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Creative Block

I had to stop my metal work for 1 1/2 years. My work has always come
from a personal comment about my interaction to my surroundings. Now
that I have this wonderful place to work I feel empty of inspiration.
If you have had a similar experience or would have some suggestions,
I would greatly appreciate it. Stuck. Coit

Check out your local library for art books and old copies of
metalsmith, ornament, etc. Insperation is just a page away. I also
like the old saying about 10% insperation and 90% persperation.
Sometimes when I hit a block I pick a stone out of stock and set down
to a blank piece of wax and just start carving or I pull out all my
pieces of metal and start assembeling them to see what happens. Let
the shapes work with each other. Frank Goss


Do you keep a sketchbook? Since I have been running Metalwerx, I
have slivers of time to do my own work. But my sketchbooks are my
salvation to my processes. I sit with magazines when I can, and start
cutting things out. I don’t think about them too much, sometimes it’s
just a shape that grabs me, or a particular pattern. I cut them out
and place them in a folder. Then I take them out and glue them in a
few pages. Then I write about why I chose this particular image.
Pretty soon a pattern imerges and a spark hits and I’m off.

Writing really helps me to focus my thoughts. But sometimes I just
cut things out to cut things out. It aids in ridding my brain of the
flotsam and jetsam that takes up space.

Sending you cyber lubricant,


Coit, well, about creative block… When I suffer this, I just get
into the studio and make my self do the grunt jobs that need doing.
Polishing the things that I never got the right polish on, and
cutting, and sanding, cleaning, and cleaning, and more cleaning. I
force my self to get in there and DO SOMETHING. Just wondering what
to do, is a black hole, that the longer you do, the harder it is to
get out of. Do one good day of boring repetitive and put off work,
and your creative juices will flow again. (in fact, it is these times
that my studio gets it usually over due clean. and I mean clean. I
wash polishing compound residue off the flexi machine, and clean and
change filters in the buffing unit, scrub the sink, change the pickle,
check the water in the steamer, sweep the floor, wash the turn table
for soldering, clean the kiln… etc etc) By the time I am done, I
feel great for doing something, and things sort of come back into

Another great trick, is pretend you are a teacher, and give yourself
an assignment, or look in a book, and get an assignment from a book.
Sit down, sketch, plan, and change it a bit so it shows your
aesthetic, (not the books)… and Voila, you are back to producing

A. Austin

Hey Coit, If you have you have a wonderful place surrounding you to
work and you are feeling empty, focus on what it was two years ago
that was a part of your surroundings that allowed for the interaction
and personal comment. Is there any “thing” that is missing or
different? Also think of what you have inside, you are blessed with
the gift of being an artisan. You just need to do, sit down and
start any little project, don’t worry about creativity, once you get
the rust out and get the thought process going again you will
naturally start to think creatively again. One day at a time, 1 1/2
years is a long time to be away, allow yourself the time it takes to
ease back into the grove. Don’t be discouraged it will all start to
flow as soon as you are comfortable being back at the bench. Work on
a process that you always wanted to try, just the process, not a
design, sort of a series of warm ups. Best of Luck, Linda.

Ahoy Coit

When I get stuck for inspiration, or find my work stale (this last is
apparently not your problem but the following should help any way) I
concentrate on doing work that involves a new or challenging
technique. I focus on the technique and am not particularly concerned
with the design or aesthetics of the item. By doing this I am serving
a three fold objective, 1 - to give me something to focus my energy
on that is other than the normal day to day stuff, i.e. something
challenging that I really need to concentrate on, 2 - give me a rest
from design concerns, which is what most of the normal work is all
about, 3 - to enhance my repertoire of techniques available for use
in the future. Generally if the technique works I am so energised
that I can return to “normal” work with a renewed sense of purpose,
if the exercise is a failure then I feel a sense of relief at going
back to paths that are familiar. Either way I have achieved my
objective and I have learned something of value (we do learn from our
failures do we not, at least I hope so) at the same time. I hope this
helps. B Goodman Van. BC

Hi Coit; So, another testimony to the stultifying aspects of happiness
and sucess. Nevertheless, failure and frustration are always lurking
in the halls of Nemisis. It would be patronizing for me to “expound"
on various methods or strategies to break the creative block you’re
in. Let me then speak from both personal experience and from the
observations of one of my most respected teachers. A printmaking
professor I once had suggested that there is an ebb and flow to the
creative process. During the “ebbing” of this cycle, there is an
internal “integration” process taking place. One has to learn to be
patient with it. Give yourself permission to go snowboarding or
something. We are mostly able to recognize the “flowing” of creative
effort since we are a “positivist” culture here in America. Asian
philosophies contain more of the concept of “yin and yang” or a
"breathing” of the process. On a more personal note, I made the
most radical break of my career from the staid, static and sterile
style I was entrenched in by studying African tribal art. It
contains a radically different idea of the usage of materials as well
as a wealth of spiritual content. It is highly charged stuff. I’d
suggest you find a course at the local college you can audit and make
it to all the lectures. While you’re at it, you can “enlarge” the
creative pathways with rituals. Sweeping your shop, slowly and
thoughtfully, can be a wonderful daily ritual, or look for a course
in Tai Chi Chuan. Start this change, however, while being mindfull
of the need to allow yourself your own rythm of creativity. It would
be better if you made simple production efforts to keep up your
hand-eye skills rather than coming up with what I call a "synthetic"
creative formula. Good luck, enjoy your frustration, rant about it,
curse the gods, beg the muses. . .and . . . Welcome to the arts!

