20 Ways to Jump Start Your Inspiration

As a novice metalsmith, I once wondered if my ideas wouldn't run out. How many ideas could one person have? Wouldn't inspiration run dry at some point? Apparently not! New ideas build onto old ones, rather quickly, and often times, I find I forget those past ideas and inspirations until I am reminded of them somehow.

Once in a while, however, my inspiration will falter and I find myself seemingly without any ideas of what to create. Or how to create it. This can be caused by being "burnt out" or simply by a creative block. Luckily, over the years, I have learned a number of ways to jump start my inspiration. I hope you enjoy!

1. Go for a walk.
Bring your camera (almost every cell phone has one now if you don't have one!), and take LOTS of photos!

2. Dig out your old sketch books and look through them.
And I mean your OLD sketch books! It's amazing how we can forget past ideas and inspiration as new ones take hold.

3. Dig through your scrap metal or throw-aways.
Sometimes a shape, a discarded idea, or a strange texture can pop out from the depths.

4. Take a break!
Burn out is natural, as are creative blocks, and sometimes the best thing to do is simply to take a break from your artistic pursuits, whether it is for a week, a month, or a year.

5. Listen to, or watch a lecture.
If you cannot visit one in person at a local art school or museum, there are great ones to be found online. TED.com has great lectures from people in a variety of fields, from all over the world. The Museum of Contemporary Craft also has podcasts available on their website.

6. Make something without the intention of selling it.
As makers and sellers, many of us tend to make objects with the intention of selling them. Unfortunately, if we do this too much, our self worth as artists can be negatively affected if those items do not sell. About a year or more ago, I became a bit burnt out and decided to take a break from creating with the intention of selling. Instead, I explored those ideas which had been floating about in my mind for some time and it been a fantastic exercise for my creativity.

7. Make something UGLY.
This can be quite a hard exercise. As makers, it is our natural tendency to make things that are appealing in some way. To do the opposite can be quite a stretch!

Marquise Trio Pendant by Nina Dinoff

8. Re-purpose an already existing piece.
It could be something you've created in the past, or something that was given to you, or purchased. A prime example of the creativity that this kind of exercise breeds is Radical Jewelry Makeover. Nina Dinoff took part in a Radical Jewelry Makeover workshop at Penland last year, and I was quite impressed with the work she created by re-purposing old jewelry.

9. Have a child design something for you!
Children have fantastic, wild imaginations. The possibilities are endless for them, and sometimes that is what we adults need.

Interlocking Rings by Ruby Girl

10. Scout out the toy store!
Childrens' toys can offer up a number of wonderful shapes and ways of being worn on the body. The possibilities are endless with such things as beads, play-doh, legos, and even little plastic animals. Shannon Conrad of Ruby Girl is a fantastic example of how the every day toy can inspire wonderful creativity.

11. Look at your older work.
I save all my old photos, and when I have some reason to browse through them, I am often shocked at what I thought was good craft. We improve with experience, and yet at the same time, we can look back at old work and remember a path once taken, which may lead to a new path of inspiration.

12. Clean your studio space!
Not only in my studio, but in the rest of my house, I find that if the space I am to work in is too messy, that I feel almost as if I cannot think. Cleaning these spaces takes only a small amount of time, and can make one feel instantly free of clutter in the mind.

13. Browse through some interesting magazines.
Whatever your interest may be, it helps to be up to date on the happenings in those fields. Metalsmith, National Geographic and Wired are a few of my favorites. Metalsmith, obviously appeals to my artistic tastes. National Geographic appeals to my interest in nature, travel, and other cultures. And Wired satisfies my curiosity in the world of technology, as well as having plenty of tidbits regarding design.

14. Visit your local museum!
Although I am not so interested in the more classical collections that museums hold, most museums now have a far more contemporary collection as well, which I thoroughly enjoy. Not to mention the larger exhibitions that are held!

15. Take part in an art walk or festival!
Here, we have First Thursday in NW Portland each month, and different versions of this in other neighborhoods on designated days as well. Many of the galleries open new shows on that day, and stay open rather late for the crowds to come through. The work is fresh and the gatherings are quite fun. In the summer, when I am able, I also like to visit Hood River, a neighboring town an hour away, for their First Fridays, which are full of art, music, performances, and old friends.

16. Go to the coffee shop.
Sometimes trying to find inspiration at home can be difficult simply because there are too many distractions. Grab your sketch book, a novel, magazines, etc., and head out to your local coffee shop. Grab a coffee, sit, and draw. You'll be amazed at how many pages you can fill!

17. Visit the library!
Books can be expensive. Especially large books full of inspirational images, drawings, and text. For an alternative that's easier on your wallet, head to your local library. Check out some books, glean your inspiration, and there you have it!

18. Play with your food!
Often, we don't realize just how incredible the food around us is. Take a bell pepper, for example. You can slice it any number of ways and will always come out with different shapes. Radishes can yield a number of beautiful colors, and when sliced, you can see the colors bleed in towards the white center. Play with your food...examine it, slice it, smash it if you want. You never know what you might find.

19. Make one thing every day for 30 days.
At the beginning of 2010, I joined the Ring A Day project and it has been a fantastic experience for me. At times, I realize that I must make my ring-making more of a priority, but it is rather fun scrambling around saying "I have to make a ring today!" and grabbing whatever materials might be available in order to make one before the day is out. Quite a few of the artists who have been creating rings throughout this challenge are finding inspiration in places they never thought to look before. Although I am making a Ring A Day for 365 days, 30 days is a great number for projects like these as well as it gives a set time line.

20. Make a "favorite things table".
Or a box or frame or shelf. It gives you something to look at and remember your roots, so to speak. I found a great list on Indie Fixx that includes this as one of 10 ways to be creative. If I had a favorite things table, it would have seed pods, flowers, electroformed objects, hollow forms, branches, and leaves all over it.

I hope these tips help in your creative pursuits. Please have a look at other artists who are answering this same question as part of the monthly Etsy Metal Blog Carnival:

1. http://www.chris-parry.blogspot.com/ - Chris Parry
2. http://www.sarawestermark.blogspot.com/ - Sara Westermark
3. http://www.kmjewelrystudio.blogspot.com/ -Katie Miess Kohlhagen
4. http://annhartleystudio.blogspot.com/ - Ann Hartley
5. http://www.amandaconley.blogspot.com/ - Amanda Conley
6. http://wildflowerdesigns.blogspot.com - stacey
7. http://www.evemmetalsmith.blogspot.com - Esther Eve
8. http://www.jewelrytutorial.blogspot.com/- 2Roses
9. http://www.fluxplay.blogspot.com - Maria W
10. http://cosmosmoonjewelry.blogspot.com
11. http://vtakahashi.blogspot.com/ - Victoria Takahashi/Experimetal
12. http://lunatic-art.blogspot.com - Berenice Schaltegger
13. http://brookemedlin.com/blog - Brooke Arin Medlin
14. http://metalriot.blogspot.com - Thomasin Durgin/Metalriot
15. http://bcyrjewelry.blogspot.com - Beth Cyr



  1. Great list, I love #3. Great things have come from the scrap bin.

  2. Catherine, I ADORE your 'favorite things table' idea! I'm doing it tonight ;o)

  3. 6 is what the project runway challenges have been about for me - a chance to make something that I don't care about selling - its SO nice!

  4. No.9 is a great idea! I can't wait to do this one with my little un.

  5. These are great ideas! I can attest to the cleaning thing. I'm naturally messy when I work, and cleaning it up every once in awhile makes such a difference. Clutter in the workspace = a cluttered mind.
    I love your blog, and I miss Portland too!


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