Welcome to the Unknown - It is the wide-open doorway to Creative Expression
by Laura Gasparrini
In teaching beading for over15 years, I have met hundreds of women just starting out on their creative journey. For many of these women, beading is a way to step through the doorway of creativity - it is an accessible medium, easily transportable, and seemingly friendly in terms of the perceived artistic ability needed to start. Comfortable, doable, easy. Often with just a few lessons a budding jewelry designer can be well on her way to creating jewelry for fun and profit.
One of the most common methods of learning foundational techniques in any artform is through the process of imitation. An interested beading artist can find plenty of magazines, videos, and tutorials with replicable projects for the taking. Beginning and experienced jewelry artists alike can find ample opportunity to recreate the designs of others, and practice, practice, practice.



But how can a budding designer take the leap from imitation to inspiration? How does an artist move from imitating to expressing her unique vision?

In my classes I bundle the essential learning of techniques with toe-dipping opportunities for personal expression - through choice in bead type, color and pattern. Some students are thrilled with the freedom that open-ended instruction offers; at the same time, I have seen many of my students freeze when they are not provided a cookbook-style lesson. Whimpers of "I don't know what to do!" arise along with doubt, fear, nervousness and comments like, "Hey, I thought this is supposed to be fun!"
Laura Gasparrini's Welcome to the Unknown - It is the wide-open doorway to Creative Expression  - , Design, Design, unknowing
At our local college, I began each 10-week beginning beading class by explaining my teaching philosophy: that my intention is to provide clear instruction and ample practice in the foundational techniques, but that I do not teach cookbook-style "projects". I do not expect nor would I feel good about everyone walking out of class with a piece, exact in color and design - in fact I would feel mortified! I believe the learning of technique and creative expression can be facilitated at the same time; I know also that getting the flow of creativity moving can feel mighty uncomfortable at first. Only half-jokingly, I tell my students that I'm fine with that.



When starting a project, it is ok to feel like you don't know what to pick, how to move forward, what your end product will look like. In fact, when shifting from a prescribed way of doing anything to an innovative path, the often uncomfortable place of unknowing is essential. This discomfort is the doorway to problem solving, innovation, personal vision, and invention; it is the place where creativity lives.



All this talk about discomfort and why it's beneficial is well and good, but creating art of any type requires actually doing something, doesn't it? So, how do you step out of the frozen feeling of not being able to start? How can you get out of your head and into the creative flow?


Here's a quick exercise I teach my students for choosing beading materials when the mind feels confused about what to pick. This method of assessment is taken from my work in the healing arts, and is used for "seeing" with the inner eye and tapping into intuition. You can adapt this method for any artistic endeavor.
Laura Gasparrini's Welcome to the Unknown - It is the wide-open doorway to Creative Expression  - , Design, Design, junk necklace
Be a Crow!
When it comes to gathering beads and materials for my pieces, I do not think too hard about what I want to choose. In fact, I try to do the opposite.

Here's my suggestion for you: Look at your materials with "soft eyes", and gaze over your bead stash. I like to call it "Being a Crow".
What beads, materials . . . do you notice first?
What catches your eye?


Choose those beads, and put them on your bead mat. Repeat this gathering process for beads, spacers, clasps and any other necessary components. The key is not to think too deeply about it. If you find yourself trying to "decide" something, close your eyes for a moment. When you open them again, soften your gaze and start gently scanning your materials again.

I don't always use every bead I choose for a piece, but that's ok. If I don't use a bead, I scratch it off my list for that particular design, and put it back for future use in another project.

Approaching color and choosing materials this way lets your intuition and creativity lead the way. This simple but effective process can help us jump over the hurdle of feeling stuck when our mind can't decide what to pick.
Laura Gasparrini's Welcome to the Unknown - It is the wide-open doorway to Creative Expression  - , Design, Design, be a crow
Moving through the discomfort of unknowing to create a piece that is truly one's own builds confidence, flexes artistic muscles and taps into intuition. Navigating the creative process helps us learn to trust ourselves and not take our fears and self doubt so seriously.

In terms of the creative process, it truly doesn't matter if a finished piece is a success or a dud, because from there you can find new direction, new inspiration. If something works for you, do more of that; alter it a bit and see where it leads you. While our goal may be for every project to turn out well, our best teachers can be the very pieces that don't work out - the "flops" help us see what needs to shift, and they shed light on what to do differently the next time around.

Embarking on the path of creativity is a courageous act, one that heals, enlightens and brings more beauty into the world. And thankfully and awe-inspiringly, it is a path that is open to all.
Laura Gasparrini's Welcome to the Unknown - It is the wide-open doorway to Creative Expression  - , Design, Design, trust yourself
Not sure that's true for you? Feeling stuck, not sure how to begin? Well, welcome to the unknown; the path of creativity is right up ahead. Take a deep breath; you're in the right place, and yes, you can do this.
Laura Gasparrini's Welcome to the Unknown - It is the wide-open doorway to Creative Expression  - , Design, Design, you can do it

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  • Category: Design
  • Technique(s): Design