I just created my first ever mood board for a personal project. That’s right. I’d never created an inspiration or mood board for one of my own projects. I’d always thought they were a bit pointless. But I think I’m a convert. Inspired by that revelation and my excitement about having some inspiration back in my personal projects, I wanted to write a post all about finding inspiration, which I think goes hand in hand with my other piece on creative thinking.

8 things to do before 8 am

MOOD/INSPIRATION BOARDS

As I just said, I’ve just put together my first inspiration board for a personal project and I’m kind of in love with it. I’ve not shared a picture of it here, so I can keep what I’m working on as something that’s just mine for a while. Creating an inspiration board can be a great way of drawing together a lot of ideas so you can synthesise them and find links, it has also served as a great way to remind me of the concept I was striving for to keep me on course. My board includes some reference images, colour palettes, a couple of quotes, images of objects and scenes I really love, and some fragments of work I love. I’ve only used fragments of artists’ work because I don’t want to be taking too much from them, rather I’ve taken sections for the inspiration of quality of line, or textures and materials, or I’ve drawn over them to highlight composition. That distinction was really important to me in terms of finding inspiration, I didn’t want to steal ideas and I also didn’t want to be overwhelmed by work that I liked because I know that my own won’t be the same, because it’s mine, and that’s not a bad thing.

GET OUTSIDE

When I say get outside I don’t just mean going for a walk, although that can be a great way to come find inspiration. I love just walking and looking and listening and absorbing. Make sure you look up when you’re walking around, you’ll see so much more. When I say get outside, I mean get out and try new things or go new places. If you can, travel somewhere new and let a new culture or location inspire you. If you can’t, just visit somewhere new in your city, or look at it from a new vantage point. You could also try out a new class or go to a museum about something you’ve never thought about before (if you’re in London I love the Wellcome Collection for that kind of inspiration). Get out, experience something new, and let the world around inspire you.

LOOK AT MORE THAN ONE SOURCE

This kind of goes hand in hand with what I just said but don’t just look to one source for inspiration, and in particular don’t just look to one artist. That’s how you end up in a dangerous place. If you’re working in design why not look to architecture, or classical artworks, or nature, or fashion? Looking outside of your field for inspiration will help you come up with new ideas and help you find your own style. I love using my Pinterest to gather up lots of images that have caught my eye and varying where I get my inspiration from.

ENGAGE YOUR OTHER SENSES

If I’m looking for a bit of a quick fix for inspiration I put some music on. There’s just something about engaging with a different sense that makes my brain work differently, whether I’m inspired by a feeling or a lyric I normally come away more productive and engaged with whatever I’m doing. I also love using smells to evoke memories or to inspire me. Try engaging with your senses (yes this is an excuse for a snack) to see which bits of your brain they will switch on and inspire.

TRY A NEW STYLE OR TECHNIQUE

Back in January, I started a painting everyday journal, to encourage me to just play with paint again. Pretty much everything I’ve created in there has been an abstract watercolour, and I’ve found a style I like that’s really different from anything else I make. It’s so easy to become comfortable in doing things a certain way or with a certain medium, but challenging yourself to try something new or present your ideas in a different way can be really inspiring. Using watercolours more hasn’t just been fun it’s made me want to incorporate them into my work more and it’s inspired me to try some more abstract pieces of work. Finding that style on my own through experimentation has also given me the confidence to try more new things, which I think has been just as inspiring as the work itself.

FIND GOOD PEOPLE

Surround yourself with people who inspire you. That doesn’t mean you need to be in an artist’s collective, but it does mean you need to find good people. I constantly find myself being inspired by my friends, by the things they say, by their bravery or intelligence or just their drive to be good people. I think that’s really important. Find people who can inspire you to approach the world in a different way or just to be better, and make sure those people are people who support you in your creativity. If you’re struggling to find people in the real world, reaching out and starting conversations on social media, especially twitter, can be a great way to get involved in a new community and speak to new creative people.

DON’T WAIT, JUST MAKE SOMETHING

I’ve started carrying around a little idea notepad with me in my planner so that I can jot down anything that comes to me and have all of those ideas stored in one place. Having a catalogue of ideas, however small or frankly rubbish, is really useful to come back to, either to remember what you wanted to do or for some inspiration from your past self. Once you have an idea, don’t wait to work on it. You don’t need to have the perfect idea to have a go at something. Sometimes just starting and working gets you thinking as you go, and sometimes you need to work through 5 bad ideas before you find your real inspiration and a good idea.

