Finding My Creative Voice

Your (creative) voice is the confluence of inspiration, dedicated practice, and strategic risk.” – Todd Henry

I love sewing gifts for loved ones close to me. Initially it was my idealistic nature that thought homemade was better than store bought (which arguably, it still may be). But as time has passed I have realize that, in a lovingly selfish way, it’s my time to reflect on the friendship I hold with that person. Fabric is chosen to reflect their personality or taste. Design is thought through to what will be practical for them. And while doing the actual sewing I anticipate how they will use the gift and hope that it will hold many new memories for them. So whether it’s a gift to celebrate the birth of a new addition in the family, a stitched hug for the loss of someone close, a change in life circumstance or simply just adding to the collection in a young persons tickle trunk of costumes, I’ve stitched a lot of love into my creations with loved ones in mind.

(Picture Above: In 2014 Andy and I hiked the 75km West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. As a birthday gift to him, I created a quilt to reflect our memories of the hike.)

This source of drive for sewing has introduced me to many new techniques. It has allowed me to experiment with different fabrics and colors I would have not normally chosen to work with, and it has given me a purpose behind my sewing that’s been unstoppable. I am grateful for this drive, and I hope to maintain it, however in my attempt to develop my creative journey I want to become mindful in developing a more intrinsic drive to my sewing. I want to learn how to listen to my creative voice and experiment with my own creative expression.

In an attempt to understand what this curious inclination is, that keeps popping up in my head, I needed to know what a ‘Creative Voice’ was anyways?! And why does this voice want to be heard? I came across a few websites, blogs and articles that I have linked up in the ‘Inspiration’ section below. But I found the article written by Todd Henry the most helpful. 

(Picture Above: Back of Quilt. The fabric was chosen to be masculine in colour. The length and width were thought out so that two tall individuals would be able to watch tv on the couch with no toes peeking out.)

According to Henry “Your voice is how you’re recognized by others. It’s the tone your collective body of work takes, and it speaks to your values and the unique perspective and skill you bring to the work.” He goes further in breaking down discovering your own creative voice into four phases. These phases are not distinct unto them selves, but rather work together and are forever evolving. A person might stay in a phase for years or move through quickly or be in simultaneous phases with different mediums/parts of their life at the same time. They are not concrete phases. However they are phases one can use to create awareness and help develop on the journey of creative discovery. I have attempted to paraphrase each phase below.

Four Phases of Developing your Creative Voice

  1. Discovery Phase
  2. Emulation Phase
  3. Divergence Phase
  4. Crisis Phase

1 – Discovery Phase

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein

The inspiration phase. It’s what stirs your soul with happiness and love. You know that feeling? Someone else’s work ‘speaks’ to your creative voice. It’s what you view as beautiful and causes your curiosity to stir. It’s YOUR style, YOUR colors, YOUR esthetics that you recognize in someone else’s work. Have the courage to follow what inspires you in, because it’s unique to you and it’s leading you somewhere amazing! There is no time line for this phase, it takes it’s own course, but this is the phase where it’s easy to get stuck. It’s easy to recognize what you like, but it takes work to create it yourself.

“Do whatever brings you to life. Follow your fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” Elisabeth Gilbert Big Magic

2 – Emulation Phase

The work phase. Practice, dedication, trial and error. It’s using the influences found in the discovery phase and emulating their work and practicing and perfecting a skill set. It’s about adding skills to your creative toolbox. Maybe it’s following the instruction of a pattern for a sewing project or following a new recipe that challenges your cooking skill. It introduces you to new techniques and helps in developing your taste.  This is the mentoring phase that takes time and dedication. Again it’s easy to stay in this phase, cause it’s comfortable. It’s a vulnerable leap forward that takes a step of faith and a belief in your own skill and taste.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  Brene Brown The Gifts of Imperfection

(Picture Above: I chose Batik fabric for it’s quality and richness in colour. Having never worked with batiks before I was impressed by the richness it brought to the quilt. I was also influenced by a collection of batiks that had outdoor and west coast motifs on it. Whales, mountains, eagles and trees)

3 – Divergence Phase  

“I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.” Pablo Picasso

Your unique creative voice has gone past the initial inspiration phase and the imitating of other’s creations and you have honed your own skill set. It’s in this phase that you start to reveal your soul and unravel your creative voice. You are able to put your own stamp on a project by not having to follow instructions and ideas start to naturally flowing from the toolbox of techniques you have built over the years. It’s a vulnerable phase cause a part of you starts to be revealed and it’s now open to opinion or critique. It’s in this phase where fear of being imperfect and the fear of the opinion of the critic can become paralyzing and debilitating.

