Saturday, June 28, 2014

Losing Inspiration - what to do when your mojo goes for a walk

There's been a lot of talk recently in some of the online beading groups I'm in, about losing inspiration and the ability to create - albeit temporarily. It happens to the best of us. Whether you are a hobbyist, a full-time artist or anywhere in between, we all have times when everything you make, or try and make, just doesn't feel right - or worst of all, you don't even feel like you can get started. Creative paralysis, I call it.

I hear you! We've all been there. And for some reason, it seems to be one of those things that is catching. One person starts to doubt themselves and then the doubts of others seem to creep out as well. I don't think it's really that it has a knock on effect to others, apart from that seeing people sharing their own fears and vulnerabilities mean it can be easier for others to share their own fears in turn. A lovely aspect of being a part of this online community is that when one beader falls, another beader is there to pick them up. It really brings out just how supportive this community can be, in this great big old back yard of the internet. People sharing words of encouragement and throwing out ideas of how to get that mojo flowing again. People offering up ideas on how to add an extra 'pop' to a design. Even people offering to share materials with others. Beaders and bead artists really are a wonderful bunch!

I thought, as this is something I've been reflecting on a lot during this year, I would share some of my ideas and methods on how to get those design juices flowing again. Hopefully, these ideas will act as a creative spark to some of you. 

1. Start with an Art Bead.

Lampwork lentil from Moogin

I bet we all have at least one or two art beads in our collections that we fell in love with but haven't dared use. DARE to use that bead you fell in love with! Base your colour palette around it, use it as the centre of your design. Select ingredients around your little piece of art and take it from there. Here's a post I wrote on working with an art bead as your starting point and being bold with your colour choices in particular, with your little piece of handmade as your guide. 

2. The Muffin Tin Challenge. 

If starting with just one bead is too daunting, then try this - the muffin tin challenge! It is as fun as it sounds, although it doesn't necessarily involve eating cake. Unless you want it to...This is a challenge that Heather Powers put forward here on Art Bead Scene a few years ago. (What do you think - should we run this challenge again? Hands up!) It's a really simple, really easy way to give your brain a little creative push. 

"Fill the cup of a muffin tin with everything you need for one project - so the focal bead, accents, chain, findings - whatever you would need to complete one project and put that in one cup.  Repeat with the other 11 cups.  You now have 12 projects in a portable container ready for you to put together.  Grab your pliers/tools and sit somewhere comfy with your muffin tin and put each piece together knowing all your choices have already been made - your mission is to simply arrange those beads in a sassy design and complete those 12 projects as quickly as possible!"

Don't these look yummy? You don't have to do 12 of course - just try and few if the idea of 12 seems overwhelming. When selecting your elements for each cup, don't worry about thinking about how you will put the final elements together. Don't put that restriction on yourself - you can sort that bit out once you have each mini-kit made up. And there are no rules for this personal challenge - if whilst you are working, an element you picked doesn't work anymore, switch it out. Having fun is the only condition of these mojo boosters! 

3. Work to a inspiration piece/sign up for a challenge.

You knew I was going to say this one, didn't you? Working from another piece of art (and it doesn't have to be a painting), or from nature, or from a piece of architecture - anything in fact, that sparks your creative mind!) can really give you so much inspirational material to work with. Look at this beautiful piece - there's not just the colours, but the imagery - the lush greenery, the butterfly, the vibrant red flowers.....the ideas of wings and leaves even. You don't have to make a literal interpretation of a piece if you don't want to. Look at the linear qualities of the leaves and the wings. The spikiness of the flowers. The chevron patterns visible within the leaves....there's so much creative brain fodder here! 

I put my hands up and admit, I do not always find the time to take part in our own challenges here on Art Bead Scene, and I really should. They often push me out of my comfort zone, but with a beautiful and inspirational piece to guide and support me as I take the leap. This month however, both myself and Claire took part - and here's what we created. 

(ceramic butterfly – Jo Lucksted; enamel leaf – C-Koop; ceramic button – Dottery Pottery)

Fairy button from Green Girl Studios, handwoven beads from The Curious Bead Shop

4. The Muse/Inspiration Kit.

Plenty of bead shop owners such as myself design and make up kits for you to work with. I even have a club where I send members mystery bead kits each month - The Curiosity Club. I design a brand new and exclusive kit each month, and signees have no idea what they will receive! I also often include specially commission and sometimes exclusive art beads and components to really make the kits extra yummy. Here's one of the kits member were sent out last year - the first one I designed when I first moved over to Northern Ireland, aptly entitled The Emerald Isle:

Members often say it is a great way to get their juices flowing and that, like all of these challenges, along with helping give their mojo a wee nudge, it can push them out of their comfort zone and get them working with colours, shapes and materials that they otherwise would not have considered. 

