Having those constants reminds me to stay creative in loving other people in my life as well.

Who inspires you?

My mom! She is SO creative and is always doing fun things to let us know she cares. Also, Instagram. I’ve intentionally filled my Instagram feed with people who do life in a way that I’d want to- not because I compare myself to them, but because I’m encouraged by them. So I follow women who decorate their homes intentionally, who follow hard after Jesus and share their wisdom along the way, mom’s who raise their kid’s in ways I’d like to, etc. I think surrounding yourself {online and in real life} with people you’d love to be like is so important!

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

Read a book or go to coffee with a friend. I’m an introvert, so both of those things fill me up and bring me back to basics!

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

Every single person has a creative side- they may just not realize it because they don’t explicitly make/sell artwork on Etsy. Because of that, I think we all need to give ourselves room to create and grow; whether that’s through leadership roles at work, parenting, loving on others, or actually running a handmade Etsy shop.

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

In my professional life, I’ve worked really hard to make play therapy fun and effective for the kids with whom I work. From making up games, art projects, etc, I’ve tried to find fun ways to help kids feel safe and begin to address the issues on their plates. In my real life, I’ve stretched myself to just do something, anything. I think sometimes we second-guess ourselves or think it could turn out silly or we might fail, but there is so much value in the process! I’ve learned the most and felt the most creative when I just simply act on a small idea!

What are some creative goals you have for yourself?

I’d love to start something for women in my community. Maybe a monthly Bible study or mentorship program. Stay tuned!

Check out the other interviews in this series with LindsayMonicaGwen, and myself.

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 Katie: Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Blog

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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

Conversations about Creativity with Emily

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Creativity | The Orange Slate

On Monday mornings around here, I interview people who inspire me. In April and May, the theme is CREATIVITY and there are just a few more really wonderful interviews to come. But for today, I’m going to tackle the questions myself.

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative?

Yes and no. I’ve always loved to create with words. And as a pianist, I’ve always felt like music was tightly connected to creativity. But it wasn’t until the last few years that I saw creating as a broader brush (pun totally intended) that could apply to every facet of my life. Also, despite all of the art lessons my mom tirelessly signed me up for, I’m not the most talented with visual media.

So it’s taken me a while to get brave enough to experiment and stretch in this area, because I know that what I produce doesn’t hold to candle to what other can do. But when I started to think about creativity as something that is good for me, something that is good to practice no matter what the result, I started to be more intentional about trying things and creating, even with imperfect results.

What are your creative outlets?

Writing. This blog. Photography. Different memory-keeping projects. Also, motherhood. I think we talk a lot about how one needs outlets from motherhood (and this is true!), but few people told me how much motherhood itself would become an outlet of sorts for me to be creative. With a growing baby, I am constantly on the lookout for new projects, new games, new ways to play, new ways to help Miles experience the world. My sensory board project was a moment of realization for me – that Miles and I can actually enjoy being creative together. As he gets older I think these kind of experiences will only get better and richer.

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

It would be disingenuous to say that this isn’t really tough. I’m sure it’s tougher for others, but it gets a little crazy around here sometimes – Mark is in school full-time, we both work part-time, and of course we both want to spend as much time as we can with Miles. I try to be disciplined about things that I really want to do. I blog regularly, in part, because of this. If I don’t make a steady habit of it, it won’t happen. I try to commit to projects like CREATE2015 to help inspire myself to try things. I make time to organize my week and if there isn’t enough time for everything, I prioritize and toss to-dos or get up earlier. Some weeks, I feel more tired than creative. But simply being intentional and goalsetting and continuing to work towards carving out time for creativity is a huge part of the battle, I think.

Who inspires you?

Miles and Mark, for sure. Mark is always such a supportive cheerleader, however random and far-fetched my projects. Watching the pure joy of Miles as he experiences life and discovers his world is inspiring – I feel as if I’m rediscovering the world. Bloggers, chefs, entrepreneurs, and artists who have been intentional about their dreams and successful at reaching their goals inspire me. Authors, from now and decades and centuries past are always a source of inspiration.

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

I feel like I experience more creative walls than ruts. By that, I mean that I tend towards perfectionism and organization, so sometimes an abundance of possibilities and options overwhelms me to the point of paralysis. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled out a huge pile of pictures only to stare at them in helplessness and just pile them back in the box. Sometimes searching for inspiration from others (Pinterest!) on a similar project helps. But really, it’s normally more beneficial for me just to take a break, go outside, play a game with Miles, read, cook dinner, and revisit the project when I’m in a better frame of mind or have a clearer vision.

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

So much of our sense of purpose and meaning is tangled up in creativity. I think God has put these enormous wells of creativity into each of us and – if we’d only be brave enough to let it out of the box a little, in whatever way that looks for our careers or hobbies or families – we’d be amazed at the results. One of my favorite quotes is by Dorothy Sayers: “It is our task to rebuild the world along creative lines.” I think continually creating is part of what redeems us and our world.

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

I’m trying to allow myself to try projects (especially things that fall under that “traditional crafting” umbrella) that I used to just assume were for people who were far more talented than me. Projects like painting lyrics on canvas (ridiculous example, I know) are just so intimidating to me and I realize I’m probably missing out on a lot of fun. So I’m trying to challenge myself to try projects that I know I won’t be succeed at on the first try or that might take practice. I’m also trying to practice just executing. I act as though there’s some kind of bar out there that my memory-keeping or projects have to hit and I intimidate myself with grand illusions and then never start. I’d be better off just starting and (even finishing) something that’s not perfect but that is done. So I’m challenging myself to just execute more this year.

