on inspiration, influence, & creating

I’m wordy and deep today…there’s your warning.

I’ve been thinking about inspiration and influence…and how I am affected by the two. There isn’t much I don’t find inspiring in some way or another. Influence, on the other hand, I have to step back and really look at my life to see what & who are having influence on me.

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I have a crazy large collection of magazines…lots of really old ones too.  I have files of magazine pages I’ve torn out over the years. The pages are of things I want to recreate or things that inspire me. I was going through an old copy of Martha Stewart KIDS and found a tutorial for felt fortune cookies. There was once a time that to find great tutorials, you had to purchase magazines or books…they weren’t found by a simple online search. Of course, now that tutorial is online. You can find it by clicking here. On Valentine’s Day morning there were 6 fortune cookies waiting for my hubby and kids (I’ll save Little One’s). If I had not found that tutorial, I probably would not have taken the time to think up something so cute. I’m thankful for women like Martha (and her team) that make creativity accessible and easy.
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I like to create. I like to use my hands. Sometimes I want to create something completely my own. Other times I am drained and just want to follow the creative ideas of others. A couple of weeks ago I found myself at Craft Weekend wanting to paint. However, it was 11:00pm. I was tired and smitten with some Heather Bailey fabric (which I now own 4 yards of!). Instead of creating a painting from scratch, I just wanted to paint again. It had been so long. So I sketched a version of Heather’s fabric and painted it. It reminded me of days in art classes where our instructor had us copy great works of art. I made it for me. Just to paint again. However, after I posted it here I began thinking about this blog and who reads it. Despite, the painting being just for fun, for practice, for me (and sharing a link to the Heather Bailey fabric)….I wonder if I should have shared it here.
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I know all too well that people like to take things they see online and pass them off as their own, intentionally and unintentionally. It made me wonder…would anyone read that post and then find fabric they liked, paint it and then try to sell it as their own design f0r profit? As an artist and blogger, I do think there is a responsibility on my part for how I share creative projects. I would never want something I share to work against an artist or designer. I’m pretty confident Heather Bailey fabric will not be affected negatively by my painting, but I want to always be mindful of those sorts of things. I want to be known as a blogger and artist that respects others.

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When my last project for Design*Sponge went live, a couple of people noted the similarities between my work and that of Katie Daisy. As you all fully know, I am a huge fan of Katie’s work. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her as an artist and a person. My project for D*S was the result of several different versions I worked through with my editor. At the time of creating, Katie’s work never crossed my mind. Though her work was not inspiration for my own, I can see Katie’s influence on my own work. Katie’s prints are all over my home and they welcome me every time I open this blog. Her influence on me as an artist is undeniable and I am grateful for it. All that to say, it truly bothered me that someone might think I was trying to mimic Katie’s work…not because I was offended, but because I would never want to not give credit when due ~ especially when it is another artist I admire and respect so much.
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So, what is the point of sharing all that? I want to create. I want to encourage others to create. I like that things like Pinterest are making creative ideas more accessible to the masses. I think creativity is good for the soul and makes people happy. I’ve seen creativity flourish in friends because of the great resource known as Pinterest. I share tutorials here in hopes that someone might be sparked to get a little creative on their own. I’m not looking to ‘make it big’ in the creative industry (but if Martha ever invites me to her show…well I sure wouldn’t turn her down ) I function better when I can create, whether it is a project that I follow a tutorial, or a project inspired by someone else, or just a random project of my own. I hope those that read my blog would see that creativity isn’t just for ‘artists’ or those that understand the technically correct way to do something. I hope people read this blog and buy a glue gun just to give creativity a try.

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To me, one of the hard parts of creative works and the internet is sometimes I don’t think we always recognize the influence of others. There are times we are so shaped by the creative works and styles of others…that we just don’t even realize it. When I step back and look at how I have changed over the course of the last few years, I can see strong influences from women I’ve grown to love. Rachel has given me a whole new appreciation for flea markets. Dottie Angel has encouraged my excitement over vintage fabric. Julie has caused me to spray paint too many things. Meg has shown me how bold and vintage can flow seamlessly. Ann has taught me not just to notice the daily gifts in my life, but to write them down and give thanks for them. And I could go on and on….
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I am constantly finding inspiration. I find it in magazines. In the homes of my friends. On blogs. On Pinterest. In books. In people. Inspiration is everywhere. As a blogger and artist, I want to be inspired. I want to create. And I want to point others to those I find inspiring. If I find a great tutorial online, I want to point you to it…not pretend it is mine (though the felt cookies would be pretty awesome to pretend I came up with).  I am grateful for all the well written tutorials out there that just let me copy their steps and enjoy making something when I need concrete steps instead of inspiration. And when I am inspired by someone else’s work that leads to my own project, I want to be mindful to give proper credit even for inspiration.

And then on the days that I create something uniquely my own….I want to learn to recognize that even my work has been influenced by others. It is so easy to be influenced by others creatively….and that makes me think more about who I am allowing to influence me…as an artist….as a photographer….as a wife…as a mom…as a friend….

Deep thoughts I’m pondering these days between sweeping the floor and folding laundry. I haven’t gotten too far. I know I want to be continually inspired. I know I want to weed out the things I don’t want influencing me. I know I want to recognize those that do inspire and influence me. I also know I want our dossier to be “logged in” in China today (but that is totally unrelated!)

Deep thoughts with Ashley Ann.

So, I’m just curious…who and what do you find inspiring? Who have you found that is an influence in any area of your life?