GIVE YOURSELF TIME

Quite often having a deadline can be a good thing, and sometimes we work best under pressure. But coming up with an idea when all you’re thinking of is coming up with an idea can be the hardest thing in the world. You are not going to be inspired all of the time. It’s just a fact. If you are, please share your secrets with me. Give yourself some space and time to think, and perhaps try out some of these creative thinking exercises, and let inspiration come to you as you go without overthinking it (this comes from the world’s biggest overthinker).

I probably spend too much of my time on youtube, but there’s so much great content out there and it’s so easy to get sucked into the blackhole that is the automatic play function. The more time I spend on there, the more favourites I find. I wanted to share some of those discoveries with you to expand your subscription boxes and your creative inspiration.

 

ARTISTS AND DESIGNERS

NATASHA NUTTALL

Natasha was the first design youtuber I watch and subscribed to, and her videos kind of led to a whole day of design-tube binge watching. Her videos cover every and anything design-y and they’re awesome. I’ve particularly loved all of her London recommendations and vlogs, as someone who lives in the big smoke. Her unboxings and reviews are ace as well, as, in fact, is all of the rest of her content. If you like this list, Natasha has two really great lists of creative youtubers on her blog, which really helped get me into the creative side of youtube (This is the first one, and here’s the second).

HOLLIE ARNETT

Hollie is a designer from New Zealand, and she just seems like the loveliest person (very much on my list of people I wish I could be friends with list). As well as some really useful advice videos, Hollie also does the occasional graphic design challenge on her channel, which are some of my favourite videos to watch because you get to see someone’s work process in hyperdrive.

ROBIN CLONTS

Robin’s paintings are absolutely stunning, but that’s not why I love her channel. I love her channel because she’s hilarious. She makes pure comedy gold out of the things every artist has thought, or felt, or done, or had said to them.

FURRY LITTLE PEACH

Sha’an d’Anthes AKA Furry Little Peach is an Australian illustrator and artist living and working in Australia, which is kind of my dream. Her work is gorgeous and I absolutely love her studio tours and getting to watch her work. If you’re looking for some really lovely relaxed design videos that will leave you in a good mood, I highly recommend checking her out. Fingers crossed she posts some more videos soon!

THE SAD GHOST CLUB

I love the Sad Ghost Club wherever they are. If you don’t know them already, The Sad Ghost Club is a club for anyone who’s ever felt sad or lost, which is kind of everyone at some point. Their youtube channel is still quite new, but their sketchbook club is so lovely.

HOUSE THAT LARS BUILT

As well as being one of my favourite blogs to read, The House that Lars Built (AKA Brittany Watson Jepsen) also makes some of my absolute favourite videos on youtube. They are beautifully shot and produced craft videos. I feel like calling them craft videos underplays it, perhaps aspirational DIY or mind blowing make and do projects might be better, either way everything Brittany makes is stunning and makes me want to be better.

FRANNERD

I’ve been a huge fan of Fran’s illustrations for absolutely ages, so when I discovered she had a youtube channel I was more than a little bit excited. As well as discussing her own work and showing her process, Fran talks really honestly about life as an artist in a way that’s really lovely and refreshing.

WILL PATERSON

Logo designer Will Paterson, is one of the most popular design-tubers with good reason. He mainly focuses on logo design, brand identity and Adobe Illustrator. Will’s laid back style make his videos so easy to watch, which means you find you’re learning things without even realising.

CHARLI MARIE

Charli is a freelance designer based in the UK and all round super cool lady. Her videos are about everything from branding, to designing t-shirts and apparel to working with clients. Her enthusiasm about what she does really shines through her videos and always inspires me to get going.

 

LIFESTYLE

LIZZIE HADFIELD

When I grow up I want to dress like Lizzie Hadfield. Not only is Lizzie’s style in-credible, she makes really useful videos, her testing basics videos are the kind of fashion review that are genuinely useful rather than just fluffy sales tools. She also makes some of my absolute favourite vlogs, because she really feels like a friend and her accent kind of makes me think of home.

THE ANNA EDIT

I just like watching Anna’s videos, that’s all I have to say – I really enjoy them.

ESTEE LALONDE

Everything Estee Lalonde does is beautifully curated, whether that’s her home, her style, or her stunning book Bloom. I really aspire to that level of clarity of vision. Her dog reggie is a babe too – note to all youtubers out there I can and will be won over by the inclusion of a dog in your videos.

