Friday, October 21, 2011

TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF – Nurturing the Creative Impulse

Discovery is born of curiosity. I find interesting things because I’m fascinated with the way Nature works. I want to see where things come from, where they’re going and what makes them tick. I've make it a point not to let myself get so preoccupied of mind and heart that I fail to notice beauty when I see it, or lack the time and inclination to dig for it when I don’t. For I know the beauty’s always there.

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.

        Put yourself with Nature. Give yourself 
        to Nature. Be Nature.

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.


Grace said...

That is a lovely lamp. For me the creative impulse makes me move (dance, yoga) or cook! I don't have much talent for taking ideas and turing them into something tangiable, like crafts or painting--always looks much better in my head:)

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hey Grace -- Thanks for dropping by!! Yeah, that's an interesting distinction in how creativity's expressed by different people -- physically, cerebrally, selfishly, altruistically, in words, images, music...
What a blessing when we find that right expression, right?

Melody said...

I'm really impressed by the thought process that led you to the lamp shade idea. (The lamp shade you have pictured is beautiful)! You've got me thinking about how I might be able to cultivate my mind in such a way that allows me to remain open to creative inspiration. Thank you!

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hi Melody -- Thanks for stopping by One Man's Wonder today! I see from your blog that you're a thoughtful, aware person. THat's the first step -- I just encourage you to be curious and look at everything you see in different ways. Turn things over, look under things, employ more than the most obvious of your senses. And, most important, EXPECT wonder everywhere you look!
I hope you'll come back now and then, and that you'll share my link with others. Thanks!!

Meg said...

Jeff, another gem! This post is chock-o-block full of great suggestions for re-charging the creative batteries! Here's my suggestion to you--sell your lamps on your website! The one depicted is gorgeous! You are a man of many talents!

Jeffrey Willius said...

Thanks, Meg. My lampshade crafting kind of petered out for lack of a better way to coat the whole surface once I'd adhered all the leaves.

Long story, but I'll follow your advice as soon as I can turn up a laminating material/process I like better than the one I used on my first dozen shades.

Meanwhile I'm focusing on the blog and my book...

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff...yes, my picture book idea started THAT way in my garden! AND I continue to enjoy our lovely leaf lamp!!!! Ruth Ann

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hey Ruth Ann -- I know you get lots of inspiration in the garden, and your fabulous "Daisy" book is a great example. I'm so glad you're finding such success in sharing the wisdom (and fun). Can't wait to see the finished product!

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