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How I Push Past Creative Blocks and Find Inspiration 

Karin Jacobson about me design process

Did you know that Writer’s Block has an evil cousin named Designer’s Block? I’m well acquainted with this sinister figure, having met her several times per year since I first started designing my own jewelry. Sometimes she shows up as a fog that prevents my brain from focusing on anything at all, other times she’s a little voice in my head that shouts down any potential ideas as trite or boring. As you can tell, I’m not a huge fan.

Luckily, I’ve met  Designer’s Block so many times that I’ve come up with some strategies for evading her grasp! Many of them are my go-tos even when I’m not feeling blocked and just want to explore new design ideas. Any time I need to start a new project or cook up new jewelry designs, here’s where I start:

Finding Jewelry Design Inspiration: The Physical

My primary idea-generation strategy can be summed up in two simple words: get out. This can mean out of town if I’m lucky, but usually it just means out of the studio, or even out of my own head! Often my issue is not lack of ideas, but overabundance of ideas; with all of them swimming around in my brain, I feel muddled and overwhelmed. Getting away from my usual environment helps me sort through everything and get clear on which ideas are worth pursuing.

  • Going for a walk is probably my favorite way to get my thoughts in order. If I need to really focus, a long walk is ideal. One of my favorite places to walk is from my home to the Mississippi River where there are parks and trails, and the scenic Stone Arch Bridge.
  • Challenging exercise is great for re-organizing my brain in a different way.  When I walk, I use that time to mull over the problem, but when I’m focused on getting a good hard workout, I often *can’t* think about the problem during that time. The result is a clearer head when I return to mulling.
  • Getting out can include going to a museum, to the library, or even to the movies if I am looking for inspiration. If I allow my mind to wander, often something will strike me as an idea worth following.
  • Window shopping can be fantastic, too. Studying how other people display product makes me think about how I want an entire collection to look as opposed to just one piece.
places in minneapolis to find inspiration karin jacobson jewelry design
Clockwise from top left: a view of the Mississippi from the Stone Arch Bridge; trails along the Mississippi River at Father Hennepin Park; visiting the Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center; and a pretty view through an archway in Northeast Minneapolis.

Finding Jewelry Design Inspiration: The Intellectual

Since my challenge is often a flood of ideas that need sorting, getting physical is definitely my preferred method for inspiration distillation. However, I also have a handful of more contemplative, meditative methods for sparking new ideas.

  • Art museums, art books, and galleries really rev up my creativity. I love studying everything from drawing to sculpture when I’m thirsty for design inspiration. (Side note: although I think it’s important to keep an eye on the jewelry design world, I mostly prefer to look at other types of art. I don’t want to inadvertently get inspired by other jewelry designs and end up making something similar!)
  • Talking to someone – anyone I trust who’s a good listener – about my ideas can be incredibly fruitful. Nothing clarifies an idea like being forced to explain it to someone else! In this case, it can be especially helpful to chat with someone who isn’t a part of the design field, because I have to be especially clear about what I want to make and why the design is compelling. Sometimes just hearing myself describe an idea out loud helps me decide if it’s amazing, or a total dud.
  • Asking myself some bigger-picture questions is especially helpful for merging the artistic and business aspects of jewelry design. In my case, these might include:
    • How does this design idea fit into my collection?
    • Who do I think would want to wear this piece?
    • Will it work better for production or one of a kind?
  • Sketch, sketch, and sketch some more. And I don’t mean nice drawings, just visual notes to remind me of my thought process. Getting ideas out of my head onto a notepad is a lot like trying to explain them to someone else; it really helps to clarify my thoughts.

Finding Jewelry Design Inspiration: The Actionable

Finally, a great way to banish Designer’s Block is to just start doing! Usually the first several iterations of any idea don’t work out that well for me anyway; I’ll work one or two days on a design, hate the result, sleep on it, try again, and finally hit on an iteration that I love. I’m not sure I ever get past a creative block in my head or on paper, if I’m being honest. It takes actually making something to really see where the idea is headed.

I’d love to hear from you other creatives! How do YOU cope with Designer’s Block? Would any of my methods work for you? Got any others to share?

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