Inspiration, and how to find it

Lets face it: when you’re a busy creative it can be hard to stay fresh. Sometimes, after the heavy demands of a working week, you can find yourself flagging to come up with new ideas.

John Williams, author of Screw Work, Let’s Play, describes the notion of a ‘scanner’. We’re talking conceptual chameleon: someone who isn’t tied down to straight lines but has lots of diverse interests, many of which may not relate to each other.

It’s good to cast your net wide when it comes to inspiration. Drawing energy from anything and everything feeds the mind: images, words, music, art, conversation, architecture, travel, the natural world, people – and more often than not, we stumble across it when we aren’t even looking.

Cast your net wide for inspiration

It could be the seedling of an idea or project, or even start us off in a completely different direction.

My love of photography often finds its home in nature. I’m passionate about garden photography, and much of my spare time is spent visiting the great gardens of England, such as Hidcote Manor, to watch the seasons pass and feast my eyes on floral loveliness.

At Hidcote there has been an ongoing project to restore the garden to the way it was in Lawrence Johnston‘s day. Glyn Jones, Hidcote’s head gardener, has done painstaking research to achieve this. Every time I go back to Hidcote some of the space has changed, and so uniquely. Far from being overwhelmed, I come back with fresh ideas for my own tiny urban garden because there is always something different to see, on a scale I can comprehend.

I’m not alone – the professionals adore Hidcote too. The 100-year-old site was the inspiration for garden designer Chris Beardshaw‘s RHS Chelsea Flower Show award-winning garden in 2007. Beardshaw says:

“For me this is the garden that’s responsible for who I am as a gardener. I came here when I was seven or eight and was mesmerised by the theatre of the garden, the revealed views, the strong geometries. I felt there was something magical about what had been created. It’s the one garden I keep coming back to, it’s the most influential garden for me.”

Hidcote is a brilliant example of creative momentum, because Johnston’s original landscaping has been honoured, yet subtly modernised, to achieve a workable agenda.

Hidcote shows how apparently disparate ideas – past order and contemporary planting – can be brought together to beautiful effect.

I went to Manchester a few years ago, and was really taken with the city’s civic pride in its architecture.

Before then, I wasn’t given to urban photography, but the vibrant mix of modern and Victorian styles at the Royal Exchange Theatre blew me away. The stained-glass cupulas juxtaposed with the theatre in the round were simply stunning. I only had a compact camera with me, but that brief coffee break formed the idea for a project.

Since then, I’ve begun to explore urban architecture and have shot buildings in Birmingham: its amazing library designed by the late Zaha Hadid, the Mailbox district and urban street art in Digbeth, and plan to do more in London and other cities.

For a long time I’ve been sitting (metaphorically) on an ideas box: it contains cuttings, notes and random stuff which has caught my eye.

Today, I finally took it out and dusted it off. Every tutor or guide I’ve had has encouraged their students to put together a notebook, mood or topic board. It’s a great way of sparking your creativity when reserves are running low.

I opened the box and found a little casket of treasures. I’m sure it’ll inspire me for many months to come.


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