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    Open Up To Your Creative Potential

    written contribution by Christi Johnson of Mixed Color.

    “We’ll I’m not really creative... “

    “I don’t even know how to draw!”


    Have you found phrases like this coming out of your mouth? If so, it might be time to re-think your internal monologue on your own creative capabilities. Though it’s often classified as something only the “artistic” folks among us can do, tapping into our creative potential is an opportunity that is open to all of us. I’ve taught dozens of embroidery workshops, and watched plenty of students who maybe didn’t consider themselves creative or artists develop absolutely stunning designs, to their own amazement.

    Floral Motif Pattern

    Download The Floral Motifs Pattern by Christi Jay

    Throughout the next four posts on the DMC blog, we’ll be exploring methods for cultivating creativity through the art of embroidery; we’ll start with approaching some of the common blocks to get creative (because yes - we’re ALL creative), developing designs, choosing colors, and exploring different ways of finding inspiration.

    If you give yourself the time to explore your creativity, you may also find yourself wildly impressed by your own abilities!

    We’ll also go over methods for embellishing and repairing the fibers that surround us, and take it all home by bringing these creative acts into our everyday experience. 

    Finding Joy in the Process


    Let’s start by saying - you might not always like the designs you’ve created when you start developing your own work. I’ve got dozens of finished embroideries that didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted them to - and I’m OK with that. I don’t always create because I’m hoping for an end result.


    When we’re working with exploring our creative potential, pleasure can be found in simply the act of making. Art therapists know that the healing possibilities of creativity lay in the process, not in the product. It’s kind of like “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” - but it's a journey you go on from the comfort of your own couch!


    Most who have mastery of an art form did so through constant practice, much trial and error, and plenty of disastrous pieces of work that may have originally been dubbed a waste of time.


    If you learned something through a process, it is by no means a waste of time. (Short on time, but still want to try some of your own designs? Try playing with some thicker threads for quicker results - I LOVE the DMC Matte Cotton Tapestry threads, and the Tapestry Wool is like painting with a huge brush!!)


    When we focus on nurturing our creative energies, by doing things like allowing ourselves time to play with new ideas, being creative becomes easier and more natural. Just like any other skill, this requires time and attention. Give your mind over entirely to the process, immersing yourself without distractions (and yes, self-judgment is definitely a distraction!)

    “...But I Don’t Know Where To Start!”


    Does the idea of “getting creative” make you nervous? Does the sight of a blank new notebook nearly make you break out in hives?


    If so, then you’re not alone - even though I’ve been drawing and stitching and making art for quite a while, the pressure of the blank page (or canvas, or stretched fabric on an embroidery hoop) brings on feelings of anxiety almost immediately.


    How have I found my way around this? Just start. Make a mark. Any mark.


    What if it's the wrong mark?? Well my friend, it most certainly is. This is why pencils with erasers - and tools like DMC’s magic disappearing markers - are so amazing! You can change your mind later!


    Anytime I’m ready to get started, but don’t have any ideas flowing, I play with the basic shapes. Squares, triangles, and circles provide us with unlimited design potential. A circle can be layered, its curves dissected and turned into a gentle wave pattern, for example. Between lines, textures, and solid forms; try playing with different ways of describing these simple shapes.

    Brainstorm with Christi Jay


     Shop With Christi Jay to Make Your Mark. 

    “...What if I Don’t Know How To Draw?”


    Lucky for you, that doesn’t matter! Beyond “knowing how to draw,” our visual sensibility comes out of an instinct for color harmony, an eye for balance, or an appreciation for contrast, that when nurtured, can result in stunning visual arrangements.

    Christi Jay Creative Exploration Tools

    DMC Threads Pictured: Six-Strand Embroidery Floss

    Taking your love of color and infusing that into simple geometric shapes expressed in a striking palette doesn’t require drawing. Creating designs based entirely off of textural patterns that delight the eye don’t require drawing. The beauty of embroidery, and fiber arts in general, is that they are able to be done with little formal training, but spending some quality playtime with your materials is the only way to discover your style.


    Overwhelmed by the idea of drawing? Why not try sketching directly on the fabric with your threads? Not making grand plans for an embroidery, but simply taking a scrap of fabric and allowing the stitches to take shape as they please.


    Allow yourself to explore design elements such as color, line, and texture using a variety of threads and stitches. Switching up between the sheen of DMC Perle cotton and the softness of Wool Tapestry can turn simple shapes into an exciting visual effect.


    Try playing with unexpected stitches - like the Fly Stitch to fill in shapes instead of satin stitch, or close rows of tiny running stitch to create a textured line.

    Project for the Week: Lil’ Hoop Sampler


    Make Your Own Sampler
    DMC Threads Featured: Tapestry Wool & Mouline Étoile 


    If you’d like to give yourself some personal time to explore your own creative potential, try out the geometric drawing exploration or the freehand stitching described above, then translate your favorite parts of these experiments into a design of your own.


    Work small - a 4” hoop ensures that you’ll be able to finish your artwork. In the early stages of developing your own ideas, overly ambitious designs that take days to finish tend to deplete our creative reserves and turn into drudgery!


    You can start with one of the patterns I’ve developed for DMC, which have been designed to be open-ended so you can create your own unique artwork that reflects your personal aesthetic, or you can develop your own design! Maybe it’s a meditative mandala. Maybe it's simply a series of lines. Maybe you change your mind halfway through! 

    Geometric Motif Pattern by Christi Jay
    DMC Threads Featured: Mouline Étoile and Soft Matte Cotton
    DMC Free Pattern:       Geometric Motif Pattern by Christi Jay

    Remember, we’re engaging in some delightful playtime - this means stop worrying about what the finished project looks like. This is a learning process. If you are learning, you’re not wasting time.


    Step 1: Choose your materials: You’ll need a square of fun colored fabric and a 4-5” embroidery hoop (the patterns I’ve designed with DMC are for a 4” embroidery hoop, but if you want to come up with a decorative border, they can easily work with a 5” hoop). Using my patterns, or working with your own composition, transfer pattern onto fabric using transfer paper like DMC Magic Paper or a washable / air erase pen or marker.


    Step 2: Select your Thread Colors: For small designs, I like to limit my color palette to three thread colors (but feel free to explore different textures - like mixing Matte Tapestry yarn with Etoile floss!). Having trouble choosing colors? Try looking at a color wheel and selecting two or three shades of a color that contrast - meaning, sits on the opposite side of the color wheel - with your fabric color, and maybe one color that is more of a neutral (black, ivory, or shades of brown or grey).

    Selecting Colors

    Step 3: Try using a different stitch for each different element or line of the design. Consider line weight, filling in areas with textures, or creating rhythm by repeating shapes within the design. Feeling overwhelmed, or don’t want to stitch something that you don’t like? Try taking a picture of your hoop and using the “markup” tool on most smartphones (or any of the hundreds of drawing apps) to do quick sketches on the photo of the fabric in the hoop.


    Step 4:Finish the back of your hoop if you’d like, pat yourself on the back, and give your shoulders a good stretch! We’d love to see your finished projects!! Be sure to share on Instagram and tag @dmc_embroidery and @christijay so we can join in on the creative fun.

    Want to dig deeper into designing your own artwork for embroidery? The doors are opening for my online course, “Magic Threads” on October 15th! Head over to the Mixed Color website to learn more!

    Want to learn more about getting creative? I’ll be sharing some of my favorite books throughout this series; here are some of my top picks on the topic of creativity:

    • The Courage to Create - Rollo May
    • You Are A Dream - Prof G
    •  Threads of Life - Clare Hunter (more about textiles than about creativity, but a must-read!!)