Creativity can be an elusive thing, yet it’s something we in fashion need to call on frequently. In the Designer Techniques class, for example, students are asked to go beyond what a pattern calls for and add their own clever touches. But what can you do when the ideas just aren’t there? Earlier this week the students in Ronda’s class got some guidance.

Artist Ellen Brook has developed a set of techniques for tapping into our creativity more easily. Ellen worked with the students to paint on silk and, in the process, explore new possibilities. “I wonder …” was the phrase she recommended for shifting into a mindset of curiosity. “I wonder what would happen if I painted with my nose,” Ellen offered as an example. Recognizing that this idea was a little silly, she explained that it might lead to a more reasonable option, like painting with a finger rather than a brush.

After the individual painting exercise, Ellen asked the students to reflect on the experience. “It was relaxing, meditative,” one student shared and “It was interesting to let time change [the work].” Ronda, who participated in the workshop right along with her students declared, “I found the freedom exciting!”

Later the class split into two teams that each worked on a larger piece. By doing so, the students were able to explore collaborative creativity, which can involve a different set of challenges from individual work.

Ellen has observed that the main barrier to creativity is usually our own thinking. She suggests noticing your feelings as you begin a creative process and any time you feel blocked. “Do I feel nervous? Fearful of judgment?” Just asking these questions and noticing can help break through the blocks, according to Ellen.

Here are some photos taken during the workshop:

What do you do when you hit a creative block? Please share in the comments.