Category Archives: Creativity

Laughter and Productivity

Most of us know that laughter is an excellent way to prepare for creative thinking. The research certainly backs this up and I can attest to it. When I worked with the Creativity Division of the National Association for Gifted Children, it seemed the other divisions tried to avoid our proximity during our meetings. We were probably the loudest and most fun group in the building. Most years, the division meetings were all held at the same time and in various parts of the same large room. The Creativity Division could clear out the entire room when we met. While many probably thought we were just goof offs, we were one of the most productive divisions in the association. Our spontaneous eruptions usually led to a new idea that proved beneficial.

Lately, I’ve seemed to be in need of some of the Division’s spontaneity. At this point in December, I’m feeling a bit spent and my productivity has waned. It’s obvious to me that creativity and productivity are inextricably linked for me. If I’m not producing, I’m not problem solving and therefore am not being creative.

Yesterday, I got a little help with this problem from a friend . . . my mother. When I arrived at the nursing home to visit her, she informed me that it was about time I got there. She had on one earring and was trying to get the other stud on. I couldn’t help but wonder how long she had been at it. We laughed when she was finally “fixed”.

Then I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Without missing a beat she said, “my TWO FRONT TEETH” and flashed me a big toothless grin. Indeed, her two front teeth are missing and she does need a couple! Again, we laughed and laughed. I think it was her spontaneity as well as her answer that got me. We went shopping together and then grabbed some lunch, but I just kept thinking about her Christmas wish.

This little episode reminded me of last year when we asked her where she was when she and my father got married. Again, without missing a beat, she said, “Out of My MIND!” The woman, who will be 91 in January, is quite clever.

When I got home yesterday, I continued to chuckle and decided to try a bit or jewelry work. That’s when things began to flow nicely and the ideas became present again. Was it just time to design or did the laughter really help. I vote that it was the latter.

I mainly worked with cabochons yesterday, but was pleased with a couple of the new wrappings and the bezel I created.  The first stone is a boulder opal and all the rest are turquoise (yes, even the brown one). See what you think.

boulder                     brown turq

turqsI’m hoping to hang on to this productive thinking and continue to get some good work completed. I’m a believer that for me, at least, laughter leads to productivity and creative thinking.

I guess that the moral of this entry is . . . find something to laugh about and if you can’t find anything, go visit my mother!

Forming with Folds

Those of us who love to learn new things sometimes move to new avenues for this too soon. Either the initial fun wears off, something new calls our name, or time for the learning simply runs out. Often for me, I move on to something new before completely exploring the myriad of possibilities for creative development in the existing arena. This may have been the case with fold forming, a technique  developed by Charles Lewton-Brain. “Mr. Fold Form's” book, Foldforming, contains a wealth of information on how to construct various shapes from metal; yet, it doesn’t show as many completed pieces of jewelry as I would like to see.

Frequent and long time readers may recall that fold forming was the new technique I chose to develop last December and January during the winter lull between completion of the Fall products and the development of the Spring designs. Unfortunately, I may have moved too quickly from fold forming last year and back into rapid production for my customers. Also, I “closed” on the technique partly because I couldn’t figure out new things to do with it. I chose not to face the somewhat discouraging struggle that forces one into creative generation. I currently have renewed interest in fold forming due to a couple of happenings. Two of my lucky friends took a recent workshop with Kim St. Jean at the Texas Beadfest and their discussion of the class helped add to my refinement of the technique. Also, I gave a demonstration on the technique at a recent gathering of wire workers. Therefore, I had to practice.

The trick for me with fold forming has been trying to make something besides a leaf that would comfortably work as a piece of jewelry. First, I practiced some different ways to hammer on a few leaves and learned how to better ruffle the edges. Then I created a couple of copper cuff bracelets. I like using a long diagonal fold to start the bracelet design and following this with appropriate texture. I quickly learned that it’s important to begin with a longer and wider piece of metal than the size of the anticipated product. I folded the metal first and then cut the final bracelet shape. When I annealed the metal bracelets with a torch during the fold forming process, beautiful colors appeared on the pieces.

brace cuff

I’ve also been experimenting with a star shape shown in Newton-Brain’s book. First I made several pairs of earrings and then I created a larger star and used it as a pendant on a strand of coral. I gave the pendant a liver of suphur bath, tumbled it and then used the torch on it again. It adopted a very rich color.

star                   star2

coral Now the struggle is to try to develop some ideas of my own for fold formed shapes. Hopefully, I’ll have the time this year to stick with fold forming until I’ve either developed some new ideas or convinced myself that I CAN’T come up with anything new. Wish me luck.