ARDEN ROSE

You could classify Arden as another beauty/style youtuber, that’s certainly where she started out. But, for me, her most inspirational videos are her more produced shorts like Almost Adulting, which she made to promote her book of the same name (it looks awesome). I promise after watching her videos your life will get a whole lot more sassy.

 

OTHER INSPIRATION

ARIEL BISSETT

As I mentioned in my first Book Club post, Ariel Bissett has really helped reignite my passion for reading because she always just seems so damn excited to have a book in her hand.

DO NOT SETTLE

Watching Do Not Settle’s videos is like getting to travel the world with a supercool architect friend who points out all of the most interesting buildings and elements in your surroundings. I genuinely think watching their videos has changed how I see the world a little bit.

CASEY NEISTAT

I feel like Casey is already so well subscribe to on youtube that there’s not really any point in mentioning him. Nevertheless, this list would be remiss without him on it, his ethos of just taking his gear with him and getting the shot without being precious is something that’s really inspired me and made me want to get better at not worrying and just doing the work.

 

Who else should I be watching?

 

224-238 Kensington High St. couldn’t be a more fitting home for the new, reinvigorated, Design Museum. Its structural sweeping roof, its glowing yellow signage, its wide staircase that acts as an impromptu seating area, all come together to form a space that feels at once carefully planned and open to play.

When I went a couple of weekends ago it was absolutely packed – I’d avoid Saturday afternoons for a bit. While it was bad for me as someone who hates crowds, it’s a great sign for the museum. It wasn’t just design folk either, the new £83mil building was filled with a whole spectrum of Londonners and tourists.

Undoubtedly the highlight of the shows they have on currently is their permanent collection, something they didn’t have the room for in their last home. Designer-Maker-User examines how the world around us has been shaped by design, and how design has been shaped by designers, makers, and users. What could have been an overly broad and theoretical piece on the nature of design, their use of brands and objects everyone will recognise makes the exhibition relevant and engaging.

  

After you’ve seen Designer-Maker-User make sure you check out the Beazley Designs of the Year, to see design thinking in practice. The diverse collection of designs, from ambitious architectural projects to an electric bike and a pair of trainers made from waste plastic, are organised into themes to help you navigate the space and understand how design impacts real lives. On the topic of understanding, you can tell the museum has put a lot of effort into helping people understand why each piece has been selected. No matter how weird or wacky every design has been given its own write up, and there’s an introductory statement about the criteria for nominations. These little touches give the exhibit a real sense of value rather than just being a collection of oddities. Hopefully, they’ll also lead to some interesting results from the public vote for winners too.

The Design Museum is also hosting works from their artists in residence around the theme of openness, and a show called Fear & Love which is 11 pieces that look to solve problems created by design. Both of which are thought provoking and really interesting to wander round.  

I will say that I’m looking forward to them using the atrium space more effectively. In it’s current, empty, form, the heart of the space feels a bit lacking and without focus.

That said, the new Design Museum is full of promise and suggests a confidence in the industry that it really deserves. Design isn’t just a buzz word. It isn’t just making things that are pretty. It’s about improving the world around you for real people. That’s the calling card of this museum. You can just feel that there is so much more to come from this corner of Kensington.

Have you been out to the new space? What did you think?

A new year is quite often cast as a new slate, a time to get motivated and start afresh. But sometimes the flicking over of the calendar isn’t all we need to get going, and once the heady haze of overly ambitious new year’s resolutions has settled we need to realise that we can start afresh whenever we want. These are the things that are inspiring me to keep going through this month and try and treat every day like the first of January.

1. THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF NOT GIVING A FUCK

I’ve mentioned this one on this blog before, but it’s worth mentioning again. The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck is a book about, well, not giving a fuck. Or rather, it’s about realising that you can’t give a fuck about everything and so you need to really think about where you spend your fucks. My word for this year is caring (a more family friendly way of saying fuck giving I guess) because I want to be more conscious of what I care about. I need to stop caring about the things that make me feel bad or anxious and start caring more about the things and people that I love, and this book has really helped clarify that for me. I will say it’s writing is a little repetitive and you don’t need to read all of it to get the message, but the wisdom it imparts mean it’s something I keeping dipping back into. I’ve also been rethinking caring through the lens of the very gorgeous Learning to Love You More by Harrell Fletcher & Miranda July.

