Once I find something beautiful, my curiosity doesn’t stop there. It’s like appreciating a gift so much that you can’t wait to open it, turn it over, examine it from all sides and play with it.
It’s like appreciating a gift so much that you can’t wait to open it, turn it over, examine it from all sides and play with it.
This is how one of my hobbies came to be. One autumn afternoon many years ago, I was walking to the Metrodome for a session of indoor roller-blading. I was kind of in a zone—you know, that abundant state of mind where ideas flow freely and all thoughts are positive.
While shuffling through a pile of dry leaves, for some reason I decided to pick one up and look at it closely. As I turned it over, it happened to catch a glint of late afternoon sun. As if autumn leaves weren’t wonderful enough, the light coming through this one just seemed to ignite it with color. All the veins and little irregularities, silhouetted against that bright background, made it all the more stunning.
I stopped right outside of Gate D and wondered, How could I make something out of leaves that would cause light to shine through them and show off these rich textures, this incredible, radiant color? Without hesitation, the muse of creativity answered: Make lampshades out of them.
Long story short: I’d seen lampshades with a few leaves applied to the surface, but what I do is to cover the entire shade with them, arrayed in elegant swaths and patterns. Working on a light table, I sometimes allow the leaves to overlap, creating secondary shapes and shades of color.
Other, more painstaking designs call for cutting and tiling the leaf material for a sort of mosaic effect. Then I cover the whole montage with a sheer paper film, which, once coated with a special sealer, adheres to the leaves and dries transparent.
Once an idea like this germinates, the
creative impulse begins to take on a life,
an energy, of its own.
I’ve collected and pressed many varieties of leaves, discovering more surprising qualities as I’ve worked with them. Among my favorites are the leaves of grape vine. When dried and applied to the shade, they’re a muted, mossy green. But turn on the lamp, and the color changes to a sumptuous burgundy.
The point of all this is that I had to make—or, perhaps more accurately, let—several things happen in order for this idea to come to life:
- I had to be “in a good place,” my mind calm, positive and receptive to discovering something new.
- I had to let my curiosity move me to pick up the leaf and look at it.
- I had to notice when that fleeting ray of sunlight hit the leaf.
- I had to allow myself to think of the possibilities.
- I had to take the first step toward making those possibilities into realities.
Once an idea like this germinates, the creative impulse begins to take on a life, an energy, of its own. You’ve probably been there: you go to bed at night so full of ideas and plans that you can hardly get to sleep. And you wake in the morning thinking breakfast is little more than an inconvenience standing between you and the work at hand. You believe in yourself.
Would you agree that one might be considered lucky to experience this kind of creative energy once or twice in a lifetime? I suggest that, with some deliberate cultivation and a bit of practice, you can summon it anytime at all.
Where does one start in nurturing the creative impulse? I can think of no better place than in Nature. It starts inside, in your soul, in your spirit, but it’s everywhere. Put yourself with Nature. Give yourself to Nature. Be Nature.