Off the Design Table . . .

AND on to someone’s wrist. I’ve been working for several weeks to get the new bracelet design where I want it. The dimensional bracelets, for which I have a tutorial on etsy, have continued to be popular, but I think it’s really important to stay ahead of the market. I’m continually wondering what the next bracelet design should be. Since those dimensional bracelets are so comfortable and fit most anyone, I thought I should stick with another cuff type bracelet.

front2                tiger

As I played with a new design, I employed the SCAMPER (from Bob Eberle) creative thinking technique in which each letter stands for a different way to make a modification. Using the ‘C” verb,  combine, I wanted to put the wire cuff and some wire weaving together. The “R” verb, reverse, led me to move the swirls in the middle of the dimensional bracelet to another point on the cuff. This also helped me decide to pull in the top middle rather than expanding it as I’ve always done before. I played with the other Scamper verbs and feel they helped contribute to the final product.

front                    tibet

I’m still contemplating which of the various versions I like the best. The weaving was probably too difficult for my current technique on the two shown below. This will need practice. Yet, I was able to do a smoother job on the first bracelet shown at the top, indicating the promise of a smooth weave. I’m hopeful that I will continue to improve my skills.

side                   side2

It’s interesting that these bracelets are so comfortable. I’ve been letting various people try them on and they usually comment “this feels good.” I think that means I should stick with it.

My favorite part of the design process is the development of an idea and I’m truly thankful for the many creative thinking techniques I keep tucked in my back pocket. Now I’m at that tedious stage where I simply must keep practicing without much more modifying. Let’s just hope that my technique is on a fast learning curve!

I also hope these new bracelets will be coming to a wrist near you.

Agitation Helps

Many of us work hard to keep from becoming agitated. With me, agitation usually leads to anger and you know what that can lead to . . . don’t you? Therefore, I usually think of agitation as negative. Yet, the other day I read on a label for a new patina that agitation helps the process. Since I’m the type person who deliberately makes huge analogical leaps and repeats phrases out of context, I naturally had to continue thinking about how “agitation helps.”

If I go back to the original context of “agitation helps”, I can say that moving the solution around a bit while patinating the metal was supposed to help. What gets “moved around” when I become agitated? I think it’s usually my routine or the way I believe things should be that gets moved and this makes me agitated. Unfortunately, this context really does make agitation a negative; but is it really?

It seems to me that agitation often brings action and change. I remember years of working with volunteer forces in Louisiana trying to muster services for academically gifted youth. Our group often hunted for members when educational services were at their peak, yet when the legislature threatened to cut our funding or the schools committed some sin, our ranks swelled with eager voices. In other words, folks needed to be agitated about something in order to act. In this case isn’t the state of being complacent the opposite of being agitated? You can feel the silence when things are going well and be bowled over when people become agitated.

At this point, I might certainly break in to some political speech, but I’m not a politician, I’m a jewelry designer so how in the world can I make this big stretch? Actually, that big stretch happens almost every day when I want to be creative. I feel like I need to become agitated enough to change that with which I’m complacent and develop something new. What are the design problems that agitate me enough that I have to create something different? (I know that they say if it isn’t broken don’t mess with it. Yet, not everything unique and new comes because something was broken.) Following is an example.

Several entries ago I posted photos of a new wire weaving that I used for both necklaces and bracelet. Here’s a small photo reminder: weave

 

I liked the weaving and those designs, but was a bit agitated because I more or less copied the bracelet from a magazine and then made a necklace. Shouldn’t I be doing my own thing? What would be my own thing based upon this foundational design? How about . . .

weave new

The photo with the stone obviously shows abbreviated weaving on the sides. I thought I was being real smart by lessening the number of weaves, but found it very difficult to widen the distance between the main wires and keep a consistent weave. I actually did a better job on the first attempt as opposed to the smaller second try shown below.

blueMy fourth attempt is progressing more easily than the others (no, you can’t see my third attempt!) if you don’t consider the fact that I got two of the main wires crossed in the middle. That’s why they are wrapped together and will soon be hidden behind a stone (psst, don’t tell anyone).

wire  I’m a little agitated about getting those wires crossed in the middle of this armature, but am now wondering about the possibility of intentionally crossing some wires . . . that bears consideration.

