One of the questions I get asked sometimes is ‘where do you find inspiration?’. And although this question might illicit eye rolls from some creatives (I mean, it IS the go to question for every interview), I actually don’t mind at all. Because personally I understand the value of learning more about the inspiration gathering process.
Because it IS a process. Even creative geniuses who churn out mountains of unique work will admit (maybe begrudgingly) that they source their inspiration from somewhere. But in a world where it’s so easy to get all our inspiration online and via social media, and when those online sources are dictated by algorithms that mainly show us what’s trending or things we’ve already seen, it’s no surprise that you can end up feeling less than inspired.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not me saying you should delete all your Pinterest boards and social accounts. I mean, Pinterest is amazing and has helped me discover talented creators and makers from all over the world. And introduced me to techniques and skills I never knew about. AND singlehandedly connected me hundreds of thousands of readers last month alone… All that aside, I think that relied on too much and as your only source of inspiration, it can stifle your personal creativity. A while ago I decided I wanted to challenge and grow my creativity (I talked about it here) and this has led me to seeking out creative, and more authentic, or surprising sources of inspiration. Read on for a few things I’m doing!
Old Magazines & Books
There’s nothing wrong with inspiration, trust me. I mean, every dress you want to buy right now is an update on a 1960’s classic, and all that rattan that adorns your house was popular in the 30’s, 80’s and now. Trends are cyclical and bound to come back around, so it can be useful to look back in order to see the way forward. That’s just my approach anyway! One place that I start is looking at old books and magazines. My favourite? Old craft magazines with long forgotten techniques that can be brought into the now with an updated material or setting.
I am absolutely addicted to antique stores. I have to admit! Not just as a place to source my junk (that I later have to Marie Kondo out of my life), but somewhere to get ideas for new projects and products. I think for me it helps to look at what is in there in the context of how it can be transformed or updated for a more modern feel, or juxtaposed with other things to bring it into the now.
Art imitates life etc etc etc. But honestly, artists test the boundaries of our thinking and this is a great way to get some creative inspiration. Often a small technique, skill or idea can translate to what you’re thinking about. And don’t stick to just the modern art where things are most relatable… Check out some of the older stuff or anything seriously kooky. The more the better!
Restaurants and bars
Going to throw this one in here, not only as a means to justify my love of eating out (although that’s a factor), but the skill that goes into designing a space is huge, and how different materials, finishes and furnishings come together can be amazing inspiration.
People around you
This might sound a bit weird, but people you see, whether it be on the street, on public transport, at the bank. Really anywhere, have the potential to inspire. It really is just a matter of being a bit more observant.
Have I mentioned how much I love vintage photos? My parents has all these amazing photos of my grandparents when they were young and growing up in Sri Lanka, there is just so much inspiration in there. In one of those photos I feel like the dress my great aunt is wearing is SO NOW. Maybe she still has it somewhere?
I know! Sound a bit lame doesn’t it? But honestly, nature can be a fantastic inspiration if you let it. Not only are the textures, sights and sounds exactly what your next idea or project may be needing, but the relief from screens that nature provides is when you’re most likely to have a really powerful idea. Just a thought!
In our hyper visual world you might forget that ugly things can have merit too! I mean, social media has really raised the bar when it comes to presentation of pretty much everything. I myself know that my own expectations of what I do require things to look great at all times. But things that aren’t so great looking – an old wall paper, a wall with peeling paint, a garden with lots of weeds – can hold lots of inspiration if you let them.