What are some creative goals you have for yourself?

I would love to complete our wedding album and Miles’ 1-year album in the next year. I think one of my Goals with a capital G is to learn how to build a family life and home that encourages and embraces creativity for Mark and me and Miles in an authentic way, even if current schedules and routines don’t allow for crafting or memory-keeping or whatever we brand traditionally as “creative pursuits”. Even if that just looks like time for reflection, imagination, creative thinking, reading or growing a tiny potted garden, then I want to embrace and cultivate that space.

Check out the other interviews in this series with KatieLindsay, Monica, 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.

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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

Conversations about Creativity with Monica

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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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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!

Conversations about Creativity with Gwen

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On Monday mornings around here, I interview people who inspire me. For 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 Gwen. Gwen and I met in grad school and kept in touch through the various turns our lives took – babies, moves, etc. What I didn’t know about Gwen during our first years as friends in grad school is that she is a very talented artist (you can check out her portfolio here).

Gwen has done some beautiful work in paper-making and painting. She also has written some great stuff about involving children in creative activities like painting. Gwen was sweet enough to participate in an interview and I was obviously thrilled.

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative?

I’ve always known I was creative. As a child, I thought I’d grow up to be an artist or a writer. Looking back on my 7-year-old self, it’s amazing and beautiful to me how confident I was in my identity as an artist – amazing because the process of growing up almost knocked that confidence out of me completely. Many times I have believed that creativity was less important or less legitimate than academic pursuits, and that I’m not a “real” artist until I’ve sold expensive paintings or become famous. (I have done neither.) I still struggle with this doubt sometimes.

What are your creative outlets?

I’m all over the place–I’ve done quite a bit of painting and handmade papermaking (in a blender, in my kitchen!). More recently I’ve dabbled in digital fabric design and even created a couple logos for business startups. My spastic approach is okay with me for now, because my primary position for the time being is as a stay-at-home mom, and this flexible season of life seems like the perfect opportunity to explore. But I plan to narrow my focus over the next couple years.

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

I’m as busy as the next person–parenthood, church and social life, and I’m also a high school track coach–so I “doodle in the margins” of my life. One of the toughest parts of parenthood for me was learning to do things a little bit at a time, in the small moments whenever I got a free minute, instead of waiting until I could find a 2 hour block of time. I’ve extended this learned skill into my creative life.

I paint and work on projects alongside my daughter (and I let her use my supplies and “help”) instead of waiting until she’s in bed. With kids, it’s all about the process, not the finished product, so collaborating with a toddler or preschooler has often slowed me down and allowed me to enjoy the process. I keep art supplies (both my expensive paints and my daughter’s googly eyes and pipe cleaners) in the drawers of my dining room sideboard, where I can easily get them out for a quick creative session, and where putting them away before dinner is almost as quick.

I almost NEVER do organized “crafts” with my kid–that takes too much planning! I’d rather just get out supplies and let her go at it freestyle. This frees me up join her in the creative process instead of being the “teacher” and telling her where to put the googly eyes.

If you’re a professional, you have to have a routine and a block of time to sit and create. And for the rest of us, it’s great to do the same thing when we can, but it’s often necessary to just start on something when we have 20 minutes to spare before lunchtime. Life isn’t going to slow down, so we have to make creativity a part of the life we already live.

Who inspires you?

People who are “doers” inspire me! I’m an idealist with big plans that often never leave the drawing board. I admire people who aren’t afraid to take the first step, even if the plan isn’t perfect yet.

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

I give myself the freedom to switch gears when I’m in a rut. I don’t take a break from “being creative,” I just channel my creativity into a different activity. Cooking, hosting a themed party, decorating for the holidays, or rearranging the living room…these activities are still productive and not time-wasters, but they go at “creating” from a new angle. Once I return to my original activity, I’m out of my rut and I feel rejuvenated.

Why is creativity an important part of your lifestyle?

Creativity is important because it’s an innate part of our humanity. When we make something original or solve a problem in a new way, we are imitating God, the original creator who put the creative drive within us all. Some people don’t think they’re creative, but that’s usually because they’ve been putting limits on what they think it means to “create,” or their creative impulses just haven’t been encouraged.

You don’t have to be a designer to be creative. You just have to solve a problem in an innovative way, or come up with a more efficient way to run your business, or find the right words to communicate with the people you work with. That’s creativity, and when you find it in yourself, it feels so empowering and good because you’ve met one of your basic human needs. For me, the specific creative outlet may change, but I think I’ll always feel that basic need.

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

I grow whenever I say “yes” to something new. Like I said earlier, I am naturally a dreamer, and I love to plan, so crossing that threshold into “doer” territory leads to growth. Since I have recognized this personal struggle, I have challenged myself to be fearless about trying new projects. I’ve tried upholstering furniture, fixing the water heater, tailoring a dress instead of throwing it out when it no longer fit…The internet is a vast library of information, and tutorials abound! I have often found that learning a new skill is simpler than I had thought, and understanding how things are made (fixed, altered, upholstered…) gives me confidence in my own creative ability.

What are some creative goals you have for yourself?

I’d like to write more, and find a way to incorporate writing into my other pursuits. But my main creative goal is to do more with fabric. Designing patterns to be printed on fabric, as well as working directly with it, hands-on (painting, embroidery, etc.). And of course get back to the unwavering confidence of my seven-year-old self!

Gwen, I’m dying to hear more about the process of making paper in a blender and especially loved what you said about “doodling in the margins.” Thank you for sharing!
Check out the other interviews in this series with KatieLindsaymyself, and Monica.
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 Gwen: Web site.

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*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting the Orange Slate!