Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Write What You Know...Design What You Know?

Aspiring writers are often told to "write what you know". This lends authenticity to the writing. It seems pretty straightforward and makes sense. 

But does this translate to other creative endeavors?

It seems that one of the buzzwords these days is authenticity, especially related to business. Google authenticity+marketing to spend your day reading hundreds of articles about it. I read two books recently, Be Your Own Brand and Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. The overwhelming message I took away from both was to be your authentic self, both in personal interactions and in branding your company.

They started me thinking about what I, personally bring to the table in my designs. What makes my work mine? What makes it different from any other jewelry artist's? For a while, I thought...nothing. And for a while there probably was nothing. I'd been told my creations looked a lot like what was being made by many other students at the Spruill Center. I'd been told they looked like other artisans' work. Probably all true. But over time, I think they are becoming more individual and recognizable. 

Why? Because of my authentic self. Some aspects of it are:

- I was born in the late 1960's and my formative years were in the early- to mid-seventies. There was a lot of spillover from the mid-century mod look, and design and this applied to furniture, jewelry, clothing - clean lines. No unnecessary fussiness. Bold color.

Hm. What do I aspire to in EVERY jewelry design? Or in my own home and wardrobe?  :)

I could easily live here.  :)

Though born in New York state, I spent twenty-five years in Arizona. Spare landscapes. Adobe-style houses (again, no unnecessary fussiness). Ranch homes. Surrounded by arid, ragged-edged mountains (very unlike the lush hillsides of my current state).

NOT the green countryside where I now live. This is the land of my childhood!
Well. I love making jaggedy, asymmetrical shapes that remind me of the mountains. I use embellishments sparingly in my creations.

I like a lot of open space in my life. And I like a lot of open space in my jewelry. I feel no need to cover every bit of metal with extras and adornments. I don't usually put two design elements right next to each other - I leave a little room. Maybe because I grew up with a vast amount of space? Arizona in the 1970s and into the 1980s was a lot of wide open land. I could drive ten miles from my house and be in the middle of the desert, seeing a million stars in the utterly dark sky and gazing off for into the distance for miles and miles.

That's Phoenix in the foreground. But it's the mountains in the background that I'm looking at.  :)

What do you think? Do we subconsciously (or deliberately) design what we know? 


  1. Hi Jill,

    I have been following your blog for some time and just wanted to pop in and say that as well as loving your jewelry (I love clean lines, bold color and bigger pieces, too) I also love the way you examine ideas and beliefs on creativity. I love this post in particular as this notion of authenticity is also something I have been wrangling with the past few years as I work on my first book(s). And here's what I've found to be true for me: I've finally learned to write what I LOVE...what I would like to read if given half the chance. And as you have also found for yourself, when I did that, when I finally followed the path of creating things I loved, being authentic was easy.

    Maybe it's not about 'what' we know, but simply (!) knowing ourselves.

    Thanks, Jill, for your thought-provoking posts. =)

    Ash xx

    1. Ash, thank you for your comment! I think that what we love must be part of the equation, because I know people who love...say, the beach, and didn't grow up near it, don't live near it, but manage to incorporate that into their lives.

      I think that part of the struggle for me is that I haven't been designing what I want to least not for a little while. I guess the journey to self-development and design development go hand in hand. I've been unhappy with myself and parts of my life in recent years and I suppose that's been part of the struggle.

      I'm glad you are able to write what about what YOU love, and can't wait to hear when your book will be published. I'm an avid reader so once it's done I'll have to add it to my reading list. :) No pressure though! :)

  2. "...the journey to self-development and design development go hand in hand." I couldn't agree more, Jill. I don't know about you, but the less willing I am to face my *stuff*, the worse my writing gets (even my characters cover their eyes).

    Thanks re writing. Probably best if you don't hold your breath just yet, though. I'm working on a series of children's stories, and most likely an accompanying adult series for the adult characters, but at the rate I'm going, I often think I'll be ninety before I publish! Will just keep plugging away, though...tortoise wins the race and all that. =)

    Hope you've had a good day working on things that YOU love.