Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sharing Creativity – Inspiration Gift Exchange

The holidays are stressful times for all of us! Between all the parties and plans, food making and shopping, it's easy to loose your creative spirit.  I usually make at least some of the gifts every year, but I always have a hard time when I start thinking about what to make for my mom.

You might remember from my intro post that my mom is a fiber artist. She's very creative and into many different realms of creating with fiber - from processing and dying the raw fiber, spinning yarn, and weaving or knitting the yarn into finished goods. What I struggle with is that she doesn't wear jewelry! And at this point, I've beaded enough cutesy household stuff for her too, like the beadwork on this fireplace match basket.
Several years ago, she expressed the same sentiment to me - how many knitted hats does one need, after all. So we came up with a new way to approach the gifts we give to each other. Instead of sending a specific gift to the other person, we send items to inspire the other person's creativity.

 I'm pretty sure it all started when Mom mentioned to me that she had been making felt ball pin cushions to sell. Well, I wanted some felt balls! I remember making them as a child – wadding different colors of wool into a pair of pantyhose, tying knots between sections, and running them through a hot wash cycle. An easy fun fiber project for bored kids, they use up a lot of wool that isn't really yarn quality, and they don't break windows when thrown indoors. She makes them slightly differently now, to make larger more compacted balls, then cuts them in half for pin cushion use. But not every blob of wool felts properly. I mentioned that I might be able to use balls that weren't as dense in the middle for some creative project...and the exchange began.

Elementia was the first sculpture I made with a felt ball...well, this one was more like a felt rock! Flat on one side, and much larger than the other balls, I was very inspired to make something out of this hunk of wool. I sculpted a large polymer clay face, glued it down, and basically just used the felt ball as a base for large scale bead embroidery. The interior of some of these balls may be too loose to cut into, but the outside is perfect for stitching on.

Here is another example – my representation of Proginoskes from A Wind in the Door by Madeline L'Engle. Progo is a cherubim, so not only did I take inspiration from the description of the character in the book...but I also researched biblical and historical references to cherubim, and tried to incorporate all the different themes. Because the ball was round on the bottom this time, I hammered a few nails through a piece of wood in a grouping of three, and speared the ball to keep it in place. This also gave me a base to decorate.

I have two more felt ball sculptures in the works right now. One is going to be a circus monkey – the face is a molded fabric vintage doll mask. This is going to be my first attempt at joining multiple balls together...I suspect there will be some hot glue involved to hold everything in place for stitching. Occasionally the wool doesn't felt properly on the outside, and the ball ends up with pockets or strange crevices. You can see I've started a bit of beading on what will eventually be a marsupial animal sculpture. I've always been fascinated by marsupials of any kind, so creating my own will be fun.

She has also sent me weaving samples, flat pieces of pre-felt, and other fun things, that stretch my brain into the realm of mixed media beading.  I have an idea to use one of these woven samples as the flap on a leather bag, but haven't gone beyond the idea phase yet.  Still, anything that gets the brain scheming is what's important in our inspiration exchanges.

So what does a beader send a fiber artist for inspiration? Sometimes its as simple as a selection of artisan or antique buttons. Sometimes I make buttons or other large toggle style closures. This button is stitched around a polymer clay shank button that I made, in an attempt to make a marigold.

One year Mom mentioned that she had been looking through my doll making books, and that she might want to make an art doll with some of her handwoven fabric. So I made this polymer clay face that she can use as a mask on a cloth body.

This year Mom has a brand new, digitally programmed loom, and she's going to experiment with weaving iridescent fabric. Well, I am obsessed with iridescence in anything, so I am pulling some things from my stash that I think might inspire her. I went through my fabric, and cut swatches of all the iridescent fabrics I had. What makes a fabric look iridescent is when the warp and weft threads are different colors. If you look at the edges of the fabric swatches above, you will see that the color of the threads on each edge are different. I hope she can use these fabrics as palette inspiration!

I am also going to go through my beads and buttons, and send her a small stash of things that have an aurora borealis, iris, or otherwise multicolored finish. Perhaps these will inspire her as closures or embellishments for her finished pieces.

If you have creative people in your life, this type of gift exchange might work for you! Not only is it much less stressful than finding a traditional gift, but it is so rewarding to be able to contribute to someone's creative process. I love to feel that, even 2,300+ miles apart, I can be a part of Mom's creativity. And even if the items that we send to each other never get used in a finished piece, they still contribute to the process. Receiving and working with Mom's fiber pieces has pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and that just causes my artistry to grow – allowing me to see new materials differently, and use them in ways that other beaders might not have thought of. I hope this post gives you all some ideas for working with the other creative people in your lives!



  1. I super love this post - as artists we draw inspiration from so many things. I love watching Project Runway to see the creative process each designer takes - its neat to see it in progress! I love the idea of being a part of someone else's creative process regardless of distance. Thank you for sharing, Linds!

  2. All that beautiful fiber makes my toes curl!! So much fun to see your collaborations between you and your mom! A digital loom!!! oh my!!!

  3. What a fascinating post Lindsay and what a creative pair you and your mom are! Sadly none of my family are creatively inclined but hen I do have my AJE family to fall back on for inspiration. BTW I am in love with that purple/ochre woven piece - yum!

  4. Great post Lindsay, I think this is a wonderful way to exchange gifts.


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