 

 

So, whether this entry leaves you agitated or complacent, I hope it at least provides food for thought the next time you get agitated. In fact, the next time you get agitated, I hope you do something creative! That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

A Touch of Silver

I’m trying to get braver about the wire and metals I’m using. While copper is my mainstay, a few of my artist friends seem to be pulling me more into silver. I’m not easy to pull! In fact, if you asked them, I feel certain the word “stubborn” would be used to describe my lack of action. Lately, however, a few of the boutiques I serve have asked “can you do that in silver?” My quick response to the owners is usually, “I can try.” The silver has turned out to be a reasonably easy alternative for the designs and the pain of what I paid for the wire and sheet metal is eased when the silver jewelry sells relatively quickly.

I’ve tried to approach the use of silver as I learned to do in my Creative Problem Solving workshops by first stating a question. In what ways might I use sterling silver wire and sheet metal to create pleasing designs that are still affordable? There are a number of criteria inherent in that question including using as little material as possible while still producing a good design. The criteria create nice parameters within which to work. If I develop an idea that doesn’t fit the criteria, then I stop and revise it or throw it out. So far things are working reasonably well within this plan.

The pieces in the photos below show several new silver pieces that all required a little soldering. All of these were small enough that the cost was low and they stayed within the parameters for my problem solving. The earrings might have stayed in place without solder, but I wanted the waves in each direction to remain touching. They were bit tricky to solder.

silverear  

Rings seemed an appropriate project since they don’t require much wire. The original ring with the heart was designed by my friend at Sherry’s Jewels http://Sherrys-Jewels.com. I made a variation that is adjustable and added a little solder to connect the loose end of the heart to the band.

heart

 

The next ring design, shown with two variations is composed of four wires, each of which I soldered into a circle before placing them together. Each wire is about 1/2 inch shorter in length than the wire outside it. I then fitted each circle of wire inside the other and soldered in appropriate places. This one is adjustable as well. The one on the right is an overlapping version while both ends of the rings are meant to show on the left one.

rings

I used some left over wire to make the wire ring for the leaf necklace. The ring was soldered and then shaped and textured. The leaf is made from the foldforming technique mentioned in a previous post.

leaf

 

I consider this type necklace a collage since the dangles are an eclectic collection or things. This one also features a copper wire dragonfly and hangs from leather.

I have found that silver wire handles a little differently than copper and due to its lower melting point I have to be more careful with the torch. Yet, I think practice will work these things out and soon I’ll be braver about the size and cost of what I’m making.

Speaking of silver . . . I regret to inform you that I found a tiny bit in my hair the other day. I’m fortunate to not yet have to color away any gray and found that little silver on the side snipped right away with the scissors. If you see me out and about one day and note a small bald spot on my head, you’ll understand what happened.

Black and White

Well, it happened again. Another morning walk affected my jewelry designs. Everything was perfectly fine until that last hill at the back of the property behind the house. By this point in the walk, I’m pretty weary and my legs are tired. Who knew that they could still help me run so fast. Trudging up that hill, I often meet the calico cat and this day’s encounter was also furry and just about her size, but it was black and white. If you were ever in the marching band or military, your body remembers how to do that about face where you place one foot out and turn completely around so you are facing the direction from which you came. It went something like this . . . black and white . . . skunk . . . about face . . . R U N !!!!! That black and white certainly turned me in a new direction.

Wondering if that was some sort of sign (probably just bad luck), I chose to try an about face (well almost) on the jewelry designs and momentarily attempt to focus on something other than wire armatures. I’ve made so many lately that I’m beginning to have nightmares about them! I think I could make handmade chains in my sleep.

If it’s not wire, then the designs around here must be metal. I’ve had components of the pieces shown here laying around on the work bench for a couple of weeks, but with this new direction, they had to be used.

bottlepend2

You’ll recognize those same old bottle caps. I have a love-hate relationship going on with them right now. This bottle cap is riveted to the back piece of copper that has been run through a ringer provided by a nice friend. It hangs from a leather chord. (yes, the back is supposed to hang slightly ajar)

The second piece is more complicated and I kept telling myself that simple is better as I added more and more components.  The telling didn’t work. I hope I didn’t overdo it. My home constructive critic wasn’t fond of it and had to be told to “pretend you like it” as I queried about the length of the piece.

v

The copper V was foldformed and hangs from jump rings on a hammered piece of wire. It’s really not crooked, but the picture is. I wire wrapped the hammered wire and made a loop in the center of each wrap for attaching the leather chord. You can see that it is asymmetrical with leather dangles on one side and black and copper beads on the other. This one hangs down pretty long.

