The Three Causes of Inspiration

The Three Causes of Inspiration:

  • Spirit
  • The Nature of a Thing
  • Heritage

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Inspiration, as fickle as some believe it is, can actually be ordered up like something on Amazon. This truth may shock you if you’ve bought into the farce about inspiration being elusive. For a long time now I’ve been trying to bust the inspiration hoax and show just how readily available inspiration truly is. People have been asking how. Give us an example, they say.

I’m assuming there are as many examples of how to get inspired as there are grains of sand on the world’s beaches, but I have ferreted out three of them which I personally admire and intend to use for years to come. Hopefully they will benefit you as well.

Before we get straight into the substance of my favorite three causes of inspiration, I’d like to point out one small caveat: Even with Amazon Prime membership you still end up waiting at least two days for your package to arrive. Being inspired is as easy as ordering something from Amazon, but it still takes a little time to “kick in”. So practice allowing for that as you test these theories.

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1. Spirit

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This inspiration comes directly to you. It is sometimes called an idea. It can come in many forms: through a dream, from a sudden thought in the shower, or an out and out vision.

Since this kind of inspiration is directly from Spirit, it is the purest and most sought-after form of inspiration. It therefore contains the most magic. Original creative ideas are authentic expressions of Spirit so they often become the cornerstone of creative movements.

But the key to using Spirit as a source for inspiration is simply to pay attention to it. Everybody has one—built-in, but few people lend their own spirit much credence. If you acknowledge your spirit and show the least bit of reverence for it, if you accept (at least to a small degree) your own shamanic powers, your spirit will reward you with inner knowing and intuition that you may not have noticed otherwise. So be kind and attentive to your spirit and you’ll experience more inspiration.

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2. The Nature of a Thing

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This inspiration is prevalent and often mistakenly regarded as the only source of inspiration. People will say that some thing inspired them.

Sometimes it is the texture of the thing, or the color, or even the smell. Sometimes it is the sound of a song or a wild animal or an industrial noise that inspires us. The noise they were inspired to use on the TV show LOST for the computer that had to be reset every 108 minutes was the beep a cash register makes when you scan an item.

This is far from the only source of inspiration, but it is one of the funnest sources to indulge in. Using your senses, you dwell upon the nature of a given item and if it appeals to you, there is often a degree of inspiration that comes along with it.

OPA is the acronym I’ve given Other People’s Artwork. OPA can be a powerful source of inspiration. You can be inspired by someone else’s creative endeavor and boldly act on that inspiration without copying it. Lord knows we should never condone plagiarism. But if you say to yourself, “I’d like to create something like that, only better.” then you are doing more than creating… you are becoming a positive cog in the wheel of evolution—you are advancing our civilization. And you are creating something brand new. So whatever you do, never shy away from being inspired by other art and other artists. Do your own thing based on the inspiration you feel from the nature of their art.

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3. Heritage

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This inspiration comes from your own personal heritage. But I do not mean your race or nationality, although those can also inspire. What I mean is the heritage that you have cultivated since you were born. Your own personal heritage that was formed by your preferences alone. These are all the things that have influenced you or warmed your heart in your lifetime.

I was raised in the mountains of Northern California and I was therefore exposed to all the lore of the 49’ers, the gold prospectors that traveled from back east in search of the Motherlode. So the old west was a big influence on me.

Natural surroundings gave me a great appreciation for the beauty of nature. After witnessing the clarity and purity of high-mountain streams, I fell in love with everything clear and transparent: water, bubbles, glass, crystals, etc. These are personal sources of enjoyment, adventure, and good feelings that I had growing up and they are a treasure trove of high-quality inspiration.

Heritage inspires through cultural significance. But again, I am not referring to the culture of the masses (although there is plenty of influence from those sources as well). I am referring to the culture of you, your own personal culture. In my family, whenever we went to the river for a swim or to go fishing or to pan for gold, we always roasted hot dogs on a stick. I remember the smell of the wood burning in the campfire and the anticipation it formed as we got closer to the camaraderie of sharing with and nourishing each other. That is an example of personal culture formed within my own lifetime.

The Hippie movement was alive and well in my teens and many of the their aspirations helped to form my own personal culture of sustainability and eco-friendly practices.

Heritage is a product, place, feeling, memory, etc., that evokes a nostalgic sense of tradition or history within your psyche. I grew up watching Indiana Jones movies and fell deeply in love with the adventure of that pseudo-archaeology. Treasure became a staple in my psyche because we searched for gold in the rivers of California and followed in the footsteps of those early gold miners.

