Flow.

Creativity is an interesting beast, being both a joy and a challenge. I have recently found myself being increasingly challenged by feeling creative but somehow managing to block it by demanding of myself that I work at something new, different, a complete change: all the usual stuff which can stop you in your tracks.

About five years ago at a birthday lunch with some friends we were chatting about our work, and when asked what I was working on, I admitted a need to try out some needlepoint, which had been on my mind for a while. I was reticent to admit it, to be honest, as I think it has a fairly middle of the road and staid image, although I had researched some exciting practitioners of the process. 

Wonderfully, they were, as good artists and friends, very enthusiastic, almost thrilled, and this was emboldening. I have made several pieces over the years alongside my other textile practice, but find that stitched tapestry is increasingly becoming the way. Above and below, a few examples of my needlepoint.

So, I’ve concluded that overnight changes don’t work for me. I’m a slow burner, less exciting but going with the way I am is the only path that works for me. You may be different, and can boldly go, at warp factor 9, no less, and completely change tack, with huge enjoyment.

Whatever sort of artist you are, some assessment of your creative personality and, most importantly, acceptance of your make up will pay dividends. I think for me in the past this came naturally, but time can force us to be over analytical, question to the point of extinguishing an idea, and prevent us from any sort of progression.

So, to move on from a recent block, instead of demanding the shock of the new from myself, I responded to some recent advice and decided that doing things that came easily to me is fine, using inspiration that is an old friend is fine, and working with these rather than against them is more than fine, it’s the way for me. This creates a flow rather than a block, and with flow comes enjoyment, and I’m the sort of artist that likes enjoyment in my work.

Then, with that flow comes new ideas and creative directions, almost without trying. They may be slow in arriving but that’s fine. Don’t force it, just get something chilled going.

With all the above in mind, podcasts on, I got out my images folder, and picked out a few pictures that spoke to me. What I really love is collage, with some drawing and paint thrown in, a sort of loose playing around with shapes and patterns, scissors to hand, some nice pieces of printed paper to work with.

In its very early stages, above, a collage of mixed media. Coloured pencils, paint, fine liner pen, papers to be added, quite a lot of work to be done. This is heading in the direction of a design for a largish needlepoint, part of a series, but also, I hope, a piece of work in its own right.

Of the series of needlepoints, one is finished but not photographed properly yet, one is partly done, and this one, still at this stage. I know that the collage will be more complex than the needlepoint, as I tend to like a marginally simpler look with the stitched pieces.

So basically I get the spontaneity of collage and mixed media, and the interpretation into another, very different medium, something considerably slower to make, in which I can still make creative decisions as I go along, and one that will, believe it or indeed not, still surprise as it gently evolves.

22 thoughts on “Flow.

  1. Really interesting observations, Stephanie which resonate with me.
    I have a friend who does beautiful needlepoint often when travelling between the US and here. She has used her own previous familiar sculpture designs for her stitching. Increasingly I’m also finding its important to do what I enjoy rather than constantly pushing in another direction or technique.

    1. Hi Liz, I’m glad it resonated with you. I thought I would post these recent thoughts as they may be of some use to those of us who think pushing is the way, when actually it is, for a lot of us, acceptance. We do know this, but sometimes the right comment in the right place and time is what is needed to finally convince us.
      I’d love to see your friends work, does she post it anywhere? We need to share developments in traditional mediums.

  2. The needlework looks so lovely Stephanie. I think developments that take longer often end up being more sustained and more meaningful, but everyone works differently I guess. Just love these images 😊

    1. Ah, thanks Phil, certainly some of my developments seem to take years! As long as you are working in some way whilst they’re brewing away, that’s the thing.
      It is a joy and so interesting the way we all work so differently.

  3. You’ve given me much to think about here. I’m not at all sure where my design personality fits in! I do know, as you say, that once everything has fallen into place, the sense of flow is very reassuring!

  4. I love the needlepoint works! The colours and extra layer of tactility that the thread brings is fabulous. Also like the idea that both the mixed media art work that spawns the needlepoint piece has a life of its own too.

    1. Many thanks! That’s the thing about stitched textiles isn’t it, the wonderful textures which can work in so many ways, increasing the depth of colours, moving light around the piece, making it a living thing. Collage can work in a similar way too; different surfaces, patterns, paint, colour and texture make a piece lively, and hopefully something that can stand up for itself.

  5. I often find it takes me months to make a change of direction, when a change appears to be starting I’;

  6. This was a really good read, and so much of it strikes a chord with me. Creativity is a flow, for me that means accepting that there will be times when to change direction I have to take it slowly. I’d rather be creative every day doing something familiar than be blocked by trying to push too fast to make massive changes in direction.

    1. Thank you Claire. That’s so true for me too, although I admit I have been pushing myself recently to make big changes, thinking that was the way forward. It’s a relief to have realised that’s not the way, as basically I wasn’t producing anything I wanted to carry on with and felt far too stressed.

  7. I love the strong design of these pieces – so much bolder and more interesting than most (actually, ANY) of the needlepoint I’ve seen. To me, it seems that the flow you describe is really important – it allows you to bring so much more of yourself to the new area that you’re working in and to bring a real development to that medium. And you get to use all your experience and all the thought you’ve put into your work too – so ‘the flow’ is empowering! 🙂

  8. Ah, many thanks Ann. I think, on reflection, that I was very lucky in the past, as flow seemed to be automatic for me in my work. I think that started to change a few years ago, and I have only recently realised that was what I needed to get back, simply by letting myself do what I was happy doing. Nice point too about how a flow state enables us to use, almost effortlessly, accumulated experience and knowledge. It does, but without all the stress that pushing yourself in imaginary ‘right’ directions causes.
    Hopefully this may be of some use for anyone else out there who is creatively ‘stuck’. It’s not new, but we tend to resist the obvious!

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