Guest series :: It is just as much about the process as it is the product

by Admin on 13/06/2012

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…

Mollie Johanson, a graphic designer specializing in print projects, began her blog Wild Olive as an outlet for more whimsical works. Daily dreaming and doodling have resulted in a variety of embroidery and paper projects. Mollie, based in a far western suburb of Chicago, commutes daily to her in-home studio via the coffee pot.

When it comes to creating new ideas, I find that they start out in two categories. The first is the planned creativity. These are the ideas that you are working towards generating because you need a new idea. Maybe you need to add new products to your shop, or you’re writing a guest post. Whatever it is, you start from scratch, and go looking for the idea. The other category is the spontaneous creativity. These are the ideas that come to you, and I find them to by my favorite.

For the sake of example, let me tell you about some alpacas that I’ve recently created. Not everything I make follows this process, but in general, it feels like this:

In the middle of doing one thing, a whole other idea shows up. While researching hats from Peru (yes, I have a very strange Google search history), I see a hat with some llamas woven into the pattern. And the idea comes to me: a llama embroidery pattern! I find llamas to be quite the funny creatures, and around my house, we’re likely to randomly quote The Emperor’s New Groove: “A llama!?! He’s supposed to be dead!”

But just because an idea presents itself, doesn’t mean I can immediately run with it. So fast forward through a few weeks of this llama rolling around in my head, and now it’s time for research. Believe it or not, I don’t keep a clear picture in my head of all the things that I draw, so off to Google image search I go, because looking at real llamas helps. Looking at other illustrations of llamas helps me too. Why? Because it’s good to make sure that I’m not creating something that has already been done to death, or that subconsciously I’ve seen before. With the research done, it’s time to pick up a pencil!

Sketching. When I was getting started in illustration and design, I wanted to just start on my computer without a sketch. The more I do this work, however, the more I love the process of sketching out the ideas. And so I fill a page with llamas. One concept stands out, but it’s still not quite right. More sketching on scraps of paper. Llamas are showing up everywhere! Maybe instead of one, there should be two…in love? No… a mama and baby! That’ll be so cute! (I’m all about the cute.)

With the concept figured out, I go to the computer. My lazy way of doing this is to take a snapshot of my sketch with Photobooth, then start tracing in Adobe Illustrator. As I get to working on this, I realize that maybe I should consider making this llama into an alpaca, and ask Twitter about which is cuter. Twitter replies with a resounding “ALPACA!” Time for more computer drawing of what is now a mama and baby alpaca.

Now it’s time to move away from the computer again. Truth be told, I see a lot of embroidery in my head, so from early on I’m picturing what the final stitching might look like, but it helps to start playing with the actual supplies. I trace the pattern onto fabric, and before I even pull out the embroidery floss, my dad chimes in. He wants to know if these alpacas are going to be pre-dyed in pastel shades. What? No. They will be in natural alpaca colors. Or maybe…? He’s right of course. The pastel colors are genius, and once again, I’m thrilled to have the input of others in this creative process.

Stitching. Given my original love of working on the computer, and avoiding the “real art” part, I’m amazed and happy that my two favorite parts of the process are sketching and stitching. But part of that comes because I can do those things anywhere with anyone around. The alpacas get embroidered nearby my brother who is studying, and later, my parents who are chatting. I show them my work from time to time, and this making becomes social. Hiding away in my studio can be productive, but interaction is just as helpful.

Finishing up. After all the stitching is done, I take photos and head back to my computer to set up final files and prepare to present a new item. And sometimes I stall here.

You see, everything up to this point has been the journey, and I love that so much more than the destination. All of the little steps along the way add up to a finished product, but it’s those steps that I enjoy. Do I like seeing things finished and sharing those things with others? Yes, of course. But that’s not why I do this.

This is just as much about the process as it is the product.
But those alpacas deserve to be shared, so I edit my photos, make my PDFs, and add the new pattern to Etsy. Will it sell? I hope so, but even if it doesn’t, I’ve found joy in the creative process.

For a look at how some of my favorite artists and bloggers handle their idea bursts, check out these links: Going from Idea to Reality  :: The Circle of Woe  :: Behind the Scenes: Inspiration
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 anna June 13, 2012 at 11:37 am

great post Mollie! I loved reading about your process, it’s really fun to get a peek into your world. :)


2 Vera W. Yates June 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Great post. I always love reading behind the scene thing like this. And your alpacas are so cute!


3 Kim June 14, 2012 at 3:53 pm

This has filled me with such inspiration! Thank you so much for this great post. (And the darling alpacas – I love them!)


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