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Creativity in the Times of Social Distancing


Greetings from day six of my social distancing endeavors! I'm proud to say that I have only stepped outside to take out the recycling and I want to add that I subsequently wiped down every door handle, trash bin lid and hand rail on my way out of the building! Luckily, everything has been available to us in our neighborhood as it seems that people are not panic buying everything, but you can definitely tell that most everyone is taking to isolating themselves in an effort to prevent the spread of this virus. It's a joint effort, my bb's. We'll get through it!

If you're an introvert like me then this social distancing might not be much of a lifestyle change but if you're the extroverted kind that craves something to do without the confines of your home, then maybe you'll find some tips here that might help you channel your creativity and make something of it. These are just some ways that I like to take inspiration and get to work on something, so take it as you may and apply what works for you. 

1. Ideas

Well, I think I'll speak from the perspective of an artist/designer on this one because when I design a soap I look into it from that perspective. When I formulate it, I look into it as a soap maker and those are two different views that combine into one. Since this is a soap company, let's look at it from the soap design perspective.

When I start thinking about a soap design ideas, many times I start off from something simple: a color, the fragrance, a vibe, a personal story. It doesn't have to be complicated. Sometimes I just go into my fragrance cabinet, read the scent descriptions, and BOOM! A visual idea pops into my head. Most of the time these ideas evolve and by the end of the process, I'll have so many other things that have influenced my initial concept that it might be completely different by the time I'm ready to call it done.

Rarely do I ever like looking into what other people make. I have actually stopped looking into other soap makers for this reason because I want my reference points to be my own. Sure, there are techniques like drop swirls and different pouring methods, but when I design a concept those things usually accompany the idea rather than dominate it. If I know someone else has made it or if I am indeed inspired by another maker, I always try to find a way to make it in my own way with their blessing and I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS credit the original creator. Ideas are just as tangible as the laptop I'm typing away on right now. Just because they come from someone's mind doesn't make them invisible because in fact, they have made something of it. They are someone's property. They must be respected and there are so many ways to do so in a way that benefits both the original designer and you. There is nothing wrong in admitting to have been inspired by someone else at all. In fact, it shows admiration and consideration. This is the T. 

When it comes to colors, I always like to remind myself that colors evoke moods: blue is serenity and calm, green is freshness, yellow is brightness, red is passion. Those are things that evoke certain feelings and can influence the way I translate that into visuals. A sneak peek into my inspiration mood board

Sometimes when I am a little stuck, I head over to places like Pinterest and Instagram. Pinterest is a fantastic search engine (yup, not social media) but if you thought I looked into it for soap, you've got the wrong idea. I love looking into Pinterest for textures, color combinations, composition, moods, trends, even cakes and baking techniques.

Here's an example: I HATE LICORICE. Despise it. But I think little licorice candies are super colorful and the little stripes would make an awesome idea for soap! Definitely not on the scent part (blegh), but the visual. I love looking at things like pottery techniques because at a certain point I can manipulate soap in a similar way that clay does too. Lately I have been experimenting with old art techniques I learned years ago like wood carving and sculpture. Nature is one of my favorite places to look for inspiration. I love flowers, textures, fauna, etc. The inspiration from nature is endless!

By far my favorite place to pull inspiration from is from my own, personal life stories. I think these are the most effective at connecting with others. This is also the one thing that makes your idea uniquely yours. I like to pull ideas from my childhood, from my mother, living in the city, experiences as a millennial woman, you name it. These stories are a part of me but they can also reflect the stories of others in their own way and it's nice to connect in that manner. Our stories intertwine us, but also make us unique.

2. How to Apply

After all these ideas have started to crowd my mind, it's important to EDIT. Editing is by far the most important part of the process to me. You can have all of these amazing ideas but when it comes to making something you need to step back and consider if all of these ideas work together, or does it seem crowded? Mood boards help for that. Again, Pinterest is great for this because you can compartmentalize all these ideas and organize them. Organize a bunch of images and set the tone! Sometimes I have a bunch of ideas for a single soap and I have to tell myself, "Girl, step back and edit. You can get your idea through with one key element- color, shape, name, fragrance." There's no need to put everything in but the kitchen sink. In fact, ideas deliver better if they're not crowded. In soap making, if things go unexpectedly, it's easier to change one or a few elements rather than a bunch. Same applies to basically every creative application.

