Thoughts On Creativity

Happy Wednesday, dear friends!

A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to one of my favorite designers – Johan Ku. This week I found his old interview and one phrase just got stuck in my head. To the question “Where does the creativity come from?” he gave a very unexpected and unusual for an artist answer: “Creativity comes from studying a certain field for a very long time. It comes from rational development rather than a mythical emotion.” I stopped at this phrase and just stared at it. This is the first time I read something like that from an artist or a designer. Usually you read answers like Oh, it just comes to me or I can’t really explain my creative process or It just flows on its own… And here you read a very logical and rational explanation of the creative development. If you remember, Johan Ku is praised for his extremely creative approach to knitwear, the innovative vision and textile design that is considered a new form of sculpture. I read and re-read it several times; you know I love wondering about talent and creativity – do you remember our latest discussion of talent origin?

The more I thought about this phrase the more true it seemed to me. I never ever considered myself a creative person. My early school creative essays were dry, logical and without grammar mistakes; my drawings were horrible and my craft attempts were rarely successful. I picked up knitting 7 years ago and struggled with it for a long time to make something wearable or at least not shapeless. And sometimes it hits me how much it changed over the time. I was working on my Sand sweater seams this week, but in my mind new ideas were swirling.

Machine Knitting. Textured Sweater.

That alpaca fingering weight yarn was turning into a cardigan in my head; the colorful cotton skeins were forming into colorful light pullover; Moeke skein brought so many ideas that it was hard to choose…

Yarn

And all of a sudden I realized how Ku’s thoughts of creativity are so true in my case. I can definitely say that I feel creative when I am around fiber and textiles, but I can also say for sure it didn’t happen just like that, overnight, “naturally”. It happened, because I love it so much I cannot spend my day without at least a couple of rows; it happened, because I didn’t give up this craft when I was an absolute beginner and kept trying and failing, trying again; it happened because in a way this craft became a part of who I am – I read and research a lot about it; I can spend hours going through textile and knitwear design photography; I even dream sometimes of it. And this “mythical emotion” comes when something works out – this exciting moment when you feel like you’ve found it, “This is it!!!” moment. But I also think just the time isn’t enough to develop a certain creative skill; I think one of the most important things, at least for me, is to be fully present when you are doing it, make it a conscious process when your mind isn’t wandering, but 100% in the moment. So, I would change this phrase a little bit: “Creativity comes from consciously studying a certain field for a very long time.”

What about you? I am so curios to read your thoughts on this!!! Do you agree that “Creativity comes from studying a certain field for a very long time. It comes from rational development rather than a mythical emotion.” or is there something more? Is there such a thing as a “natural” creative ability that just comes to people without much effort invested into it or creativity has to be nurtured? So looking forward to reading your thoughts!

See you at Yarn Along today!


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42 Comments

  1. We are so alike in this regard. I am the LEAST. Creative person on the planet, but knitting does push my brain in that regard. It all comes from study, practice, and experimentation. Also, a deep determination to succeed.

    • Thank you for your thoughts on this, Andrea! I consider you a very creative knitter and a writer! I truly believe these three things “study, practice, and experimentation” can nurture creativity!

  2. What interesting thoughts on creativity! I tend to think my creativity comes from my kids – they are constantly wanting to learn new things, and it pushes me to get out of my comfort zone. Plus, the reason I picked up knitting needles again was due to being pregnant with my oldest 🙂

  3. What an interesting discussion. I have always been creative but have put thousands of hours into practice and research. I make things and write because I feel pulled to. I spin my own yarn these days and if you saw me do it you would think I make it easy. What you wouldn’t see though is the many, many times I got it wrong and had to adjust tension, the yarn snapped or the wheel slipped and took me with it. I am very methodical and just keep going until I am happy with what I am doing. I think it could always be better but I often run out of time and have to settle for “adequate” instead of ”spectacular.” 😀

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Sharon! I can so relate to this phrase – “if you saw me do it you would think I make it easy. ” I used to think like this about artists, designers or just my favorite crafters without giving a thought how much work has been put into this seemingly effortless work! I also think that the mindset of “it could always be better” is essential for development.

  4. You often make me think Alina and have one of those,’ huh, I never thought about it that way’ moments.
    For me the creative process is from my soul, I just kind of wing everything I do and hope for the best ;), but
    I do understand your way of creating, my Mike is the same way.

    • Thank you so much, Tracey, for your opinion! I definitely create from the soul and there is a moment in every creative project, especially if it’s a new pattern or just a free experiment when I feel elevated, happy and just close my eyes and go with the flow, but it came only with practice. As I am much more familiar with techniques/fiber/construction and other theory now, I have these moments much more often.

