Run Out of Your Rut and Into a Museum


What happens when everything you can think of making looks like everything you’ve been doing for the past five years? Either you  a.) Give up b.) Don’t change c.) Start looking around to see what you can copy,  or d.) Go get yourself inspired. Of course ‘d’ is the right answer. Easier said than done, but it IS  doable.
This past weekend I visited my daughter in Denver. She had a pleasing agenda of activities planned for us so that we didn’t have too much time to get cranky with each other. Our first stop was the Denver Art Museum. We meandered through the Andrew and Jamie Wyeth special exhibit and wrung out every last detail of the Maine based father/son painting duo.  Next, we came across the inspiration mother lode.  We both were head over heals enchanted with the museum’s collection of American Indian art; the traditional pieces that are genuine treasures, as well as the current exhibit of modern Indian art called Super Indian, bright and bold paintings by the late and provocative Indian painter Fritz Scholder.
I had no idea that in just a moment inspiration would hit me. Suddenly, everything in front of my eyes became a spark of an idea. I could see how to just take a tiny hint of what I was seeing and convert it to my own medium of fabric and furniture.   Mind you, nothing about this fresh mental stimulation had any hint of copycatting involved. It could have been just a color, a material or a shape that started the wheels turning. I began to take photos (no flash, please) so that I could refer back when I got back to my studio.

One of the rooms off of the Fritz Scholder exhibit was filled with hanging pieces of authentic ‘barkcloth’, not the mid century fabrics, but the real, original stuff.

True bark cloth is made from fibers pounded out of tree bark and woven into necessary items.

It is often marked with tribal designs.

When I saw these pieces, all I could think of was how right on trend the tribal design is right now in home furnishings.  Coincidentally, I’ve been wanting to play around with block printing and fabric appliques to use as upholstery fabric yardage.  I started snapping photos. Again, no copycatting, just creative play with tiny seedlings of ideas.

This was exactly what I needed to get out of my rut and start creating handmade upholstery textiles of some kind. Those hanging pieces of barkcloth and all kinds of Indian pieces were pointing me in the right direction.

How easy and relatively inexpensive was that? One museum trip provided the food for creative thought. I knew I was headed this way, but I needed to a jolt of enthusiasm to get going. This was the tiniest spark for the creative combustion to come. The old designs cover everything–floral, geometric, modern, neutral, contrasty, and even little punches of color. Without copying one single thing here, I have enough fresh inspiration to keep me busy for months.




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