David L. Huffman

Perhaps as a result of the interruption the way you respond to your
environment is now different from what it was. Consequently you might
be trying to use approaches and techniques, while very suitable to
your former relationship with your environment, might not work now.

Here are some questions I might ask myself given this state. Was my
former response “intellectual” or “emotional” and what is it now?
Why?. Did I “play” with the metal or did I “work” with it and what do
I do now? Was it people or was it things that provoked me, and what
about now?

Why the questions? Because they might help raise your curiosity and
from that might flow inspiration (doesn’t inspiration mean something
like breathing in).

After fifteen years of intermediate and long distance running I have
just started to run again, and it is different. I am very much slower
now, and yet the pleasure is still there because I run/jog for fun
and treat the path on which I run as an acquaintance. Might I suggest
that you reacquaint yourself with your workbench, tools and metals as
old friends and play with them, just for you. And be patient…

It will come back; I bet by even writing your note, you have started
to get the itch.

When you feel that you’re “inspired” would you please let me know? We
can all learn from others.

David, where you can smell the autumn air.


I can relate to your dilemma.

I have been making jewelry since the age of 16. Beginning with my
father and grandfather,then studying in Germany for several years.
Back in the States i opened a manufacturing business before moving on
to opening a retail gallery which i had for 23 years. Worked steadily
for 33 years. Until two years ago when i sold the business.

I thought that freed from the tremendous overhead, responsibilitys
and need to keep retail hours it would enable me to concentrate on my
greatest enjoyement, namely designing and making jewelry. Well i hit a
brick wall. Without the NEED to work i fell into a lethargy and
depression. Some people call it a mid-life crisis. Some call it
retirement blues. But whatever you call it it literally took the wind
out of my sails. I built a state-of-the-art workshop again. Got out
some of my sketchbooks and began making things that i’d put on the
back burner for years. But no go. Just couldn’t find the drive.

So come springtime…i packed my car full of camping equipment, and
took off across the country. Death Valley, Zion, Arches, Rockies, Blue
Ridge Mountains, Smokeys…i saw them all. Camped out, ran in the
wilderness, commuted with nature, read a ton o’books. For about 4
months. When i came home i took off for Europe and hiked through the
English Cotswalds. Then the Italian Alps. It became a serious vision

I found my purpose. I’ve determined what gifts i have to develope.
What goals i’d like to achieve while i have some life left. What and
who’s important in my heart.

Now the tap’s open.

Good luck.



I have found that the harder I try to get out of mental/creative ruts
the deeper I get into them. When searching for new inspiration I
look to my other related interests. I will sit down and draw
everything: my studio, my shoes, my backyard…anything that will
get my mind out of the normal way of thinking and into a creative
place. After exercising my mind in this way I seem to be able to
more easily draw from the creative well that is the right side of the
brain. Another thing that seems to help me is my hobby of bonsai
gardening. The way a traditional bonsai must be styled demands that
you develop a real sense composition, as well, you have this plant
whose physical structure can’t be changed, yet, you have the fairly
rigid rules that you must apply to it in order to call it bonsai.

This is an important point. I think more than a few artists, and
most lay people, get the wrong idea about creativity. Creativity is
not about pulling new and unusual ideas and work out of thin air. It
is about solving real problems in unique ways. For this reason one
must have rules or parameters to follow to spur the subconscious,
right side of the brain to follow. Give yourself a problem to solve
and you’ll be on your way.

For example, I recently decided that I wanted to make a really cool
box, something that has personal meaning to me and yet, would be
somewhat universal. Now if I thought all day about what I would make
I would probably get a blank. But instead I wrote up the
guidelines/parameters of the project. It had to incorporate
multiple, complex mechanisms, had to have personal meaning to myself
yet be somewhat universal and it had to incorporate numerous
materials from wood to metal to There were other points
too, but the project I decided on didn’t quite fit all the
parameters. What I came up with was a box inside a box concept,
nothing real creative there, but the inspiration came from the idea
that each box would have two boxes in it. Each box represents an
individual from my family. So, when you first open the box you see
two boxes that represent my parents, inside each of these boxes are 2
boxes that represent their parents and so on. The challenge will be
to see how small I can go till the boxes are so small that I can’t
put on a working hinge. At this point I will insert small wood and
gemstone pieces. I am quite excited to get started.