  5. This is an interesting post, Alina! I would not consider myself creative in the field of fiber arts and those who are are amazing to me! I look designer’s like Kirsten Kapur, for example, and I am in awe of her designs and her creativity.
    However, in the kitchen I am very creative – I have no fear of any aspect of making food – in fact, it is exciting to me!
    I am comfortable with fiber arts and I am not afraid to try new things, but creating something new is somehow foreign to me. My brain just cannot comprehend it. I am not sure what is different between yarn and food – but there is something there that one is easy and the other is impossible.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by! That is so interesting! I have the same relationships with fiber/food only vice versa – cooking doesn’t inspire me at all 🙂 I love simple food, but I am definitely not creative in this field. It is fascinating to think about why we are drawn to some things in a creative way and others not…

  6. I totally agree! Creativity is a muscle. You have to exercise it to expect it to grow. I can say that now that I am 50, LOL! Took me awhile.

    • I love it – creativity is a muscle! You know I always thought of people who are considered creative as “naturally” creative and thought that it was just not possible for me. So, I guess that’s why this formula of creativity “love for what you do + time + very hard work + learning = creative development” is so appealing to me.

  7. Some of it I feel “flows”, but in order to have a good “flow” you really need that strong basis in the artform. I used to paint a lot, my paintings got better and I had more passion and more of a steady stream of ideas after taking multiple art classes and reading art magazines.
    I get used for patterns with knitting now that I’ve been studying the craft for over a decade.

    • Thank you so much, Sarah, for your thoughts! I feel the same way! I do feel “the flow”, but I agree that you have to have some kind of a background for it to happen. When I was just starting, I felt the flow, but it was nothing like the one I feel right now, I feel that I have much more creative freedom right now that is backed up with the knowledge acquired.

  8. The only time my “creativity” comes out when I create something either by sewing or knitting, is when I’m choosing fabric or yarn. But I agree that the longer I devote myself to sewing and knitting the more comfortable I become with it and I’m not so afraid of making a mistake. I also am more familiar with how a fabric will drape, or how a yarn will behave on the needles. With that knowledge I’m more free to have fun with yarn colors and fabric prints.

    • Thank you, dear Pat, for your comment! I feel like my creativity exists just in some areas of my life, and those are the ones that I devote most time to. “I am more free to have fun with yarn colors” – you put it perfectly for me; the practice and knowledge definitely gives more freedom for creativity!

  9. I think I’m a naturally creative person and I agree that it’s like a muscle you have to use regularly. I’ve had a look around your blog, it’s awesome to know that you’ve been knitting for only 7 years and you’re so accomplished.

    • Thank you so much, Debra! I am an optimist in this question now – I truly believe you can learn ANYTHING if you love it enough to regularly invest time into it. 7 years has passed so fast, I can’t believe there was actually a time when I wasn’t knitting!

  10. I’ve been a creative person my whole life and say it’s genetic. I say this as my Mom’s side of the family are all creative – artists, quilters, etc. , and she always pushed me gently to learn different things to develop creativity. As I older, I find in myself wanting to know everything there is to know about the fiber arts so I can expand my creative nature. I find there is no limitations to mix colors, textures and fibers to create your own unique piece.

    • Thank you, Tina, for sharing! When you are surrounded by creativity since the very childhood, I guess it just becomes a part of who you are. I grew up in a completely non-creative family, it feels like only now I am really experiencing the excitement of it!

    • Lynn,Don’t give up on social media, just start slow. Pick one tool and give it a good try. If you only have 1 hour a week, spend it on that one tool. For example, you could decide to spend an hour a week on your Facebook page. Just make sure you have some goals in mind for what you’re trying to achieve.Best of luck.

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  11. I feel creative when I see other projects or ideas, when I’m in a yarn shop and sometimes when I’m walking in nature. I love white snow against wheat (great color combo!!) and all sorts of greens and yellows and blues. I keep a notebook of ideas or thoughts so I don’t forget.

    • Thank you, Karen, for stopping by! I love the idea of keeping a notebook! Nature definitely inspires me – it clears my head and “teaches” me a lot.

  12. So many opinions and all true!
    I think that if you love doing something, if it makes your soul sing, you will find your mind wondering around it all day (and night) long. It takes time, struggle, lessons learned the hard way but if you care about it, it will work! And there will be moments that inspiration and great ideas will just flow.

  13. Yes I truly do believe that for some people creativity is methodical but for others, it just seems to flow naturally. My love is cooking and writing and it took me a long time before I considered myself a good cook. I made a lot of mistakes along the way and still do. But the fun for me is trying new recipes, devouring cookbooks and watching cooking shows. The Chef’s Table on Netflix is amazing. The chef’s are genius. Simple food can be the most difficult and incredibly challenging but it is so exciting when you stumble on something new.

