In the Studio: Creativity Vacations

What is a creativity vacation? Rather than a pause on your creativity, it’s an opportunity for expanding and exercising it without the typical day-to-day constraints. It’s an intentional planning of time for your creative practice.

In the past year, many artists have experienced the loss of opportunities, and society as a whole has been uprooted. While 2020 in-person workshops were canceled or dramatically altered, the flourishing world of online workshops offers many opportunities for you to learn from teachers you might not have had access to previously. With all of these possibilities, it can be hard to narrow your focus for a creativity vacation. Here are some strategies and ideas to get you moving.

Time and Duration

Prioritize a period of time (or several) over the course of a year in which you will reserve time for a creativity vacation. Create a month-by-month layout for the year ahead. Pen in your current commitments: exhibitions, sales, other professional deadlines, and personal/family life. Look for spaces­—for example, when looking at my own month-by-month schedule, I noticed openings in August and October. As you receive professional opportunities, consider keeping some of these openings unbooked.

Give yourself at least one week for a creativity vacation to separate from your normal practice—longer if your schedule allows for it. Alternatively, you could give yourself one day per week to experiment—one approach would be to start or end your week with a creativity vacation day.

1 Copy or print this permission slip for your own creativity vacation and tack it up on your studio wall!

What Could You Do?

Maybe you love ceramics and can’t quite imagine not working with clay for a week. Use the time to attend a workshop, online or in person, that focuses on a ceramic process, material, or technique that is new to you. Early on in the pandemic and continuing now, many ceramic artists are offering brief one- or two-hour online workshops for very affordable prices. Sign up and commit to the workshop, then follow it up with a day or two in your studio using that new technique. Possible workshop topics to explore include trying new surface design techniques, working with different clay bodies or firing at a different temperature range, learning to use tools for 3D printing, or brushing up on glaze chemistry.

You could also frame this as a labor vacation. Linda Christianson, well known for her wood-fired slipware pottery, gives herself a week each year in which she works with earthenware and fires the work in her electric kiln. In doing this, she takes away the intensity of the physical labor required of the wood-firing process. In your studio practice, consider the work of your processes and think about what you could do to remove or change the labor for a brief period of time.

Ready for a different medium? Want to connect with a new creative community? Over the past two years, I started taking online workshops through a variety of platforms. By signing up for the mailing lists of select online platforms, I keep an eye out for promo offers to reduce the expense involved and I watch for free alternatives. Here are a few potential platforms:

Isolation Journals (www.theisolationjournals.com): An online writing community started by New York Times columnist and author Suleika Jaouad. This group provides free weekly journal prompts, and you can sign up for monthly “Studio Visits” with creatives from many fields for a monthly fee.

Creative Live (www.creativelive.com): Online workshop community in which “On Air Today” sessions are always free. Visit their online calendar of events to see what you might like to watch. You can purchase individual classes to keep in your library indefinitely. Topics include: art and design; photo and video; music and audio; craft and maker; and money and life.

Skillshare (www.skillshare.com): Online creativity workshop community in which some workshops are sponsored and produced by the platform and some are created and uploaded by contributors. Workshop topics include a mix of fine art, illustration, digital media, film and video, web developing, marketing, entrepreneurship, and even lifestyle and productivity.

Planning a Creative Leap Week

Let’s say you need a real push to get moving on something new or you want to refresh your typical practice. Consider planning a creative leap week. First, make a list of all the materials or processes you’ve wanted to learn, work with, or get back to working with, but haven’t been able to devote the time to. This might include media and art forms like acrylic painting, sewing, crochet, collage art, writing poetry, or playing the piano. Be bold—include any creative activity that you think of—make this list without judgment or second guessing (there will be time for that later).

Next, narrow your list down to around three of your ideas. Then gather the supplies you’ll need for those ideas. Plan which week is going to be your creative leap week and consider telling a friend, family member, or another person in your life about the week and your ideas. Maybe you’ll even want to schedule a call or Zoom meeting with that person at the end of your week. Spend your week experimenting and using the materials you’ve selected. At the end of the week, give yourself some reflection time: What did you really enjoy? What do you want to perhaps stick with and explore more? Maybe it wasn’t about finding something new to add to your regular creative practice, but instead just an escape week (though I bet you’ll see sneaky ways this creativity leap week jumps into your practice in the days ahead).

Fill Some Creativity Baskets

Want to keep the playful fun accessible in your day-to-day life? Grab a basket (or any other container) and make a themed creativity basket that you keep in your living room. Keeping a basket of supplies handy can be a great way to have something to grab while you’re binge-watching the latest series or watching a Friday-night movie. Some themed creativity basket ideas include: embroidery (it’s making a comeback), watercolors and paper (get a travel set—it’s the best!), notebooks/journals of different sizes for writing, shrink-plastic sheets (a.k.a. Shrinky Dink paper) with markers, wood-carving supplies (spoons anyone?), or collage materials (gather magazines, photos, scissors, glue sticks, pens, and you’re ready, set, go!).

Intentionally giving time and priority to experimentation, play, and exploration enlivens our studio practices. Now, the very important part (should you need this): “I hereby offer to you permission to plan and take a creativity vacation in 2021!” Feel free to copy/print the permission slip from this article and tack it up in your studio (1). I can’t wait to see what you do with your creativity vacations! Tag me @r_willers or use the hashtag #creativityvacation2021 on Instagram.

Rhonda Willers is a studio artist living in Wisconsin. To learn more, visit www.rhondawillers.com and on Instagram @r_willers. She is also the author of Terra Sigillata: Contemporary Techniques, published by The American Ceramic Society and available at https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/shop/terra-sigillata.

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