Now, since I already mentioned I'm pretty much an introvert you can imagine that I have basically every single art supply I at my reach because I'll be the first to admit that I love spending time at home just making stuff. It's easy for me to pull different types of card stock, or baking supplies, or paints, mediums and markers to make things happen. Maybe you don't have those things accessible to you but maybe you have an other things like baking supplies, or some beading supplies, some fabric, or maybe you have an idea to re-decorate your space, or want to make a gift for someone, or you can dive into your makeup! You know, you can finally experiment with those neon shade you got a while ago thinking you were gonna rock them 24/7! You can do all of these things with just a simple idea. Want to upgrade your living space? Clear out a few things and start with a blank slate. Re-arrange some things and maybe add a few refreshed touches to some pieces? Remember that thing I said about color? White evokes space and cleanliness, blue reflects calm, gold is all about rich touches, tan resembles an earthy, ground-like sense. How can you apply these things to your space? Some fresh flowers? Some pretty pottery, or maybe re-organizing your book collection by cover colors.

Whenever I'm not soaping, I'm baking or drawing. I'm big on gingerbread houses myself and it's a multi-disciplinary craft where I can apply my cooking, my sculpting, my painting, and my design skills. Check this blog post to see how I made my last Holiday gingerbread house. I loved pouring myself into this project and paying attention to the special details in particular. In times like this where we are basically confined to our homes it's good to focus on some long-term projects that are composed of little ones. That way you can tackle the parts as smaller tasks and not get overwhelmed by the entirety of it. For this house I was able to take things in parts: one day I worked on all the embellishments, the other I made sure to bake all the components, the next I assembled and finished. In all honesty it took me longer than 3 days, but you get the gist of it. I didn't feel overwhelmed nor did I feel like chucking the project to the side if I ever did. 

3. Tips and Tricks

My biggest piece of advice when it comes to channeling creativity is to not push it. Sometimes you feel pressured to produce something (or at least I do). That's when I have learned to take a step back and stop. Focus on something else for a bit and when you least expect it, maybe you'll be inspired by that something else you're doing. An example is one of my most recent soaps. I was keen on producing a soap that felt springy, but reflected my brand and still was creative enough for me in a way that wasn't too literal. I was stumped! So instead of forcing a design I spent the next few hours just playing around with soap dough. I started making organic shapes with my hands and sticking them together. All of a sudden I started getting interested in placing them in a certain pattern and well, the rest is history. A new design that I am certain is unique to me and it went pretty great with the fragrance oil I was planning on using. That's how Sage happened!

Another tip is to write things down! Maybe you're not carrying a sketchbook around to draw any idea that magically pops up in your head in the middle of rush hour subway traffic, but you do have a smartphone. I keep a Google Sheets document constantly running where I jot down all my ideas for soaps. That way I can go back and reference it whenever I need to pull an idea for my collections. Or, if you do carry around a little notebook, sketch away! You don't have to be an artist to get your ideas down, but maybe a bit of mindless doodling develops something new that could get you on to something!

And like I mentioned above with my gingerbread house, take a big project and divide it into smaller tasks. This removes the feeling of "OMG THIS IS A HUGE THING." to "Ok, let's build this one step at a time and focus." Trust me, it makes those overwhelming feelings subside quite a bit.

Anyways, I hope these notes on how I like to work inspire you to make something today. Maybe you can write a story or a song, make some art, get you in the vibe to even read a new book, or make some awesome cookies. And before you're all like, " Oh Des, but I'm not very artistic or whatever."... STOP. Remember that above all your creativity is yours and it's the process that makes it fun. Don't feel the need to please others with what you make nor that you are expected to be all Michaelangelo up in here. It should be satisfactory and entertaining to YOU. There is no better feeling than enjoying yourself making something and even if the result is less than what you desired, you still enjoyed yourself and you can feel proud of that. Maybe rally a few friends via Skype and have a sketch competition, or have all your girls grab a few craft supplies they might be laying around in the house and do a mini challenge while you all gossip away and sip some Rosé (damn, now I want to do this).

Have some fun creating and keep it going. Let me know if you end up making anything! I would love to see!

All my best,
Des

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