Community + Creativity

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…

Lilly Blue and Jo Pollitt are the makers of BIG Kids Magazine.  Lilly is a visual artist and Jo is a dancer and writer. Together they work in a collaborative way where lines get blurred in a continuous feedback loop of creative exchange. When they make something together from shared ideas, they are never quite sure exactly where it came from and ownership is swiftly displaced by unexpected discoveries in form and practice. They become co-authors. [Coauthored work here.]

 On the 2nd of September 2010 Jo sent Lilly a message sharing an idea she had for a creative children’s magazine with an adult and child editorial staff, featuring contributions of poems, stories and artwork from kids, and offering an alternative to the current high fashion focus dominating the market. In this innocuous little note Jo invited Lilly to contribute an illustration or two for a mock up of the magazine. The rapturous, poetic and unbridled correspondence that ensued over the next days and weeks, often after midnight while their babies slept, gave birth to a bigger vision, and in the space between the two artists BIG (Bravery, Imagination, Generosity) Kids Magazine was born.

“I do believe we are starting a collaboration without uttering a spoken word”.

After a full year of working, the first actual sighting of each other was by Skype the day Lilly showed Jo the First Flight edition of BIG Kids Magazine just back from the printer. The acceleration from initial sketching of ideas to holding the first ever magazine in our hands was fast and full. It was certainly a surreal moment to turn the first BIG page.

Of course there were moments of difficulty in sorting roles and differences, at times like a storm in Narnia, all drama, dark wardrobes and late nights! But I think it is a mutual respect and trust of the other as well as a shared understanding of creative practice as rigorous, personal and poetic that makes it possible to navigate the challenges. We always come back to trusting the other will spy rock and steer us well.

Now that we have clearly established BIG as a co-authored page we continue to invest and create worlds in the spaces between us, and tend not to work with the traditional collaborative approach of writer and illustrator. It is a responsive dialogue that finds a different form depending on the demands of each new world we collide in; Jo writing worlds and words for stories Lilly has dreamt forever. Lilly responding to a choreography of lines on an unexpected page.

Our words begin to overlap. Even the paint starts to run between us.

We both hold on, and we both let go.

It all happens, all at once, all of the time.

The co-authorship of this BIG magazine provokes, prescribes, demands, dares, expects and cajoles a days work from each of us and also makes room for tiny glimpses of the hilarity, niggling, messing, playing and firing of our everyday lives. We work in the between hours: between children, between sleep, between work, between cities. BIG exists in all the available spaces but it is the collaborative space between us that ultimately supports and propels the magazine making, side by side.

The BIG info: Treasure Maps edition 2 is currently available. BIG is currently accepting submissions for their 3rd edition Game On! Keep up to date with BIG news on our BIG Facebook page.

Image credits: The top hoto is of Jo and Lilly working on the 2nd edition of BIG – Treasure Maps. The second image is the cover of the current issue.

Downloadable print: The owl pic is a co-authored print: Cross My Heart and Hope to Fly by Lilly Blue and Jo Pollitt) featured in the Treasure Maps edition of BIG Kids Magazine. You can download a free hi-res printable version of the print here. For a short time only (offer now closed) – after that please support this great mag by grabbing a copy from newstands or via their website.  BIG Kids Magazine


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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…

Lisa Siebert, is the designer and owner of Looploft, a small, fiber arts business. Looploft is conveniently located as a backyard studio in East Grand Rapids Michigan, a short walk to Gas Light Village and Reed’s lake…a cozy little neighborhood, one hour from Lake Michigan and three hours from Chicago.  

When I started Looploft a few years ago, it was mostly a hobby, exploring designs and specializing in natural and repurposed fabrics. I was determined to evolve it over time, into my own business. My creative interests and background is varied and I hold a graphic and advertising design degree. When I became a full-time mom, helping to raise our three children, I was always seeking ways to exercise my creative outlet with them. I would sew halloween costumes and Easter dresses, decorate and re-decorate their rooms, and no matter how small our home was, we always had an art room for creative ventures.

In my initial years of Looploft, I was making mostly one-of-a-kind softies out of repurposed wool sweaters. However the thrift store inventory for wool sweaters was dropping as others also found those useful, and I was finding that I had less time do the hunting. My product collection has evolved toward simple designs that include my own printed fabric and printed graphics. I’ve found success with these and now have a full ‘linen line’. About a year ago I added a custom ‘wedding ring pillow’ and a ‘tooth fairy pillow’ and they are among my top sellers these days.

I was excited to find spoonflower as a resource that allowed me to design and print small batches of fabric I use on some of my products. Another time saver (I read about somewhere) has helped me with all of the fabric appliques I do: use a glue stick to affix the applique to the linen instead of pinning, it is so fast and easy and works like a charm!  

A good day for me at Looploft: I wake up, make coffee, check Etsy and respond to customer orders. I retreat to my studio where I work until late afternoon when school gets out. I have a postal scale in my studio and a laptop so my orders can be boxed and labeled conveniently. I head to the post office and the coffee house next door for a raspberry and white chocolate scone. During really busy weeks I may have to go back out to the studio in the evening to fulfill orders.

When I have free time, I can be found getting creative inspiration from my favorite current or back issues of Anthology Magazine, Selvedge, UPPERCASE and Domino. I love pinning things on pinterest to get my creative juices going and also sharing my latest creations from my shop. Pinterest, as much as a source for inspiratio, has also been a very effective marketing tool for me, driving nearly a third of the traffic I get at LoopLoft. Over time I would like to launch my own blog and focus a bit more on social media as a marketing tool as well.

