Am I Really Creative?

The subject of creativity came up in a talk with a friend the other day.  The friend is surrounded by a creativity halo.  She oozes inventiveness. Not only does she express her creativity through her art, but her clothes and her home highlight her love of creative adventure.

I thought more about the subject later and began comparing my creativity with hers.  I have always thought, and continue to think, of myself as a creative person.  Each of us expresses it in a way unique to our personality.  I would describe myself as a “constrained creative” person. Show me a Pinterest idea and I can replicate it.  Put a coloring book in front of me and I create through the colors I choose, the shading I add, and how I choose to fill in the blank space.  Can I ink those fantastical ocean creatures?  Sketch a simple scene?  Nope, but working on a coloring page of art someone else drew is satisfying and fills my need to create – even within the frame of someone else’s creative work.  I appreciate their gift and I appreciate that they have given me a platform to express myself.

fish coloring

In my “studio” is a very large work table originally purchased for laying out and cutting fabric to make quilts.  For years this was my way of expressing my creativity.  Was it all original?  Not from the standpoint of design.  There are thousands of books out there with detailed quilt designs and instructions.  As a matter of fact, I get satisfaction out of exact cutting and measuring according to a plan devised by another quilter.  I get pleasure from precision cutting and piecing, but mostly what pleases me is choosing and putting together fabrics.  A quilt shop stacked with bulging bolts of fabric can give me heart palpitations.  When I get frustrated or tired of a project I listen to the echo of Libby whispering in my ear, “There is no prize for finishing that!”  Actually, there may be. Photo below.

steff wedding quilt

For years I kept a giant closet stacked floor to ceiling with fabric – yardage chunks, leftover 2” squares, “orphan” blocks I’d made and abandoned.  I spent hours sorting fabric.  Sometimes into piles of the same color family. Sometimes by the print (plaid, geometric, whimsical).  Sometimes by ugly. Being creative doesn’t always mean a finished product is produced.  But the time spent in that space freed my mind to wander, think about potential projects, and just get away from whatever anxiety I was currently suffering.

Many years ago I was inspired to recreate in fabric a Chinese painting I’d bought on a trip to China.  I tried to reproduce in fabric and beads what I saw on the paper.  Then I gave the original painting to my daughter and was able to keep my representation of it as a souvenir.

china quilt

Currently that work table is scattered with the tools for other trips into creative areas that caught my interest.  Scattered with tools from impulsive trips to Sam Flax.  For a while, it was watercolor painting that attracted me.  Another friend is one of those creators who is not afraid to try anything.  She was in a watercolor phase and it looked fun.  And I tried it for a month or so.  The process was rewarding when I had Pam by my side to tell me exactly how to proceed.  On my own, I was frustrated by my inability to paint on paper what I saw in my head or in a photograph.  I was just as happy mixing colors and laying them down on paper with no attempt to paint a picture.  So….the watercolors are in a lovely handcrafted tote bag, made by another creative friend, waiting for another day to be used in whatever creative mood I’m in.

work table

Hand lettering and calligraphy supplies – they are on the table, too.  Years ago I worked as a professional calligrapher.  The exactness required, the proper thick and thin lines, and controlling the ink just so made me happy.  I didn’t come up with my own inspirational phrases and often even the layout was “borrowed” from another designer.  But it was the process that I loved.

Now I am trying a less formal method of lettering called “modern calligraphy.”  It’s funny how the training from my days of precision lettering hamper my style.  It is difficult for me to develop a loose, casual method of hand writing. But, oh, I love the practice.  I love grabbing a pen and a lined sheet of paper and practicing forming the letters over and over in a march across the page.  Is this creativity?  For me, it is, because it allows my mind to wander and it takes me out of myself for a bit.

So am I creative?  I still choose to think of myself as a creative person even though I don’t fit a standard definition of a creator (gifted, ingenious, innovative, inventive, productive, prolific, visionary). I have a need to express myself in creative arts.  I allow myself the time to “waste” hours lettering, knitting, sewing, and writing because it is a real need for me.  Take away my toys and I will wither.  I’ll be boring.  I’ll be sad.

Let’s just say:  you be creative your way and I’ll be creative my way.  I may envy a particular skill you have, but I know I can adapt that to suit my creative needs.  And I thank you for your inspiration.