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Episode 26: The Art of Gathering Inspiration

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When I look at this work now, someone else won't have those memories, but I have this deep connection, this story that's tied up in my work, which is part of what brings that deep sense of pride. Like not only did I come up with the idea, but I grew it from seed.

I'm Bonnie Christine, and this is where all things, creativity, design, business, and marketing unite. I'm a mama living in a tiny town, tucked right inside the Smokey Mountains, running a multi seven figure business, doing the most creative and impactful work of my life. When I first set out to become an entrepreneur, I was struggling to make ends meet and wrestling with how to accomplish my biggest dream of becoming a fabric designer.

Fast forward to today, I'm not only licensing my artwork all over the world, but also teaching others how to design their creative life and experience the same success. I'm here to help you spend your life doing something that lights you up. I'll help you build a creative business that also creates an impact, changes people's lives, gives you all of the freedom you want and is wildly profitable.

Welcome to the Professional Creative Podcast. Today we are going to talk about gathering inspiration for whatever it is that you create. I truly believe that the art of gathering inspiration is really what can set us apart, set our work apart. It can contribute to our signature style and it can also contribute to how we feel as an artist. So I can't wait to dive into it all with you today.

Inspiration is truly everywhere. I think it just depends on whether you've enabled your eyes to see it or not. Sometimes I feel like once I discovered how I can find inspiration, it was almost like I put inspiration goggles on. Like all of a sudden, everywhere I looked there was something, meaning all of the sudden ordinary things like tire tracks in the mud and leaves on the ground all of a sudden became possibility.

They became potential. And so now with every texture and every color palette that I see, I'm always considering how it can become inspiration. So for me as a surface pattern designer, I'm always looking for color palettes and unique textures, and then also like unique ways that things kind of fall in nature. And so examples of this are I have, I have a couple of copper pots, and one time, I don't know if you're familiar with copper, when it heats up, it kind of becomes a design. It turns blue on the bottom and then it goes pink to the top. And I've taken a picture of it and digitized it and ended up using it as a texture on a cactus print. That's just one example. Another one is I was camping and we went into like the, the campsite bathroom and the bathroom had this kind of like sandy textured gray floor right next to the shower drain. It was actually so beautiful that I took a picture of it and ended up using it as inspiration for an entire blunder pattern that I created. And ordinarily I would've just went in, taken a shower and left, right? But I had this keen eye for inspiration. And so once you start seeing what everything is in front of you, the entire world begins to unfold into possibility for you. And I think that this is part of what makes being a creative so enjoyable.

So we're gonna talk about ways to gather inspiration, but first, sometimes gathering inspiration can feel maybe not so fun. Sometimes feeling like we have to go find inspiration can feel overwhelming, can make us feel like we don't have any good ideas, or sometimes it can make us feel like we might have too many ideas. Have you, have you felt that before? Sometimes it can feel really daunting and a lot of times it can induce imposter syndrome. Or if you know how to do it well, it can bring you so much joy, it can inspire you greatly. It can fill the deep reservoirs of your creativity because it's what gets you in front of the things that you love most, right? It helps bring you to life, your original style to life. And it can really help you do what I always say, create the beauty that you want to see come alive in the world.

But I think that these feelings that gathering inspiration can evoke are really due to two very popular ways that there are in order to gather inspirations. So let's talk about the two ways. Way number one is by sitting in front of technology, and you know this very well because we all do it from time to time. But this is things like scrolling Instagram or going down a hashtag rabbit hole or going onto Pinterest and doing searches for designs or, or you know, products like you create making secret boards of things that inspire you from other people. There is some value in this, but more often than not, I feel like what it does is it leads to a lot of times work that quite frankly looks like other people's work, even if it's done a direct copy. You know, once you see something, it's so hard to get it out of your mind and it's really easy to end up making something that just kind of looks like something somebody else made. It can also feel overwhelming because I don't know about you, but when I look at all of the beautiful things that already exist in the world, I start feeling like I have no originality. I have no good ideas.

Who am I to even think that I can add value here? All of those imposter feelings can make us feel like we lack originality, right? Like, have you ever had a great idea only to go on the internet and almost immediately see that someone else has done it? It's time my friends, to put the blinders on, keep your eyes on your own paper,

and then you'll never even know if it was an original idea or not, because it's true to you. It can absolutely leave you feeling like it's all been done before. And hint, it has all been done before, but it's time for you to do it with your own unique impression. It can also lead to feeling a little bit jealous, which is hard to admit.