“Creativity is the way I share my soul with the World.” – Brene Brown

(Picture Above: The colours used in the quilt were pieced together to reflect the sky, land, sea and deep sea. Working it’s way from the top to bottom. This is reflected on the front and back of the quilt. 

4 – Crisis Phase

“Don’t go to your grave with your best work inside of you. Choose to die empty.” – Todd Henry

It’s easy to repeat what you know cause it’s comfortable. Friends and family, maybe even customers, know your taste and your creative style cause you have been successful at listening to your creative voice inside you. You have been able to brand your work. However, it’s in this phase that you start to feel a little restless again. You intuitively start to feel like you need a new challenge to expand your creative voice and need to start expanding and experiment and looking for new inspiration. To move beyond this phase the phases are repeated.

“Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow, shame.” Brene Brown

(Picture Above: Detail picture of the machine free motion quilting used to quilt the blanket together)

I do believe we all have a creative voice that wants to be heard. Whether it’s in music, dance, a sport, fine arts or crafting, creativity is not limited. We all have something that peaks our interest. It’s that little voice in the back of the head that’s curious to know more. It doesn’t mean we’ll make a living off of it, or that we will be known world wide for our creative expression, but maybe there is something valuable in understanding ourselves while discovering our creative voice. I’m willing to follow my curiosity!

“Curiosity only does one thing, and that is to give. And what it gives you are clues on the incredible scavenger hunt of your life.” Elizabeth Gilbert


(Picture Above: The staggered layout of the quilt was chosen to represent the waves of the Pacific Ocean)

In the spirit of Henry’s quote “Your voice is the confluence of inspiration, dedicated practice, and strategic risk”, I have dedicated practice to a new skill and taken up coloring with thread (also known as embroidery). I have combined my love for maps and geometric design with colors I naturally gravitate towards. I started with an idea and I have followed it. I’m often hesitant about this kind of project because they usually don’t turn out how I initially imagined it in my head, but in the spirit of discovering my creative voice I will follow this project to completion. If all else fails, it will be a skills development project (sadly I have a lot of these ;P) But I will continue to move forward!!

(I’ll post a photo in a blog when the project is complete.)

Thought Provoker: What’s stirs your creative curiosity? Have you ever thought about what your creative voice looks like? At what phase do you find yourself according to Todd Henry’s 4 phases? Do you feel pushed to want to take conscious steps to the next phase or are you content with where you are at the moment? Maybe you have been through these phases many times before but never took time to consciously reflect on them. Can you relate to them?

Source of Inspiration: This week I am linking a few short talks by Elizabeth Gilbert. Following her success of writing Eat, Pray, Love, she has spent her time sharing her knowledge and passion about curiosity and creativity. Here is what she has discovered along the way.

Here are a few links to discovering your Creative Voice.

Next Blog Entry:  Slow Stitching

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Collection Posting: I’ve posted napkins with mitered corners this week on my online store. At the end of last year I invested 12+hrs into the process of pressing perfect mitered corners….just because I wanted to and it caused my heart to sing (I’m a geek, I know).  I put together a tablecloth, a table runner and 23 napkins for the dinning room table. Pictures Below.

And in the spirit of sharing things with you the reader, I put together a few sets of cloth napkins for my online store. Dinner Cloth napkins are 20″x20″ and the Cocktail Napkins are 12″x12″. (Click on the ‘Collection’ link on top of the page to see the Napkins in detail.)

This is where I will have to admit, I’m obsessed with cloth napkins, and I’ll tell you why.

1 – They’re simple to make. Time consuming yes, but simple. It can be as simple as serging or fraying the edges to sewing down double-folded edges. Or if straight lines and 45 degree corners speak to you, mitred corners are the way to go.

2 – Shows off the fabric. The natural texture of the fabric, or the print, is exemplified in the simple square of a napkin and brought with you to the table for every meal. Linen and rayon napkins are my heartthrobs.

3 – They’re REUSABLE! No need to go through paper napkins when you can reuse fabric ones!



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