2. THESE 2 TED TALKS

I go through phases of TED talks: I get into them, I watch too many, then I get sick of them. I’m back into them again currently and these two are the ones that are inspiring me. Neither of them are very new but they’re both very good. Young-ha Kim’s ‘Be an artist, right now!’ has motivated me to get making again because I love it. I miss making things with my hands and actually drawing or painting. I used to make so much when I was little. Now I want to reconnect with that childhood joy and get making again, even if it isn’t good, because “we are all born artists.” In a similar vein, Stefan Sagmeister ‘Happiness by Design’ has got me thinking about finding the joy in my process and how design can bring you joy, whether that’s in creating it, seeing it or using it.

3. THE YOUTUBE DESIGN COMMUNITY

I know, this is a big one. But I’ve only just discovered the design community that’s filming and vlogging on youtube (yes, I have been living under a rock). Once I know a bit more I might put a full post up on design-tubers. There are so many cool people putting themselves out there. I’ve seen so many interesting events through their eyes and it has given me so many ideas of things I want to do and try this year. They’re also creating some awesome work! Some of my favourites include: Natasha Nuttall, Hollie Arnett, Charli Marie, and Frannerd

4. ELIZABETH GILBERT’S MAGIC LESSONS

This is an oldie but a goodie. I recently found myself in need of an extra podcast and remembered the Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons which I used to dip in and out of. The podcast features lots of really interesting and inspirational creative people talking about their creative struggles and how to live a creative life, as well as Elizabeth’s conversations with “ordinary” people who want to be more creative. It’s a bit like creative therapy, but more fun than that sounds. Elizabeth has been empowering creative people for years with her writing, and listening to her sage words of wisdom always makes me feel better and like I want to get going. If you run out of episodes, I’d suggest checking out her book Big Magic or the Raise Your Hand Say Yes podcast by Tiffany Han.

5. LONDON

I’ve been living in London for a little while now, and I realise I haven’t been taking advantage of the city. There’s so much to do and see here, that if I’m quite honest I’ve been a bit overwhelmed and not done anything. But that is going to change. I’m going to take inspiration from the city I’m in whether that’s going to more museums or shows, or just trying to find the excitement in getting to be here. I was also very kindly gifted a National Art Pass for Christmas which is going to open even more doors to adventure this year.

What’s inspiring you this month?

Still stuck on those last few Christmas gifts? Feeling uninspired, or running low on cash? I’ve got you covered, with my top 5 DIY gifts. I’m not going to lie, these aren’t as easy as just buying someone a box of chocolates but they are a lot more thoughtful.

TERRARIUM

Everyone loves some greenery in their life, and it’s been scientifically proven that having plants in your home is good for you. But, not everyone is the best at keeping plants alive (hi!). That’s where the terrarium comes in, not only are they really lovely to look at they’re also really hard to mess up. Apartment Therapy has some really great instructions and tips for putting one together. Added bonus, they’re much less spiky to carry than a cactus.

COOKIE MIX IN A JAR

Still got that box of chocolates on your mind? This one should satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. It’s the perfect antidote to the loss of Bake Off and any new year’s diets. All you need to do is measure and add the dry ingredients for cookies into a jar, then add a label with instructions for adding the wet ingredients. For all in one instructions, The Very Best Baking has everything you need. If you’re looking for a different cookie recipe, these are some of my favourites:

For healthier sorts, Lee Hersh’s Cherry Pistachio Energy Balls

Or for slightly more indulgence, go with these brownies from the ever wonderful Oh Lady Cake

My favourite choice chip cookies from Tanya Burr, you’ll probably need to scale down this recipe to fit it in a jar.

Keep the festive season going with some gingerbread, don’t forget to gift a little person cutter with your jar for this one.

SOAP

I found out this year that homemade soap is surprisingly easy to pull together, so I’ve added it to this list. There are so many variations that can make the humble bar of soap something really special and it’s easy to bulk make if you have a lot of gifts to put together. A Beautiful Mess has so many you can peruse, from colour block soaps to spiced latte soap, to soap on a rope, and loads more beside those. If you’re feeling fancy you can even make a little popsicle tray/sled to deliver your soap on. 

JUMPER MITTENS

If you can’t knit but still want to give the gift of toastiness to your loved one, this is for you. A Beautiful Mess (again, can you tell I love their DIYs) has all of the instructions you need to turn an old jumper or any knitted item really (where are my Helgas at?) into a lovely pair of homemade mittens. If you want to make them extra special have a go at putting some embroidery, maybes some initials. 

MARBLE EFFECT COASTERS

Still don’t think that DIT gifts can be modern and stylish? Think again, these marble effect coasters from Homey Oh My will please even the most discerning of customers. They’re also really fun and easy to make – always a bonus. If you’ve got any friends who have recently moved or just love homeware this is the DIY for you.