Another bead shop owner/artist who offers up inspiration kits is Claire Braunbarth of Smitten Beads. (By the way, Smitten is one of my absolutely favourite bead shops, as you can just tell that Claire's discerning eye has chosen every single item that she stocks - Smitten Beads has a cohesive, inviting and beautiful vibe to it. Based in the UK, Claire also ships worldwide, so don't worry!) She also stocks art beads - what more could you want? Here's one of her newest kits - A Walk on the Beach, featuring a lampwork heart from Tempting Little Charms:

It can really help to have someone else pick out the ingredients for you if you're feeling a little stumped. You can mix other elements in, swap things out - go with what feels right. Like all the other mojo boosters here, there are no hard and fast rules. 

I hope if you are feeling like your mojo has gone for a walk around the block, or that next time it does, you will find a little spark of an idea that works for you here. I think what each of these methods I have suggested have in common, is that they give you a starting point - a spark. Something to work with. You can wander as far as you like from that spark, but sometimes you just need that spark from elsewhere to get going. A match can be enough, but sometimes we need newspaper, twigs and firelighters to get our creative fires going. That's ok. Be kind to yourself. Not everything you make has to be the best thing that you have ever designed. (This sounds obvious, but it's often that perfectionist within that causes the paralysis in the first place!)

If you're stuck with what's in front of you - take a break, go and make a cup of tea, step outside for a minute, go for a walk. Take a trip through Pinterest or your other favourite inspirational site. Watch a film; read a book. Look up to the sky, the buildings and the nature around you. Inspiration really is out there, just waiting for you! 

I'm going to end this post with a brilliant quote from Picasso that someone shared on Facebook a few days ago, on creative block and where Picasso got his ideas from:

"I don’t have a clue. Ideas are simply starting points. I can rarely set them down as they come to my mind. As soon as I start to work, others well up in my pen. To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing… When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head. What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas."

In order to create, you need to start creating. When it comes down to it, it really is as simple as that. 

Rebecca is a Scottish jewellery designer, currently living in Belfast, Northern Ireland. You can read more about her and her work at her blog, and see more of her jewellery at She also has a supplies shop at


SmittenBeads said...

Rebecca what a fabulous post, a wonderful guiding light for those dark days when the beads have stopped speaking to us! You personally not to mention your amazing designs are always an inspiration to me! I am so flattered that you would include me in your post. Thank you, Claire xx

Claire Lockwood said...

Great post! And thanks for featuring my necklace. I saw that bracelet of yours but hadn't put two and two together and realised it was for the challenge. Funny that we both used those red czech glass button flowers. I'm definitely up for the muffin tin challenge: I have a bead tray on my table with bits and bobs grouped together - they just all need a bit of focus and saucing up!

Carol Briody said...

Excellent post! I was feeling the mojo whammy about 2 weeks ago..nothing was happening...and I got worried. Then one day I said to myself..jusk pick one color! Just one, and stop trying to be overly 'fancy and complex' (or complicated!). That worked! Thank you for reminding us it is OK to use are fabulous Artbeads! I'm going to pull some of those out tomorrow!

Kathy said...

I think losing mojo happens to all of us. I love the muffin tin idea. Whenever I need a little inspiration I usually start by opening up a Martha Stewart Living Magazine (funny I know) because I love the color combinations and arrangements in there. My mind usually wanders from there.

Anonymous said...

I think the muffin tin challenge would be a great thing for me at the moment! I often do something similar if I need to stock up on earrings -- put out a lot of pairs and then mix and match to make a bunch of pairs!

baymoondesign said...

What a great post filled with ideas to get your mojo back! I particularly like the Picasso quote. How true!

Terri Del Signore said...

Wonderful post!
Thank you!

Cinnamon Jewellery said...

A great post with some good ideas.

I've learned when to put down the saw and metal and go and do something else for a while when inspiration has disappeared {or just the ability to do something quite simple without making a silly mistake has gone out the window!}. Getting those boring chores out of the way or better still buying nice things online helps to clear my mind and I then feel more settled and able to get back to my jewellery shed and get on with things.

Heather Powers said...

I think taking yourself on art dates is another great way to get the creative wheels turning. My art dates include galleries, art centers, art fairs, antique markets, any place I can fill in the visual well with inspiration. Hmm, we should totally do the muffin tin challenge again!!! That was so much fun and so productive.

Eileen The Artful Crafter said...

I love the muffin tin challenge idea and plan to do one myself whether you run it here or not. Great ideas! Thank you.