Breaking Creative Blocks

I find creativity comes to me in waves. Sometimes I’m wildly creative and full of ideas bouncing around. Each one of those ideas is screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!” In those times my challenge is focusing on creating one thing at a time. That’s the height of my creative flow. Creative block is the low. All those enthusiastic ideas seem to find another mental playground. Ideas seem thick and sluggish as one piece after another fails or turns ugly. Mandrels begin to fill my tap jar as bead after bead gets dunked. The kiln remains painfully empty…

wmc070703a1.jpgI usually deal with blocks like that by turning my attention elsewhere. Sometimes I find that I am blocked on bead designs but I still have excitement for something I’m learning in boro. I then leave the beads behind mentally… maybe for a week or so. And when I come back to the beads they’re more fresh and exciting to me. As for boro, I’m still learning to execute in it, so I’m constantly frustrated when working with it. For me, being frustrated and somewhat unable to create freely in a medium mostly eliminates the potential for creative block.

But then there are times when I have a deep block. NOTHING is working… not the boro, not the soft glass [faster melting, different color palette], not even the no-brainer prep work. That, to me, is my truest creative block. I can’t even seem to write or speak during these times… there’s so much nothing in my creative tanks that it becomes heavy and hard to deal with. I do one of two things to overcome/deal with these times.

One option is to turn my back on it all. Stop trying to create. I do something else. I go camping, read a book, organize the storage unit, clean the studio or find something else to occupy myself with until one day, out of the blue, my brain gets a little picture or a “what if” question. And then I have something to create so I return (joyfully) to the studio to do so.

The other option is to stop trying so hard and to JUST CREATE. That’s exactly what’s going through my mind as I light the torch and melt the tip of the glass rod. “Just make something. Anything. Make anything.” And then… if I feel like I want to dunk it because I’m over thinking or trying too hard I remember that my only goal was to make something… anything. The only way I can fail is to dunk the bead. I tell my self that over and over as I push through until I make a finished bead and get it in the kiln. And then I claim VICTORY! I met my goal victoriously!

I usually find that after that, I can get through the torching session with relative success. I almost always find that after competing a “victory bead” that the creation process is a little smoother in my head. The ideas flow a little better from one to the next and then, before I even realize it I’m creating with ease again.

wmc070703a2.jpg The photos are of my tap jar (full of yesterday’s dunked beads) and yesterday’s “victory bead” still on its mandrel. Note that the victory bead isn’t anything special or awesome (this one is actually nicer than most victory beads), but it’s beauty is that it exists. After I made this bead I found myself making beads quite easily (to later be assembled into a motorcycle)… And today I have ideas in both boro and soft glass. It was a quick and quiet break to a creative drought.

JC Herrell is a glass artist who blogs from her home studio in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. See more from JC at or


6 Responses to “Breaking Creative Blocks”

  1. kabsconcepts Says:

    I hear you on the creative block JC! I may try your “victory bead” idea. I find I go by the moto “when in doubt, pull all the colors out”. Seeing everything on my desk usual makes things pop. Either that or “go back to basics”. If I find I am truely blocked like you described, I have to just try making simple solid rounds. It is like I lose even the ablity to do that some days.

    Great post!!

  2. Ellen Says:

    Sooooooooo understand the block thing. I use the “walk away, chica” method. Then I go to the showcase on WC! and drool or go through catalogs for color ideas.
    I love this site – the only frustration is the pictures on top of script. I want to read everthing you guys have to say and when it’s covered up my a picture, I get ouchy.

  3. nancysellsglass Says:

    I think Lori is working on that Ellen! Great post JC!! 🙂

  4. Watch Me Create » Birth of a Donut, Part I Says:

    […] and is a concept that seems to very similar to what JC Herrell wrote about in her previous post, Breaking Creative Blocks, about her victory […]

  5. Creative blocks and dieting could end your life. « woah! Says:

    […] way there are countless ways of  overcoming blocks, not that am personally fond of finding gurus…but i grew to like this books, for some of the […]

  6. Casey Melton Says:

    I tend to try and work through them even if what comes out doesn’t satisfy me.

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