Shifting Gears With Creativity Warm-Ups

Sometimes, shifting gears in the studio goes smoothly and you purr along from one thing to the next. Other times, it feels like going from a 1-speed bike with coaster brakes to an 10-speed, and shifting too tentatively on a steep incline. I had to get off and push for a while last week. More about that in a moment.

Chain Reaction fabric design by Donna Kallner on Spoonflower

But first, another bike moment: For the current Spoonflower bicycle fabric challenge, I “built” a Rube Goldberg style machine that uses a tandem bicycle in a steampunk “alternative power generation” device for an imaginary “reanimation experiment.” You can’t see it from this swatch, but click the image and change the view to 1 yard to see how the repeat forms a chain design. Voting for bicycle fabrics is open through Tuesday. It’s always fun to see how so many different ways designers approach a theme, and I love the limited palette challenges (this one is three colors).

Back to that hill, and shifting gears. Every time I think it would be nice to coast for a while, I make some hairbrained decision that leads me to a torturous uphill climb followed by a terrifying downhill race to the finish. And I love it! But as any real cyclist would say, it all works best when you’re warmed up and have your head in the game. To do that in the studio, I get serious about my creativity warm-ups.

Donna Kallner creativity exercise — double doodle with watercolor crayons and water fingerpainting

Most of my warm-ups don’t take long. In about 5 minutes, I can do a double doodle (a Sharpie in each hand), add color with watercolor crayons, then fingerpaint with water. It doesn’t need to “be” anything — it’s just a readiness ritual that gets me feeling creative and productive.

Donna Kallner creativity exercises — fabric collage from the Black Hole

But sometimes, I need a bigger boost. That’s when I reach for my Black Hole, the small bin of fabric scraps I keep for quick creativity exercises. In this case, “quick” means an hour or two, tops.

Last week when I got stalled on that hill, I did what I normally do: I struggled and wasted a lot of energy. Once that was out of the way, I gave myself permission to rethink the route. After about 90 minutes of free-motion doodling on scraps of fabric, I rethought where I wanted to go with my project and started over. It wasn’t all coasting from there.
Usually there are still big hills to tackle on the alternate route, but I enjoy those as long as I’ve got a little momentum.

What do you do to gain some momentum? And what do you do with stuff like this fabric doodle, after it’s served its main purpose?

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin

4 thoughts on “Shifting Gears With Creativity Warm-Ups”

  1. I do collages on notebook covers! – every notebook in the house has a unique cover! When the notebook is done – cover goes on the board.

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