Monday, February 8, 2016

Filling the Well - Doing the Work

Walking through Wellington's Botanical Gardens again this week, I am reminded of a concept I first heard about in Julia Cameron's well-known book, "The Artist's Way". She talks about "filling the well" - exposing oneself to all sorts of experiences, and the probability that they will encourage creative ideas to flourish. Sometimes I feel that my well is almost too full, and that the ideas outstrip my ability to flesh them out. Sometimes I feel that ideas are cheap - a substitute for doing the work. But I only have to spend time deep in the woods or walking along a beach to be reminded of how important these occasions are to my sense of well-being, and to the creative process. 

The improbable shapes of tree trunks, the gnarled mess of roots trying to find purchase, the flash of brilliant colour against the grey of the trunks, the myriad shapes and sizes of deciduous leaves - my eye takes these in, records them, and percolates them. In some mysterious way, some of them will inform the work I do. My job however, is not to figure out the connection between the two - filling the well and the work that results - but to just get out there and experience as much of it all as I can.

Julia Cameron talks about taking yourself on an "artist's date" once a week, and an outing such as this one fits the bill. However it could be something else entirely - a trip to the stationery store, to a gallery, to a museum, to a second-hand shop. Because there's just no telling where the next inspiration will come from. For example, I was at the Te Papa Museum here in Wellington last week, where I saw short clips of immigrants to New Zealand and their stories. They weren't flashy, but a wonderful compilation of the diverse experiences, speaking of when people came here, and why they left their own countries, and what they made of it all when they arrived. It spoke strongly to me, and I found I had tears in my eyes, hearing of these tales of brave individuals, going out into the unknown in the hopes of a better life for themselves and their families. Now the idea will simmer for a good long time, as I wonder if there is a way to express this concept in fabric.

But what happened back in my "studio" after all this "well-filling"? The piece I've been working on needed to be stitched, and I've been working on that. Soon it will be completed. I've called it "It's a Fine Line", and it's my response to an invitation to make a piece for the Fibre Arts Voices group exhibit "A Fine Line". The quote that inspired it is by Charles Hazelwood, a conductor who in describing Mozart's music, stated that "Mozart, in his music, captured this something that is the human condition . . . the fine line that we all constantly dance between joy and pain, between absolute happiness and absolute heartbreak."
So there it is in a nutshell - the cyclical dance between experience and response, between inspiration and creative ideas, and between feeling deeply about something and then trying to express it in fabric. A series of circles really, overlapping and unending.


  1. Beautiful work, Pippa, and a thoughtful reflection. I think I need to take myself off on an artist's date...except, on the agenda, I find, "Buy a new dishwasher." Should be time for both, eh?

  2. Thank you, Jessie, and thank you for reading. May you find lots of time for taking care of business and for expressing your creative self.