How Do You Decide What to Make?

How Do You Decide What to Make?

I Don't Want to Be Square
I Don’t Want to Be Square

Getting started on a new project is difficult, even when one is excited about exploring an idea. This month I’ve been creating a website as a place to show my various forms of art work.  And I must say that I find creating electronically is more frustrating than creating with hands-on materials because the ways of computers and i-Phones are not intuitive for me.

Picking things up off the ground as I walk along has been a life long habit which likely started when my grandfather asked me to pick up worms after it rained to use for fishing bait. My mother used to tell the story of how I would make her stop on the way to the corner grocery if I saw a dead worm on the sidewalk to save for Grandpa. I was six then.

When I started making baskets in the mid-1980’s, picking up materials for the baskets went into high gear. I remember one year in Livermore, California, palm trees were being trimmed, and I picked up several huge date fruit stalk things and put them in the trunk of my car. The trimmers were amused and invited me to take all of them!

This winter during a week or more of wind and rain, the palms in the yard next door were shedding narrow green strips of fronds in addition to the dead brown whole pieces that usually come down. So of course, I started bringing these green strips inside. I realized that if I didn’t make something with them while there were still green, they wouldn’t be as interesting to me later.

One afternoon I soaked what I had and started a basket using a technique I learned at a workshop last April. It took two or three afternoons, but I was pleased with the result and glad I had made time to use them. This is twined with thin copper wire and measures roughly 6 inches by 6 inches, and is five inches tall.

I belong to a group of basket makers, Bay Area Basket Makers, who meet in Oakland once a month. I also belong to the Lodi M & Ms, which is a mixed media art group who meet twice a month in the Stockton / Lodi area.  At both of these meetings members bring things for show and tell, and we Oooh and Ahh, maybe ask about materials or technique.

Sometimes it is obvious why an item was made, like a travel journal, or a booklet to give as a birthday gift to someone. However, I rarely hear anyone talk about how they decided what to make. Even with a gift, why did they make that particular item? What inspired them?

This question of deciding what to make is where I frequently get stuck. When I can’t decide what to make with all the materials I have at hand, I usually go outdoors and work in the yard because there I know what needs to be done.  Do any of you have this problem?  How do you decide what to make, what to express, what materials to start with?

Let’s have a conversation —



One thought on “How Do You Decide What to Make?

  1. Marilyn, I had to laugh when I read about the worm on the sidewalk! Ha! Even then, you were a collector 🙂 I collected rocks as a child, and still do!

    I loved hearing about the palm leaves too, and what you created with them. Weaving intrigues me, though I have never tried it.

    As for what I make and when…these days, I am driven by online class assignments, a good motivator for me. This year, it is portraits…and I am having a blast learning new techniques. I am also learning how to do “likeness” paintings…which is a challenge, but I feel a stretching in my art making, and I love that.

    I can’t wait to see what you do next….or what you pick up off the sidewalk 🙂

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