Guest series :: Snatching a little creativity here and there

by Admin on 05/07/2012

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…

Claire Dollan loves to recycle and make things. You can find her on flickr and Etsy or at her photo blog which she shares with her dad.

It’s funny that I should be asked a question about my creative process when it is something that has been very much on my mind of late. Specifically, how can I satisfy that part of myself when I am spending a good portion of my day working outside my home on things that are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. This is, by far, my biggest challenge.

When I am sitting at my desk looking at spreadsheets, I want to be sitting at my sewing machine, surrounded by piles of fabric, but when I get home, I just want to sit on the couch, relax, and then hopefully get a good night’s sleep.

I wish I could say that I have found an easy solution, but honestly, I find it an ongoing struggle to find that balance in life. What I can tell you, is that I have been working on it, and here’s a few things that i’ve come up with:

The first thing I did was to redefine what I counted as ‘creative’ because, as I had recently come to realise, cooking and gardening are creative. Spending a couple of hours washing, chopping, seasoning, and mixing ingredients to create something tasty and nourishing for your family is such a worthy and creative use of your time. I love flipping through cookbooks over slow weekend breakfasts, the delicious sounding meals and beautiful images inspire me in so many ways, not just in the kitchen (some of faves… Nigel Slater :: Moro restaurant ::  River cottage).

One day a week I volunteer at a rooftop garden here in downtown vancouver (talk about an inspiring place) and yesterday after work, I planted potatoes — little sprouting potatoes. I dug the holes, covered them with dirt, and soon they will sprout more potatoes. This is, I believe, creative in the most literal sense, and it felt so good to have dirt under my nails and mud on my boots. As good as when I finally managed to make a dress for the wedding we are going to on the weekend.

Which leads me to my next point, what I like to call: The revelation. The process of making this dress was torturous for me: trying to read a japanese pattern where the pieces didn’t seem to match, and struggling to find a way to make it work did not feel creative or fun. I felt frustrated and like a failure until the moment I realised that I do not like making clothes. It was that simple. I don’t know why it took me so long to see. I guess because I figured since I could, I should. But really, with so little time (and energy) at my disposal, why was I wasting it on something that I found incredibly difficult, and most importantly, unsatisfying? Especially when there are people (for example … Anna Allen and Annie Larson) who do such an amazing job and are clearly naturals.

Instead, I could actually use my free time to work on things that I actually enjoy and give me satisfaction without the stress. So I scrapped the complicated japanese pattern I just couldn’t figure out (even with a translation so awesomely provided by my bosses wife), and kept it simple and made a dress i’ve made many times before. Next time i’ll leave it to the experts.

And finally, how do I manage to fit a little creative into my everyday life, which for the most part involves a fluorescent lighted cubicle, the aforementioned spreadsheets, and a decent amount of meetings? The answer … a big stack of gridded notepaper and a love of doodling. By giving each square an inch value I can doodle my way into a new quilt over the course of a few meetings or telephone calls. I can work out a rough set list of cutting sizes and daydream about colours so that when I do finally get some crafty home time I can skip all the boring ‘working stuff out’ and get straight to the fun stuff: choosing fabrics and then cutting them into lovely little piles all ready to be sewn up the next time I have craft time. Which, for the record, is sunday. On saturday I am a chore task master, but sunday is all mine.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Au Pair July 5, 2012 at 8:13 am

Awesome! Never thought about using my time that way, you’re right, the preparation and planning is the boring part. Will be carrying a notebook with square pages around from now on. thanks for the tip!


2 aisling July 5, 2012 at 11:50 am

Oh, I really like this post! I love the honesty that you found – I think I’m in the same boat in that I’m not good at making clothes but am still trying to convince myself I can do it. I just had a dress disaster too and it was so disheartening that when I thought I had done everything right it turned out a mess. I might have to bite the bullet just as you did!


3 Fiona-grace July 7, 2012 at 8:48 am

Claire, you’ve completely captured the challenge I wrestle with – I really struggle to get time at my machine.

I too do my designing and plannning in meetings. By writing quite detailed construction notes I get to do virtual sewing, and hit the ground running when I do fire up the Brother.

I’m also completely at sea if I don’t have a portable hand sewing or crochet project for the commute.



4 claire July 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm

thanks for asking me this, kathreen. just writing it all out helped so much.


5 Eva @ Sycamore Street Press July 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Claire – I loved reading about your process. And I’ve had that same revelation…. about sewing in general. And most crafting, too. I love drawing, decorating, thinking creatively about my business, listening to music, etc… but I don’t really like sewing or crafting very much. It took me a long time to figure that out. But now that I have, I don’t feel the guilt or stress anymore of feeling like I should do more of it or learn to be better at it. Anyways, this was lovely to read. Thank you. xo


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