The thing I expect is that once I get into the project, there will be
things that come up that will inspire new ideas and new directions to
go in. Apart from everything else this is the driving force; I
expect one idea to lead to another and this expectation keeps me from
the debilitating worry that perhaps I will “run out of ideas.”

I hope this is of some help

Larry Seiger

at the risk of sounding flip, here is one friend’s suggestion
regarding creative block. She said all she had to do was to look at
her pile of bills, and her bank balance, and that set her to work
immediately. From then on the ideas began to flow. Actually, what
I do, is utilize the time that I am in a mental funk, to learn some
new techniques. I get out my Revere, or Untract books, and start
making things I never tried before. The more difficult the better.
Suddenly new ideas present themselves and before I
know it, my mind is filled with all kinds of ideas.

When I have had a creative block Sometimes I will take a piece of
carving wax and begin carving away with my flex shaft and a few wax
burrs… not really thinking about what I 'm carving in the
beginning( the only thought I had was that it would be an
Electroformed item).I didn’t draw anything. Eventually, It started to
look like a Whale and I concentrated on turning the carving into a
whale. When it was done, The owner of the company I worked for showed
it to Tiffany & Co. They asked for a few minor modifications which I
did… Then it went into their catalog As an electroformed Sterling
Baby rattle which has been selling for over 10 years. Perhaps there is
something to letting the imabination “run free”. Daniel Grandi Model Making, Mold making,Casting and
finishing for Designers and stores.

There is a marvelous little book on the “Perils (and Rewards) of
Artmaking”. It is called Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.
The book is about that moment when you have to sit down and do it.
This book should cost you about $11 and is well worth it. See
page 29.

Coit, I’ve always found it helpful to “cross-train,” moving into
other areas of creativity. I find this helps enhance the other
creative pursuits, and has a “cross-pollinating” effect. This
doesn’t mean you have to give up your main creative area for any
period of time. But you might want to take a clay/painting/drawing/or other class.
Regards, Quik.

a few things that get the juices flowing for me are going outside for
a walk or other activity where i can look around as i move.

another thing is just handling my materials, looking at the raw
materials. also, looking at some of the things i have done in the
past. in this case, i don’t feel as though i must be productive, and
so the block or reserve i have is not so evident. what about going to
art museums and galleries?

jean in columbus, ohio

I just went through a similar block (thank goodness I’m a hobbiest)
that lasted nearly a year. I would get a piece started, then freeze

I finally took one of the largest, most complex items that I was
stuck on, and forced myself to at least handle the parts for at least
a couple of hours every week. Once I slogged through that one, I’ve
been able to finish a lot of stuff, since.

Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL OR @Ron_Charlotte1

Coit, You did not say what kind of metal work you did. Just get in
there and beat metal! After a year and a half you are probably rusty
(pun intended) The key to getting back into work is to just do it!
the inspiration will come. Don’t worry about an end concept to start
with, try just start with process and see where it takes you. some
accident will happen and the light will go on. You may discover some
revolutionary new approach, or some old forgotten system that you can
run with. If all else fails, make a leaf! Best of luck , Mark Thomas
Ruby SunSpirit Designs

Hello to All, I’ve just heard about the Rio Grande first annual Saul
Bell Design contest, the deadline is October 16, 2000. That is just
the sketch or photo, the finished piece is due Feb. 16, 2000. Why do
I tell you of this? Because the Grand prize is $10,000.00 toward
tools in Rio’s catalog. Glorious tools, how I love them so. Check
out Rio’s website for details: html:// or
call for info @(800)396-9896 ext.3247. By the way, I’m in no way
affiliated with Rio, I just love tools and the
opportunity to get more of them. Happy Designing, Linda

I had a major case of block this summer. Two things happened to push
me past it - first, a friend gave me about 100 Ornament magazines that
had articles cut out - so I went through a cut out every piece that
interested me, spread them all out and started to group them - I
always found studying good design to be inspiring and it help to
periodically see what my eye is drawn to. Second, I found a new
technical challenge. For me, it was using a new metal. This helped
me think about how I made my work. Between the two, I’m back at the
bench both productive and happy!

L.J. Smole
White Fox Workshop
Ozark Mountain, USA

G’day; I am not all that creative (even my expletives are
commonplace) but I do have a little simple trick. When I feel like
making something, and can’t seem to get started, I get all my
jewellery books out of the bookcase and spread them around and simply
browse. After a while I take pencil paper - and certainly the eraser

  • and simply doodle. I finish up by making a piece nothing like what
    I have seen or often, even doodled. Our TV news has scads of
    adverts - as I expect yours does too. Spend the time doodling on a
    pad - and keep them all. They will help one day. It will save you
    having to buy a new TV.

      John Burgess;   @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