But inevitably you will see someone else who is doing something that you wish you were doing or landing a dream, you know, career that you wish you were in already. And so it can leave us feeling inadequate and jealous like there's no room for us. It can also make us feel rushed, like I'm so far behind, look at how far along all of these other people are.

There's no time. I'm out of time. The windows are of opportunity, have already closed, and now you feel like there's this immense pressure to not only create something amazing, but to create it quickly. Do you know that feeling? I have a sense that you do because I think that honestly we all do. But when you source inspiration in another way, then entirely different results come about.

This second way is only for those who are willing to do the work, and it's by getting out from behind our technology and going and experiencing the things that we love most. It's putting ourselves right in front of what inspires us.

And so if it's nature, you're going out on hikes and you're visiting botanical gardens and you're visiting, you know all the places that have the things that you love most. If it's animals, you're going to get right in front of the animals that inspire you most. Now, I know you can't always do this, and so we'll come back to what to do if that's the case in a little bit.

But when you experience what inspires you firsthand, meaning not with a screen in between you and it, something completely different happens, a deep sense of pride in your work will come. You'll feel like you're creating work that's a direct reflection of your soul. And a side effect of this is really coming out of it with an original signature style, which absolutely will boost your confidence, which is so important. It will also help you wrap your arms around the time that you take to create.

It will help you just savor the moment of creation, and you'll feel a deep connection to not only your work, but the story behind it. Because you know, I'm actually looking at a print right now that I created with a flower and a fern on it. And immediately I have memories attached to both of those. The fern I took a picture of while I was on a walk with my daughter, we were hiking in the forest, and the flower is a very specific flower that I grew in my garden all the way from seed. And so when I look at this work now, someone else won't have those memories, but I have this deep connection, this story that's tied up in my work, which is part of what brings that deep sense of pride.

Like not only did I come up with the idea, but I grew it from seed, like I sourced that inspiration from the smallest point possible. Now, I know you all aren't going to necessarily do that, but if you can know from from beyond a shadow of a doubt that your inspiration is unique to you because you went out and and sought after it, then you've got this pride in your work and this confidence and this savoring of the whole thing, you'll find a new found love for chasing your inspiration. And I actually think that this is the thing that I love most about being a creative is for as much time as there is behind a screen doing the work, it pulls me out of that and gets me out and experiencing the world more than anything else.

This is truly why a career as a creative is so rewarding and my biggest fear is that a lot of creatives are missing out on it because we're going into this loop of technology inspiration through things that already exist. And the most rewarding way to go about this is to go experience the thing that inspires you so much in the first place. It makes you see the world completely differently.

All of a sudden everything becomes possibility and your eyes will just see inspiration everywhere you look.

I am so excited to share with you a brand new project we've been working on. It's called 60 by 60 because there are 60 incredible artists who have come together to share with you one way that they create income from their artwork and under 60 seconds each, which means that it's 60 minutes of incredible knowledge and wisdom being shared by some insanely talented artists that I know you're going to love. Our hope is that it not only shows you what's possible, but it also encourages you and helps you get clarity on the very next steps you want to take in your own creative endeavor. And it's entirely free. We've also created an interactive directory with all of the artists included so that you can go dive into all of their worlds and get to know them a little bit better. To watch the video, head on over to bonnie christine.com/income. Again, that's bonnie christine.com/income. You'll be able to watch the 60 by 60 video right away, and we cannot wait to meet you there.

So I know that some of you are saying maybe you can't get in front of your inspiration, say maybe it's dinosaurs and they're extinct, or maybe it's imaginary like ferries or aliens, or maybe it's too far away. Maybe it's something that's in another country or something that you really can't get in front of. And so when that's the case, you're gonna source inspiration from as many places as you possibly can.

My hope for you is that you will become a student of the subject well beyond just Google imaging it. So go ahead and look for historical or scientific documents of it. Maybe you can read and research about it. Maybe you can go to the library and get your hands on a book where it has images in it. Maybe you can work from your imagination alone. That's an interesting concept, right? And so if you set out to do this, what I would suggest is to start creating whatever it is that you create before you actually consume any inspiration.

If you want to try to just work from your imagination, there's a book called Steal Like an Artist. I'm sure many of you have read it. It'll benefit you whether you're an artist or not. It's by Austin Cleon, who I am a huge fan of. We will link this book called Steal Like an Artist in the show notes. But basically he teaches you how to source inspiration from as many different places as you possibly can.

It's a book that completely changed my life. I highly recommend it. And so it will help you with this as well.

So let's talk about how to gather inspiration. Number one, my favorite way is to take photographs. You don't have to have a fancy camera. Oftentimes this is just with my phone camera, but it's with me everywhere I go.