Taking a slightly different direction isn’t too painful and is often needed to free the mind for whatever comes next. Sometimes making those wire armatures becomes too comfortable and I have to move out of that zone. Last night I purposely made a very intricate wire wrapped pendant that took about three hours to complete. It required a techniques that I’m not very good at. As I grumbled about it, my critic asked why I was doing it. I replied that I thought it was important to do something uncomfortable part of the time in preparation for whatever comes next.  What do you think?

By the way, if you are wondering about that black and white, my downward hill run was successful and I did not get sprayed. Whew!

Loopy Loo

Notice that the title does NOT include any person’s name. I would not want to be accused of calling anyone “loopy” nor would I choose to be called that although those of you who know me might say it occasionally fits my personality.

I finally wrote the tutorial for the Loopy Loo Bracelet design. You see this pictured in sterling silver below and I’ve been making this bracelet a while. At the insistence of a good friend I finally decided to share it and offer the tutorial on my etsy shop as you see in the listings on the right.

clip_image002  While writing the tutorial, I realized that I had not fully explored the potential of this design. I used the SCAMPER creative thinking tool previously mentioned in another entry and tried new things with the loops. I “minified” the design using lighter gauge wire and a smaller cylinder for the loops. This resulted in both a smaller more delicate bracelet plus a new necklace armature. Although the one in the photo is medium sized, I also like the tiny loops I put in an earlier necklace in the second picture. Hmm . . . I seem to be stuck on purple!

loop necklace

necklace loop

Thinking again about SCAMPER induced possibilities, I “modified” the simagehape of the loops a couple of different ways. The first turned out to be a pendant where I flattened the circle of loops to frame a bead.

  I also turned them a bit differently and made earrings.

loop earrings I made these from 20 gauge wire and feel they would be better in a heavier gauge. They aren’t holding their shape as securely as I would like. I do, however, think they are a good design and I’m going to redo them.

 

Who knows what this Loopy Loo design will bring next? I’m pleased to be working with it again and hope to exhaust its possibilities before moving on. Any ideas????

Heavy Metal

The creative mind is a funny thing (not funny “ha, ha”, but funny “unexpected”). My day started with an early morning walk. Early for this artist is 9 AM when it’s already good and hot in South Texas. The moment I went out the front door, I spied my mother’s cat, Callie, who has lived with us for ten years. She’s a beautiful little calico who was lounging, full body, in the bird bath which was empty due to our drought. Can you picture her beautiful black, white and yellow body against the white concrete of the bath?

As I started down the hill, I was accosted by the loud sound of one of the hawks that is homing here at the ranch this summer. We’re not talking about a sweet little bird chirp here. We’re talking about a loud “caw, caw, caw” in a screeching tone as the hawk circled my head. I wasn’t sure whether I should run back to the house or hide under a tree. Eventually the hawk went on and I proceeded down the hill.

At the bottom of the hill and on down the road between pastures the wind brought a cool mist from the irrigation machine that was watering the land. It had that marvelous clean smell to it and reminded me of fresh rain. It was cooling for a while, but soon thereafter, my own mist was dripping off my brow as I trudged on in the heat.

The sights and sounds of the ranch engulfed me as I continued walking, encountering little birds, startled calves and lizards swishing through the grass. Just as I was thinking how pleasant it all was, I got to the top of the hill and there stood four of the bulls. They really are beauties in this own right, but the final sound I heard on my walk was the splat, splat as the business of those guys hit the ground. What a bummer!

Long ago, Dr. Sidney Parnes, taught me that one of the best ways to get creative ideas is to engage the senses. From him, I learned to bring fragrant tea or other natural aromas into the creative thinking process. I remember a tactile experience I provided for graduate students who, with eyes tightly shut, gently held a large strawberry in the very middle of one palm while touching it with one finger of the other hand. It sounds crazy, but they did some great descriptive writing following this experience.