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  • Amy - Beautifully written. Beautiful. Interestingly enough, I found your blog & Heather Bailey’s blog around the same time. Love, love, love her fabrics. (At Craft Weekend I saw her fabric in Meg’s bin & snatched it first! I couldn’t help myself! My Southern manners flew out the window once I laid my eyes on it. Ha!!) I’m so inspired by your blog, & especially your humility. :) I saw something the other day that said, Could you live without the Internet? I thought, yes I could. But I don’t want to!! Ha!

  • Art Friday: Thinking it through… | Memoria.Arts - [...] Anne’s On Inspiration, Influence, & Creating- Ashley addressed something that I think all creatives who operate online have thought at one time [...]

  • Asha - I’m inspired by Maggie Holmes. I think she has an amazing eye for color. She has inspired me to not be afraid of color: in your wardrobe, decorating your home & in crafting. I don’t strive to copy and sell things, I create for my own enjoyment.

  • Taylor - I am so glad you posted about this topic. I often worry about unintentionally copying someones work in the things I make or create. It is hard with so much out there online these days to not accidently copy someone elses creativity. Honestly, reading your blog has inspired me a lot lately. You actually inspired me to start my etsy shop. I have always wanted to make and find things to sell and I finally did it. I used to be very ocd in my home and very concerned about everything always being in its place. I’ve come to realize its ok to have pictures scattered all over my fridge because its a reflection of those I love. And it’s ok to have stuffed animals around the house because it shows my two little dogs are happy. You’ve inspired me to look at things differently and appriciate the small stuff! I am so happy you write this blog Ashley! I know you have inspired so many people in so many great ways! Thank you :)

  • Likely - I have never commented, but am a long time fan. I also have three boys and mine remind me so much of yours. i love boys. I had to comment today to share a video with you that I think you will love as an artist and a christian. I heard the talk a few years ago and it brought me to tears. This is just a few excerpts, but it is really touching. I hope you enjoy it miss ashley ann. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhLlnq5yY7k

  • pieceLove - My Ninja Sewing Master just told me about your blog today. I had never heard of it; I like it. I don’t get out much, so to speak. I’ve thought about all this inspiration stuff too. Ultimately, we truly are the sum of our parts. As are those we admire and who came before. Is anyone truly, truly, creative? Like, can a human actually create? Is any one person an originator? I don’t think so. I think every good and perfect and beautiful thing and idea is from God. We just discover stuff, show stuff off, find new expressive compounds.
    Or something like that.

  • Lena - Really interesting thoughts. I think that selfishly I take more credit for my creativity than what I deserve. Not on my blog, not with my friends, not even with my husband [credit is given where credit is due], but just with myself. Sometimes I think I allow my selfishness to result in my own pride in the projects I’ve created, but really I should be humbled by them. By the fact that we’ve been provided such a valuable channel to share and inspire … and that I have the means to be a part of it all. And what’s most beautiful about this? That God can even use my gift of creativity [even if it is small] and inspiration from others that I selfishly allow to creep into personal pride instead of humility to remind me that I’m in desperate need of the Gospel.

  • Karen - I find much of my inspiration from blogs and others’ art. Might mine be similar == sometimes I bet. Seems that if your taste is similar, your art might be also. I’m SO grateful to bloggers like you and some others. Without you, I don’t know if I would have found my motivation to do things that bring me more joy than I can say.

  • JEnni - I loved this post… it is certainly a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. And, I feel that your Valentine- although it might have shown your influences- was uniquely Ashley Ann. Also, I had never even heard of the fabric designer until you posted about your painting and her fabric. Thanks for turning me onto a new favorite designer!

  • twirling betty - I think anyone that follows your blog would know that you would no sooner copy another designer’s work than fly to the moon. In a teapot. And back.

  • Sarah - Thank you for this post. Soooooo much. I have had issues with this before, Lost a friendship because of it, and I still think about it every day with a good amount of sadness. I was new in the blogging world and I didn’t pay close enough attention to influence, inspiration, and credit, and learned some valuable lessons. I think what you do is beautiful and I thank you for your honesty. This hit close to home.

  • Carrie R - LOVE this post! I LOVE getting inspiration from all over (books, blogs, magazines)! This post actually inspired me to get some more MS Kids magazines, ha!

  • Honey Bee Mama - you know what i gain from this is the “okay-ness” of being inspired by others. i like to think i’m creative, but often so many of the things i do are ideas that were shared with me from others. the joy i’ve found is having freedom in sharing the inspiration of others, instead of feeling lame or guilty for not coming up with the ideas myself. i love being able to share the same ideas with others, “oh i found the cutest kids activity on xyz website. you’ve got to try it; we had so much fun!” but i appreciate your bringing up the point of us taking credit for another person’s work. and that is a good admonishment for me as i am often looking at different tutorials and studying baby carriers i run across and tweaking and rethinking my own patterns that i sell. i too, must make sure i’m making something original when i make it to sell. good stuff!

  • Katie - Ashley,
    Thank you for such a great post! I found a lot of my thoughts echoed in your writing…I’m constantly thinking about inspiration, influence, etc…how are people inspired and why? I often write on this topic on my blog, here’s a post that I wrote last summer if you or anyone else is intersted: http://kboehnlein.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/everyday-inspiration/

    I’m often inspired by Nature…there is something about it that calls to artisitcally-minded people- to draw, paint, sculpt, write, photograph. And the best thing about it, is that it is the kind of source that won’t get mad if you “copy” it. Rather, people will praise you for portraying the landscape in sucha unique, realistic, convincing, beautiful (etc.) way!

    Thank you for making us think :)

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