And so I'll see just about anything texture on the floor, texture on the wall, or a leaf on the pavement or tracks in the mud, and I'll just take pictures of it. I'll also take videos, especially when it's like a moment that I wanna capture if the wind is blowing or I don't know, something that requires more of a video, like the waves are crashing or something that you wanna revisit in video form.

So photos and video, absolutely top of my list because when you design off of a photo and it's a photo that you took yourself of something that you went out into the world to experience yourself, that is where the confidence comes in your work because you sourced that inspiration all the way down to the very root of it. Now, part of this is organizing the inspiration that you gather.

And so I highly recommend don't let these photos and videos just live in the library of your photos, but go ahead and make an album that's labeled for inspiration or inspiration for a particular project, and go ahead and add them to the album in the moment so that you can keep track of them easily. Or you know, maybe you don't have thousands of pictures on your phone like I do,

but might always get lost. So the next way is to become a collector. I love to collect little bits and pieces of things like if we go to the beach or we go to the lake, I'll just collect remnants of the place where we were. If I go to the desert, I'll come home with things that are just very unique to the place,

and I may not reference them and draw them exactly, but I will keep them in my space if I'm designing something that's reminiscent of the area that we visited and they help breathe life into the project. The next way to gather inspiration is actually to preserve items. Now, you might have to tweak this based on your industry, but something that I love to do is dry flowers or dry leaves or anything that I can preserve in a way that I can use over and over again.

This is particularly helpful if you love to use like flora leaves and flowers. And you know, half of the year, depending on where you live, they may not be available. So part of gathering inspiration is preparing for winter, preparing for a slow season, and being able to see in advance when you might need inspiration and gathering it ahead of time.

So even if I don't even have a project in mind, I will gather, gather, gather in the summer when everything is blooming and and full stride. And a lot of times, times I'll preserve it. I have a big flower press and I'll preserve the leaves and the flowers so that I can come back to them. Now, I also do this just through photos and video, right? I'll focus on maybe gathering extra inspiration even if I don't have a project in mind for it. When inspiration is of abundance for the times when it's not. I live in North Carolina, so we have a proper four seasons, and there's about three or four months out of the year where there's really nothing. There's not a lot, there's nothing blooming, and there's really not a lot of green. And so I have to kind of prepare for this in advance.

The next way is to be really vigilant about documenting your memories. This makes me think of a fabric collection that I designed called Her and History, but it's a play on words. It was really her and his story. And it was after I ended up losing three sets of grandparents between me and my husband over the course of like two years.

And so I made this collection and just reminiscing about not even necessarily my grandparents, but grandparents and and what they mean to us as a society, like as a whole, and the memories. And I was able to use all of these collected bits and pieces that I had from them to put together this incredible collection. A part of it has recipes that my grandmother wrote, and a part of it has David's grandfather's handwriting in it from a journal that he kept, you know, 80 years ago, which is just incredible. So preserving your memories or documenting memories and keeping things just really help anytime you may need to come back for inspiration later on.

And then finally, we already touched on this, but exploring through research. So when you can't get your hands on something or you can't physically get in front of what inspires you most, then explore it through proper research and education, become a student. Think about it from a scientific perspective. Can you talk to people who might have seen it or can you go to the library and look in the old books? Whatever it is, I want you to chase your inspiration. And in order to chase it, you first have to be able to identify what inspires you in the first place.

I think maybe some of us don't even know what really strikes up our inspiration. So giving that some thought, really identifying what triggers my inspiration in a way that I long to create. And once you identify that, then you can chase after it. So you're feeling dry, you're not feeling inspired at all. Well, now you know how to become inspired.

You get out and go do the thing that inspires you so much. So I hope this has helped and been inspiring to you. As a recap, number one, take photos. Number two, take videos. Number three, collect items. Number four, preserve items. Number five, document your memories. And number six, explore through research. All the while, do yourself a favor and organize them as best as you can, whether it's albums on your phone or folders on your computer or physical folders that you keep in your studio. But keep them organized so that when you need to be inspired, you have a library of inspiration at your fingertips.

Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Professional Creative Podcast.

You can get show notes for this episode and all other episodes at professionalcreative.com. Friends, if you know someone who would enjoy this podcast, will you just do me a favor and send it to them? Pick your favorite episode, send it to a friend. I would love for them to get to know me, and I would love for me to get to know them.

Create the beauty you want to see come alive in the world. And don't forget, there's room for you now. I'll see you next time.


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I'm Bonnie Christine.


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