This fall both of our girls will be in college and I feel fortunate to have a business now to bring me fulfilment and to help us afford that. For me, I feel it’s a gift to live a life with a creative spark and to enjoy sharing in the process along the way.

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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…

Erin Dollar is an artist who focuses mainly on printmaking and textile arts. Her most recent project, Cotton & Flax, is a line of natural, hand printed textiles and works on paper using hand drawn patterns. She lives in Los Angeles, California, where she visits art museums with her boyfriend, and tries to keep her cat from walking on wet silkscreen prints. Her new blog is here, and she pins her inspiration here.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the internet has shaped my art making process, and how much (or little) inspiration I get from surfing the vast expanses of the internet. I’ve been feeling something recently, something I can only describe as “visual overload”, and so I have been trying hard to limit my screen time, and get back into “real life”.

It’s tricky, though, because the internet is always trying to suck me back in. More than ever, artists and creative-types are able to quickly find inspiring and beautiful images online. Pinterest has been a huge blessing for me, in that I can visually bookmark things that inspire me so that I may review them later. But the huge wealth of amazing images online can sometimes overwhelm me, and I’ve found that when I get caught up in skimming through these images, I often close my laptop feeling discouraged, and even less inspired than when I began. I’m sure many of you relate to that feeling of endless scrolling, always finding more wonderful things to read and look at online. But lately, I’ve been trying to pull away a bit.

I’ve been trying to get out more, visit museums and galleries, and to actually meet other local artists and learn about their habits and practices. Seeing what people are making in your own community can be incredibly inspiring, and seeing work in person reminds you of the human connection, something that is often lost while looking at other artists’ work online. As a printmaker, so much of what I appreciate in making new work is the process, rather than just the final image. Seeing other artists’ prints (or paintings, sculptures, etc.) in person means that I can look more closely for clues about how a piece was made, and in that way, can discover new approaches for my own work.

Recently, I’ve found it helpful to think of all the media I consume (books, magazines, movies, TV, blogs) as “input”. If I try to vary the input (for example, spend equal time surfing the web and reading books), I feel more balanced in my process of gathering inspiration. Nurturing different parts of my brain seems to help keep my creativity flowing. Listening to music, or sometimes even science or storytelling podcasts like Radiolab or This American Life, help open up my brain to new ideas as I sit at my desk and sketch.

The thing is, once I manage to sit myself down at my desk, and maintain a consistent working schedule… the inspiration just flows. Now if only I could get myself to sit still and create new work more often!



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…

Berber Vos blogs at KissKus. She lives in the middle of The Netherlands with husband, children and chickens. Sewing and crochet are her crafts of choice. Bread making and planting a veggie garden are more important to her than general housekeeping.

Anyone who has ever made something knows the positive feelings that comes with creating: the pride, the relief, the satisfaction. To look at something that you made, or to taste it, or to feel it is incredibly fulfilling. It doesn’t matter whether it’s sewing, knitting, cooking, gardening or home decorating that you do.

Some people are born with a natural urge to create, to others it’s a foreign concept. However, I believe that there is a spark of creativity in anyone. All it takes is a little bit of courage and maybe a little support. You don’t even need to spend much money, because being creative with your resources is part of the fun of crafting. And although I would never impose creativity on anyone, I would certainly wish it for everyone. Now, let me explain that a little more…

As well as the enjoyable reasons above, in my own life I have often used my creativity to get through a difficult patch. Whether it was the feeling of isolation after the birth of my first child, depression or other personal issues, I have used crafts in a number of healing ways. At times it has been a real support and a life rope to the outside world.

Most recently, my creativity helped me through a personally difficult situation sometime last year. There were times that I felt desperately unable to either move back or forward then. I suppose we have all experienced those kind of feelings in a big or small way. While I was struggling to make sense of myself and the world around me, there was a growing urge welling up from deep inside of me to create – something – anything at all. The need was very clear. However, the execution seemed a bridge too far.

I am a sewer, so initially that seemed the logical thing to do. However, it turned out to be too much of an effort for me at the time. Getting my machine out and organizing my materials was simply too much. Therefore, I came up with an alternative plan: crochet. After a dodgy start I was off and for the past year I’ve been crocheting like a maniac. Many, many skeins of cotton have passed through my house, since I was doing hours of crochet each day. By keeping my hands busy I felt like I could keep my mind under control. The very first project that I finished was this blanket, made out of the many squares that I made.  It’s far from perfect, but it is so dear to me. I’ve created this splash of colour from dark emotions and it now cheers up our house.

While I was doing better I decided to take on a new challenge: sewing lessons. While I was a perfectly average sewer I was often frustrated at my limited skills. I decided I simply wanted to get better at sewing. Little did I know how much I was going to learn! Those sewing lessons have developed so much more than just my sewing skills. I have been amazed at the different levels of learning a craft: there is the technique, but then there is so much more that comes along with it.

Over the past year I have challenged and improved myself in patience, persistence and accuracy. I’ve been lucky to have found a sewing teacher that has been the right mix of kind and firm with me. I’m now appreciating the whole process of sewing, instead of just the finished item. And I consider that a great gift that will hopefully get to enjoy for the rest of my life. All in all, I can honestly say that crafting has enriched my life and that of my family. It literally helps to brighten up my house specifically, and my life in general. It definitely makes me a happier person. For that I am very grateful. And that’s why I secretly wish to hand out pieces of creativity to everyone; perhaps hidden in some homemade cookies :)


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.