trade tales | Apr 26, 2024 |
How do you find inspiration in a creative lull?

Creativity ebbs and flows, and sometimes you may find yourself in a rut—call it “designer’s block.” This week, we asked seven industry pros—architect Marcos Santa Ana and designers Paris Forino, Erin Hannon-Watkinson, Linda Hayslett, Claire Hung, Chris McGovern and Purvi Padia—how they get inspired when they feel stuck.

How do you find inspiration in a creative lull?
Chris McGovernChristian Torres

Industry Immersion
“Finding inspiration during creative lulls is indeed a challenge, especially in the midst of gray winters in New York. While jetting off to a sunny destination isn’t always feasible, I’ve discovered alternative havens closer to home. Trips to the D&D Building or New York Design Center, despite being rooted in work, often evolve into unexpected fountains of creativity. Visiting design centers isn’t merely about perusing eye-catching showrooms; it’s about forging connections within the industry, where chance encounters with fellow designers and engaging discussions with showroom representatives often spark fresh ideas and perspectives. Their enthusiasm for new product lines and insights into their creation process serve as educational and invaluable sources of inspiration. This same principle applies to attending an industry event, store opening or book signing. There have been plenty of times I’ve convinced myself I’m too busy to attend—but honestly, I never regret attending. I’ve also cultivated personal practices to navigate creative lulls, including the Morning Pages journaling exercise, a ritual borrowed from The Artist’s Way. This daily habit serves as a mental decluttering tool, clearing away the noise and allowing fresh ideas to surface. And when all else fails, I’ve found that breaking a sweat through physical exercise can work wonders, especially when it’s the last thing you feel like doing!” —Chris McGovern, McGovern Project, New York

How do you find inspiration in a creative lull?
Claire HungCourtesy of Claire Hung

Back to the Books
“It was my UC Berkeley professor and mentor, Chip Sullivan, who taught me that the process of finding inspiration involves research. ‘You’re not reinventing the wheel—you’re improving upon it,’ he said, encouraging me to get to the library. His statement has stayed with me ever since. So when I get into a lull, I spend time exposing myself to the work of my contemporaries and the masters. Sometimes I get a flash of inspiration, and sometimes I have to sit with it all for a while before the ideas start to flow.” —Claire Hung, Brooklyn

How do you find inspiration in a creative lull?
Marcos Santa AnaCourtesy of Alloi

Return to Nature
“Growing up in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York ingrained in me a deep reverence for the wilderness. When faced with creative lulls, I find inspiration surrounded by nature—both in its challenging and unknown terrain and in its unrefined grandeur. Whether I’m hiking through dense forests or conquering rugged peaks, nature’s raw beauty sparks my architectural imagination, drawing from the unaltered and intricate design of the natural world. The striking rock formations, dramatic escarpments and daring cantilevers encountered along the way inspire form-making in architecture. In pushing my physical limits, I uncover boundless possibilities for innovative structures that harmonize with their surroundings, reminding me that even in stillness, creativity thrives.” —Marcos Santa Ana, Alloi, Los Angeles

How do you find inspiration in a creative lull?
Linda HayslettCourtesy of L.H. Designs

The Debrief
“When [I hit] a lull [in business or creativity], I get inspired to strengthen my business more. I look at my contract to see what to tweak, add or specify. I look over my website to see if there are any new items to add, or even spelling errors I missed. I look over processes in how I handle things with either programs, staff or freelancers. Lulls can be a way to look inward and have time to get things more organized—[which frees up] more headspace to have a more creative environment, since you don’t have to focus on the admin side when not in a lull.” Linda Hayslett, LH.Designs, Los Angeles

How do you find inspiration in a creative lull?
Erin Hannon-WatkinsonCourtesy of Studio Ha/Wa

Put the Phone Down
“We’re so inundated with imagery in our daily lives. I find a lot of inspiration from the typical places like Pinterest and Instagram, but I find it refreshing to get out of that digital space. [I like] getting out in the world and seeing and experiencing things for myself, not just through a curated lens. In the last year, I went to Salone del Mobile and a handful of art fairs, and I didn’t know how much I needed that shift in inspiration. Talking with other creatives and learning what inspires them, their process or perspective. Being in person to see, feel or experience a product, a piece of art and space, cannot be compared.” —Erin Hannon-Watkinson, Studio Ha/Wa, Toronto

How do you find inspiration in a creative lull?
Paris ForinoCourtesy of Paris Forino

Let’s Get Physical
“A lull [in creativity] is a good opportunity to chill and reboot, to let your mind wander and daydream a bit. I think stepping away from work and enjoying exercise—physical activity and also time with family and friends—is a great space for inspiration. So, yes, embrace the lull. Enjoy it, and creativity will bloom!” —Paris Forino, New York

How do you find inspiration in a creative lull?
Purvi PadiaCourtesy of Purvi Padia

Outside Perspective
“When I find myself in a creative lull, I look outside the industry. My most inspired moments come from travel. I am fascinated by different cultures and how beauty translates from city to city, country to country, and culture to culture. Whether it is architecture, fashion, food, transportation—each place has such a distinct and unique voice. I love having the opportunity to interpret those silhouettes, textures, colors, layers, mechanics—all the elements—and to see how I can interestingly translate those into relevant design.” —Purvi Padia, New York

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