    • I am always fascinated by all the different paths that lead different people to creativity. I really do believe ANYONE can find an area where he/she can develop his/her creativity. And in food, you are definitely a maestro Akiba!

  14. I really like this concept. When I first started in college I was an art major, I actually got my degree in Anthropology. I left the art department because the artists around me, whose work I admired and whose talent I respected, all seemed to have something to say, some view point or message that drove them. I was good at painting and sculpture, but knew myself to be lacking the driving need to speak that they all had. I want to understand, the how, the why, the function of how a thing worked, but mastering a technique and executing it well is not the same as art. I felt it was hollow. In coming back to art from a different direction, I want to know how a woman a hundred or four hundred years ago made the yarn, the fabric, and colors to clothe and decorate her life, and in knowing how, perhaps I can speak forward for her. I found the artist, not just the craftswoman, within me. So I needed the years of study and the connection to past methods in order to have the art. I make it look easy and I want others to find this peace I have found within the art. I, who used to have nothing to say, now often have too many things trying to be the first said.

    • Oh, Julia, thank you so much for sharing this! I feel so so related to your story! I always felt left out when meeting/reading about/talking to creative people, I always had a feeling that it was just the way they were – naturally creative – and if there is no this natural creativity in me, then this is it. I am just not creative – I can’t draw, I can’t sing, I can’t write books, etc. Plus, my family was always saying things like: “You can’t learn to draw if you can’t draw”. Hmm, I am so opposite of it right now – I truly believe, if you love something a lot, you can learn anything! “Coming back to art from a different direction” is such a great phrase to describe it! When I picked up yarn, something shifted, I just felt that I finally found something that spoke to me, that made me want to create and pushed me to learn and grow! Thank you so much again for stopping by!

  15. Yes! I have never really thought about it in that way before, but it rings true for me. I can also definitely identify with such a strong love for knitting, though I just picked it up about a year and a half ago, I have visions of cable-knits someday. 🙂 I love your photos and the beautiful pieces your create.

    • Thank you so much, Ravenna! I love this approach to creativity, because it is not exclusive – anybody can be creative in anything if enough time and work is put into it!

  16. I think it can be both too. Both a natural inherent talent and something that can be learnt and worked at. I agree that the more you do the more inspired you are to improve and expand on your knowledge and creative processes. I find that if I am busy with life then I need to find easy ways to be creative but when I am less busy then I have the head space to think about the things that are new to me or more difficult. I have been sewing something today with some fabric that was leftover from other projects, I knew I could use it but couldn’t figure out what for, then suddenly an idea hit me and it has totally worked! It’s great when that happens isn’t it 🙂

    • Oh, absolutely!! Sometimes ideas just flow, some background definitely needs to be there. I, for example, can’t sew at all and would just stare on a piece of fabric without any creative flow 🙂

  17. I really like what Laura says: creativity is a muscle – she’s so right, you have to keep on exercising it to make it work well. I guess that there is truth in the genetic idea also in that creative families present the right environment for the exercise of that muscle. The counterbalance to me of that hard, dedicated work is the flow state which several people – and you – allude to: that exciting moment when you think you’ve found it! Oh, that is so wonderful. I guess that’s why we all persist when things are hard.

    • “Creative families present the right environment for the exercise of that muscle” – love this! I think there are so many things that contribute to creativity – environment, the place where you live, school, friends, books you read, movies you watch; all of this shapes the taste and the vision of the world.

  18. This is so nice to read, I’ve never been able to look at a photo and say “is spoke to me and I designed from it.” My process definitely comes from knowing my knitting. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank YOU for visiting! I believe there are many ways to nurture your creativity and none of them are exclusive, you just have to find what works for you.

  19. It’s been so long since I’ve checked in; I hope it’s not too late to add my thoughts to this discussion. I love that sentence you quoted about creativity. One thing I’ve noticed recently, is that part of me used to be (still is?) nervous sometimes that I would run out of ideas. But if you are really living your ideas, making them, working with them they actually breed more ideas. So creativity, I’d say, comes from actively studying your field, maybe even working in your field more than just studying it.

    • Of course, it’s not too late! I always love when you step by! It’s such a great thing to mention – the fear of running out of ideas! It used to haunt me too. You know, when you come up with an idea, love it so much and then think – “Oh my, is that it?! What if nothing new and creative will never come to my head again?..” I agree with you – if you stay consistent and work on it, the ides will start flowing again!

  20. I know I’m late to the discussion but I absolutely agree with his description of creativity. While some techniques come to me easier than others (especially in dyeing) I still have to study and practice to increase my skill-set. Thank you for sharing this.

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