With this in mind, I sat at the workbench and let the results of the morning walk wash over me. I thought I might produce something organic and natural looking, but I did not! I ended up with heavy metal jewelry. The pieces below started as foldformed metal and ended with chain. Even though I tried to put pretty beads on the pieces, they just didn’t work. How could the sights and sounds of nature drive me to this?

foldform pendant

 

The piece on the left is a pendant hanging from leather. It started as a rectangular piece of metal and just kept changing. I used a ceramic bead on the leather.

 

The earrings below were planned as leaves, but that chain just kept getting on them and I finally gave in. They have a nice little swish to them and I’m pleased that they aren’t noisy little fellows.

 

metal ear

 

 

So here’s the question. How can a morning walk end up as heavy metal jewelry? The answer lies in the nature of creative thought which often erupts from experiences. In this case the experiences were sensory. Those sensory experiences can open the artist to possibilities that were previously blocked. The idea/art produced may have no seeming relation to the experience; yet they are connected. I think it’s important to remember that when ideas cease to flow or your muse has gone home, there are many things you can do to find your way back home. The trick is to be open when creativity knocks on your noggin. A closed mind bears no art! 

You see . . . creativity really is a funny thing!

Design Stages

I’ve taken a bit of a break from writing while my family has been visiting. Although I would enjoy showing you pictures of everyone, my grandson was really the only willing subject. He and I thought we might offer you suggestions for steps in the design process.

Incubation: This stage requires relaxation and tension release. It is, of course, important to be free from restraints so that ideas can flow.

GtableThis stage may require some action that says “it’s OK to dream and think out of the box. Sometimes it helps to get into a new thinking position while you ponder possibilities. This highly divergent activity could mean you look at supplies or tools from a totally new angle as demonstrated in the photo above.

Marketing Research: This is a much more convergent and structured stage in the design process. It can require serious computer research while you determine if your idea has already been done and/or whether it is feasible.

GcomputerYou will want to be comfortably dressed while conducting this stage.

Practice: You may need to refine a technique or skills before starting your new design. Hammering, for example is a good skill to practice. When practicing, it is often wise to practice the same skill with various types of materials. In this case, my grandson worked with both large head nails and smaller rivets.

       Gnails        Grivets

 

 

Try to keep from being distracted by other interesting things while practicing for your design. This can be a BIG problem!

IMG_2616 Production: Once you are satisfied that your skills are perfected, it’s time to start creating your design. Guard against obstacles or personal issues that may get in the way of your work.

GrefrigYou will want to be well rested and free from hunger.

Unfortunately, by the time my grandson reached the completion of this stage, it was time for him to go home.  Yet, we know the production stage of design development holds promise and look forward to this two-year old joining in the creative process again soon.

 

 

Double Wire Series

Have you ever noticed how some design ideas are addictive? Working with double wire necklaces has become that way for me lately. The chaos necklaces let to other double wire designs and one piece seems to lead to the next. Double wire refers to the manner in which these designs initiate. I use one long piece of wire and double it over at each end to form the portion that either goes around as a neck wire or attaches to a chain. You can observe this at the top right and left of the piece below. bird The joyous part of the design comes in deciding what to do with the extra wire. Should it curve up or down? Where should it cross? I’m trying to do something different on each one. Once the armature is complete, it has been challenging to figure out where the beads should be placed. I wore the piece in the first picture to a bead show yesterday and asked several other artists what they would change on the piece. A synthesis of their comments with my own opinion yielded several changes to the piece last night. One of the reasons I enjoy working with wire is that you can make changes to a piece without having to completely start over. Another challenge is that since the armature starts the same way each time, I have to be diligent enough to take the wire in a different direction and create something new. You wouldn’t want me to get in a rut, would you? butterfly The piece above initiated a giggle when I turned it upside down and a bow legged something or other appeared. Dr. Torrance, educational creativity giant, encouraged us to look at things from different perspectives before deciding on a problem solution. I also try  to remember and turn my wire designs various directions before making a final design selection. My other challenge remains the need to look at these armatures and NOT see something other than a design. The second piece does, of course, bear some resemblance to a flying creature, but I was determined to resist turning it into a butterfly. Although replicas of nature can be quite nice, they can also be limiting. I’ll continue with this double wire series and need to see what might hatch with it in terms of earrings. Now that could be a real conundrum! By the way, I just finished another article for Magpie Gemstones. This one pertains to ways to add a patina to copper. If you have interest, you can find it at www.magpiegemstones.com/copper_patina.html