Sunday, August 10, 2014

Musings on Creativity

Lately I've been working on a series of Bird Totems. I'm really loving this idea and each time I approach the subject, I continue to expand on the idea and improve it. Watching it evolve is a lot of fun.

Here are some of my pieces...

Here are some newer pieces, in clay (not yet fired)... one of the images shows my hand carved stamps used to create the belly symbols. I am playing with the idea of the Bird Totem as symbolic of the Bird  as Messenger - who brings us insights, messages, and gifts of inspiration from the inner workings of our soul / consciousness, and from the connection we have with sources outside of ourselves and our everyday world.

About Creativity and How Art Happens... 

As artists, we sometimes play with ideas, not really knowing where the underlying sources of inspiration come from. Upon seeing my bird totems, a friend pointed out that they reminded him of native american art, especially that of Pacific Northwest nations. Fascinated, I looked up some of the art of these sources and was immediately excited. I love the idea of art as a dialogue with our our selves, our culture, other artists, and historical - often ancient - sources. Art is not created in a vacuum, but rather, works as a kind of PLAY on themes both old and new. I emphasize the word "Play" because it is critical to step outside of one's routine and get into a state of absolute flow. One must not worry or fuss about the particulars (such as planning what to make, how to make it) of a particular meme or idea, but rather, continue to play with it, riffing on it with each iteration. The particulars happen as part of the flow. This flow must not be interrupted by our logical reasoning daytime brain. Moreover, it is important to sometimes "sleep on ideas" - when one is stuck or tired, just allow it to rest, go to bed and approach it anew.

Here are some of the native american pieces that I find absolutely fascinating and inspiring. I was not consciously aware of this body of work prior to making my bird totems, but when I reflect back I clearly see a line of evolution... (these are all images from the Shaw Collection at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY.

Thoughts about Creativity from John Cleese...

Finally, I would like to share a lecture by John Cleese, about how we create. I think you will find this enlightening... particularly about the notion of how our unconsciousness contributes to the creative process...  I invite you to watch and learn...


  1. Love this post! Your art... the connection to native culture... beautiful!

  2. I knew exactly who was presenting the a Blog today, at first glance/first picture (without peeking), because your art is so beautifully unique, Karen! These little owls with their totem bellies are amazing! Thank you for sharing the inspiration.

  3. What a wonderful, thoughtful look into creativity. I absolutely love your bird totems, and agree with you 100% on everything you said. Thanks so much for sharing! (I love Cleese, too - awesome video!!)

  4. I was listening to a TED talk about originality and how everything is influenced by something, It was primarily about music but I think that I really applies to everything. I do like your birds and you have made the your own which according to the TED talk means that they aren't a copy.

  5. So appreciate the idea of bird as messenger of aspects of our inner life. Your bird totems are evolving into something quite special. Your observations on creativity are well-timed for me, thank you for this post.


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