Guest series :: Nature and the creative process

by Admin on 09/06/2012

in Community + Creativity, Guest series 2012

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Long distance friends Angel Funk and Jenny Bartoy co-write the blog Stumbles & Stitches.  In Nashville, Tennessee, Angel tends to her garden, chickens, bees and two sons while experimenting with felting, embroidery and more. Meanwhile in Seattle, Washington, when Jenny is not enjoying urban walks or craft projects with her two boys, she creates upcycled fabric art and designs housewares and accessories for her shop.  


My creative process tends to be fairly straightforward at a glance. When working on a project, I aim for utilitarian and aesthetic, executed with a combination of clean lines and “earthy warmth”. Sometimes a certain fabric print stirs my vision, but I usually begin with the project’s purpose in mind, then sketch, pick colors and materials, and get to work.

The change of seasons and the details of my natural environment both weave themselves into my work. Nature provides us with such effortless perfection in its colors, shapes and textures. All have a distinct influence on my creative choices, whether by dictating the subject matter (I love trees and birds!) or subtly inspiring my designs. My comfort zone in color schemes has shifted to blues, greens and grays since moving to Washington — a direct reflection of our evergreens, the waters of the Puget Sound and Seattle’s cloudy skies.

Earlier this year, I created patchwork placemats for a wedding gift, featuring stripes of gray fabric stitched at an angle with linen. While browsing photos taken a few days earlier on a wintery family outing, it dawned on me: the placemat design was directly inspired by the stacks of driftwood and rocks under our feet as we walked along the silvery waves.

So, much of my creative process occurs outside the “intentional”. This discovery is thrilling as it confirms a deep bond to my environment. Yet nature’s influence on my artistic ideas also happens consciously. Living in an urban setting has made me acutely aware of the glimpses of nature surrounding me.

My family lives in a charming neighborhood where huge old trees coexist with turn-of-the-century homes on narrow streets and wildflowers adorn the roundabouts. I am fascinated by juxtapositions found in this “urban nature”: between rough concrete and the velvety softness of moss; between a sturdy tree trunk, its bulging roots cracking the sidewalk, and the lush foliage that grows in its winding branches; between a colorful bird and the asphalt on which it lands; between the ethereal blooms of cherry trees and the gray avenue they line. This fascination lends itself to contrast in my artistic choices: textured linen or burlap can often be found alongside bold modern prints in my sewing projects.

The harmonious cycles and contrasts of nature are the source of my inspiration and the energy behind my creative process. As Spring makes a shy arrival here, daffodils and tulips pop up everywhere. Suddenly, the warm yellows and pinks in my fabric stash are screaming to be used after months of neglect. As this new season is upon us, the Earth and all its living things experience a rebirth – and so too, do my sketchbook and project plans!


My primary inspiration in my art is nature and all its beauty. Every piece I create is intended to evoke reverence for the spirit of the Seasons and to encourage a sense of wonder in the mystical web of life that surrounds us.

I am most interested in my immediate environment, whether in my garden, at the local park or in a neighbor’s yard. It is quite amazing to realize how much there is to discover in the natural habitat right around your home. We have owls, hawks, rabbits, foxes, deer and raccoons all within a few blocks, and in addition to a large garden, we keep bees and hens. I might find a nest of salamanders, hear a red tailed hawk overhead or see a magnificent dragonfly with blue wings all right outside my door (and only ten minutes from downtown Nashville).

I love discovering new things about a favorite flower or animal through putting pen to paper, and the discovery does not stop there. When the process moves from sketch to needle felting or sewing, I feel like I get to know the essence of whatever it is I’m recreating on an ever deeper level. As I add embroidery stitches to mimic shading on an owl’s breast or add another layer of wool to the abdomen of a needle felted whale to make the shape just right, I am truly “seeing”. I feel a connection to my inspiration in a tangible way through the process. To me, that’s what art is: trying to make sense of what I see and experience by synthesizing it all together into something I’ve made with my own hands.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jenny Bartoy June 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Thank you so much for inviting us to participate in this series, Kathreen! We really enjoyed it. There have been so many fantastic essays posted, it’s been a treat to read them all. Wonderful series!


2 Dace June 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Love the table napkins idea as a starter project, would perhaps choose a small patterned fabric for the main color, so that it doesn’t need laundering quite as often. I love the idea of making each one a bit different so you always get your own back!


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