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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Cole

Creative ‘clutter’, cycles of inspiration & rest, and curative creativity breaks.

An exploration of the pauses between projects, and the beneficial moments of rest from creative productivity, that ultimately bring renewed energy and inspiration... plus a mini-craft tutorial at the end for making your own beautiful storage boxes.


After possibly the rainiest March we’ve known for a long time in our corner of the world, the sun is finally beginning to shine through and even though it’s still quite chilly out, it finally seems like spring is in the air! And by contrast, this winter passed feels somehow longer and deeper than any in a good while…

I wrote in my last fairy update about taking things a little slower, as well as spending time sorting out my craft cupboards and tidying up… in fact, this was also the theme of my spring blog post on the PowerWood website, and I’m still enjoying bursts of sorting and re-organising a few neglected spots of our home even now. Last week I sorted and restored a tiny cabinet on our kitchen side that had gathered all sorts of collections of teas, remedies, vitamins and trinkets since the children were small and was long over-due a clean-up! It’s so beautiful now that it’s all shiny and clean, and I’m quite proud of myself for finally making the time to sort it! I also managed to make myself some lovely storage boxes out of re-cycled shoe-boxes – something I had meant to do in the run-up to Christmas as a practical craft with the purpose of storing our decorations afterwards but there simply wasn’t the time… I then found some beautiful decopatch papers in the most amazing stationary shop, PostScript, Frome, during a visit to the Frome Independent Market in March, and I decided to make my boxes as a spring project instead. It got me to thinking a lot about creative cycles, rhythms, and natural breaks, that are healthy and part of the process, but can be so easily forgotten.

It's too easy to feel guilty about allowing creative breaks however needed they may be, and to instead give in to the subtle pressure to always be busy and productive. But I always try to remind myself of the positives of creative rest phases; knowing deep down that they are essentially part of the creative process – in the same way that our bodies continue to work during a night’s sleep, I think we’re always working on our creative projects even when we’re not! They bubble away beneath the surface and sometimes in fact, it’s only when we step away from a project that deeper subconscious connections are made and the ‘ah ah’ moments come! I always get so many ideas when I’m doing the washing up, or out for a walk – which is then always channelled back into whatever I’m creating when I do get back to it… deliberately allowing space and breaks away from our creative endeavours can make them even better in the end. Sometimes that space is used for actively reflecting – which is useful, but not always essential – often the break in and of itself is enough and new ideas and perspectives will still come through.

I find that when I do return to my creative projects after a break, it is often with a much greater urgency and a renewed level of energy. Things can flow more easily, come together with less effort, I can look up to discover I’ve finished a project, lost several hours of time, and not noticed at all! Working in energetic ‘bursts’ in this way, I think reflects cycles within the creative process that happen naturally – each phase of a project will have a particular energy, with the reflective phases towards the end of a project or in between projects being a natural rest phase. Whether we consciously plan it or not, resting and taking a break is integral to the transition between projects and will happen anyway, so why not embrace it!?

Breaks are also the time we can use to actively gather inspiration and fill our own well. Julia Cameron advocates for the idea of ‘artists dates’ – consciously taking the time and making appointments for ourselves – preferably once a week – to nourish our artist-selves through going on an artist date. This can be anything that we find fun, interesting, stimulating, playful… and I think, essentially also restful and uplifting. Anything that gives a feeling of inspiration, or sparks curiosity, and without the pressure to do or make anything as a result. Whilst I love this idea, I confess to struggling to find the time to do this every week… But I do find that consciously allowing myself to take a break and change my focus has a similar result, and most recently decluttering my cupboards and giving myself to time to make formerly very messy spaces beautiful again, has been a bit like giving myself time for artists’ dates 😊

Taking time out – or – changing the pace of output a little – is also a good opportunity to experiment with new ideas, try out new hobbies, crafts or activities that offer a break from our usual work, but can also eventually feed back into it, with new skills and techniques having been acquired. I’ve enjoyed playing around with different styles of fairy clothes over the last couple of months and have so far been very pleased with the results!

Sometimes creative cycles might align with seasonal cycles, either in a broad or a small way, and at other times they might be completely at odds with the seasons – and I do wonder whether sometimes this can create a need for an even deeper pause when one finally comes!? For example, there is a natural urge to hibernate in the autumn, yet it can culturally, be one of the busiest times of the year. January into February and beyond inevitably feels like a time to rest. I’ve always loved the lesson from nature, or farming in particular, of land laying fallow for a period of time; a fallow period being a time where not much is happening; no seeds are being sewn, the land is not productive at that time… it is resting, restoring, rebalancing soil nutrients – the land is still ‘working’ at the microscopic level even when it is not productive. I do believe it is that way with creativity too. We might not really have the luxury of an entire fallow season, but micro-breaks can still be useful and the occasional slowing down can work wonders too. My winter de-cluttering and tidying up, has felt like a kind of balancing activity a bit like nutrients restoring in the soil and making way for the new growth and getting ready to embrace all the ideas bubbling away under the surface with the fresh energy of spring!

As for my clutter that I’ve been working my way through in my breaks this winter; well, there’s still plenty around, but lots of it still inspires me and I love to have it around me so it’s here to stay a little longer! Meanwhile, there are quite a few little treasures, and a fair few creative materials, that I still would like to have to hand, but don’t need to be out on display – some of these will be going into my hand-made storage boxes… the short tutorial below shows how I made them, in case you ever fancied putting your old shoe boxes to new use too… 😊

In other news, the little fairy in the picture above has made her way into my shop here… her cute bunny ears are removable meaning she is not just for Easter but can be displayed all year round too (her ears can be popped back on as an Easter decoration each spring!). They are partly inspired by the cute bunny ear headbands that we made in March and will definitely be wearing for our Easter-egg hunts this year, they are so cute and fun! You can find out how to make your own here. And there’s also a sweet little Easter colouring sheet that I drew a few years back – feel free to have a look and print for your little ones to colour!

Wishing you the warmest spring and a lovely Easter break with plenty of playful moments, rest, and hopefully more and more nature adventures outside as the weather warms too!

P.S. Here is the mini-tutorial for upcycling shoe-boxes into beautiful personalised storage to suit your own space... xxx

Happy Crafting!


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