You have a heritage that is uniquely your own. Through memory you can trace it. And it’s guaranteed, as you do, you will be inspired. God once asked me to make a list of everything I love (once I woke up from the dream I was having) and She told me to make sure it was only the stuff I love, not like. This is the best exercise to trace your heritage, because as you go back in your memory to find the things you love, you feel the feelings that all those things evoke. Those things and feelings are a part of who you are. Embrace your heritage and it will reward you with inspiration in spades.

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What’s Killing the Indie Craft Fairs? Artisan Made vs. Component Assembled Jewelry

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Let me just drag my soapbox out here and shout from the mountain tops an opinion about the quality of fine craftsmanship that one might encounter at an indie craft show.

First let’s identify the problem:

When indie craft fairs first came on the scene it was an awesome opportunity for craft enthusiasts (those who love to buy handmade) because the shows were more funky, more quirky and more unique than the well-known craft fairs. The items for sale at indie craft shows were almost always guaranteed to be very different while maintaining high quality. Indie craft fairs originally took pride in the fact that there were no crocheted toilet paper covers or corny, kitschy, country signs. There were no crafts by hobbyists because many of the shows were juried and they were thus able to maintain a high standard of quality and selection.

In the town where I live there is a big craft show called the Craftsman’s Classic that comes to the fairgrounds two to four times a year. It too started out with some of the most unique finds in all the land, but over the years they have lowered their standards and the crocheted toilet paper covers and country signs are back in spades, mixed in, of course with all the artisan made, high-end, and fine crafts.

The problem is that the facilitators of indie craft shows are following suit and succumbing to the pop-jewelers, the component assemblers who buy store-bought beads and findings and assemble them with jump rings. The juries at these shows are falling for this quasi-craft and choosing it over the more unique and soulful artisan-made jewelry.

The three types of jewelry

There are three main types of handcrafted jewelry that appear at craft shows and I have a favorite which you will clearly discover as you read on.

Precious Jewelry

Precious jewelry is made using precious metals (gold and silver mainly) and precious stones such as diamonds, rubies, emeralds, etc. This jewelry is often well designed and very beautiful (although I have seen many soulless pieces in this category that match the production jewelry of retail stores… but this is a subject for a different post). There is only one downfall with this type of jewelry for the shopper and that is the price point. Beautiful? Yes. Unique? Sometimes. Affordable? No.

Artisan Jewelry

Artisan jewelry is made using base metals (copper and brass mainly) and semi-precious stones such as quartz crystals, turquoise, basalt, etc., and sometimes found or natural objects. This jewelry is often very well designed, very beautiful, but also very unique. Because it is artisan jewelry it is often one-of-a-kind and that means you’ll never see another person wearing the exact same piece. Beautiful? Yes. Unique? Yes. Affordable?  Yes.

Component Assembled Jewelry

Component assembled jewelry is a mixed bag. It is often made by hobbyists who do not rely on craftsman-like skills. If they can open and close a jump ring, they can hook just about anything together and call it jewelry.

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That is not to say that CAs (component assemblers) are without creativity. There are colors and shapes and materials to choose from and a certain degree of composition or arrangement required to make a piece of jewelry look good. And some of the CAs are masters at it. But all their materials are store-bought and the pieces can be duplicated. Nothing is made from scratch.
Beautiful? Sometimes. Unique? Not if it can be duplicated. Affordable? Yes.

Artisan jewelry is my favorite because it satisfies the one criteria I hold most dear to my heart; artisan jewelry is unique. I have been to many craft shows and consider myself a connoisseur of handmade items. Full disclosure: I am also a craftsman myself and, so far, prefer the wearable art that I make over the more expensive precious jewelry or the oft duplicated component assembly.

If the indie craft shows allow the crocheted toilet paper covers and country signs and component assembled jewelry into their shows, I predict the whole industry will die a needless and avoidable death. If Portland can keep itself weird, indie craft shows should be able to keep themselves unique.

Next time you find yourself at a craft show, try this experiment. Lift a piece of component assembled jewelry in your hands (you’ll know it’s by a CA if it is just strung store-bought beads) and feel the spirit of the piece. Then go find some artisan jewelry and do the same. If my opinion holds true, you should feel a notable difference. Those who make jewelry from scratch, especially artisan jewelry, will often imbue the piece with spirit as they are designing it.

It’s true that any of the three types of jewelry can be soulless, but artisan jewelry almost always contains the most spirit, has the fairest price point, and will be the most authentic and unique. All three of these attributes add up to the most satisfaction.

Jewelry is one of the most intimate things we wear. It is close to the body and it often tells the world something about us. Make sure you never wear anything without soul. It will go a long way to help assure our indie craft shows stay funky.

Do you have an opinion on this subject? Please comment and make your opinion known.