It is with delight that I publish Emily’s beautiful essay on the importance of creativity and inspiration in our work . Emily Peacock is a British needlework designer, workshop instructor and one of the author’s of “Adventures In Needlework : Stitching with passion”. Her book is a refreshing departure from the mainstream but yet manages to keep itself deeply rooted in traditional technique . Buy it here.
Now grab a cup of coffee (or tea may be more appropriate) and enjoy what Emily has to share.
Over the last few years I have really enjoyed running creative workshops. I work from home, alone, and so along with the exhibitions and talks I do, workshops are the social aspect of my chosen career. The workshops I teach are centred around embroidery and canvas work, but they are not just technical How-Tos, but critically about inspiration. I teach the stitches, I explain the materials and techniques and then I give student the space to become the designer in the projects I set. This can be through their choice of colour, pattern, layout – wherever there is the freedom to stray within the parameters of the project: ‘A little structure, A little freedom’ is my motto when it comes to teaching. I also explain how students can move forward with what they have learnt and how to apply it to their own projects. I like the fact that the class may not have an end point that comes when the project is finished, but that what is learned can continue into the future with projects and ideas not yet imagined.
I put a lot of focus on creativity and inspiration because it very quickly occurred to me that the reason so many people sign up for workshops is because they are creatively frustrated. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with people where they list off all the things they are interested in, all the projects that have half finished and all the designers and companies they know of that they would love to emulate. I know their pain – I was like that for years myself. Behind what is often presented as an oh-so-cheerful crafty façade where we are encouraged to make things ‘just for fun’, is often a world of frustration and the desire to create something that feels meaningful. The secret is not to look outside at what everyone else is doing.
As I write this, I am reminded of an encounter with a student who was deeply frustrated as she did not know which way to go forward with her career. She was a strict Catholic whose religion was central to her life, she also had a qualification in Gemology and was now doing a degree in needlework. Although these things seemed disparate to her, it seemed to me that they could be perfectly synthesized. I saw needlework as the foundation where she could look at ecclesiastical embroidery and present it in her own way using semi-precious stones, which each have their own meaning. In this way she was using techniques she loved, materials she knew a lot about and the purpose was to express her religion. I have no idea what happened next in her story, but she left me smiling.
The other day I was listening to a podcast about living an authentic life. (As well as being a designer and maker, like so many others at this point in time, I am also a student of self-development). As I listened, I asked myself if I was being authentic when it came to my business. Do I practice what I preach? I have combined my background in graphic design and typography with my love of textiles to create a product an approach and designs that are unique. In short, I have told my story and yes, all of that is important to me. But stories change and we evolve and the more I am faced with the patronising and glib side of ‘crafting’ the more meaning I want to add to my work. So I am wondering what’s next for me, how much further I can go. It’s exciting. As creative souls, it’s so good to ask questions of ourselves and think about what aspects of our lives can feed into our work. It can be our role as a friend, a parent, the things we love and care about, where we live, our country of origin, the things that break our heart. When you think about all the different facets of who you are as an individual, you can’t stay stuck for long. Each of us is unique, each of us has a story. Let’s tell those stories.