Kk: Kitchen, Using What You’ve Got on Hand

During April, I will be blogging about how creative people can practice their craft every day and what rewards will come from the daily effort.

Kk: Kitchen
Using What You’ve Got on Hand

Sometimes, to make dinner, we “iron chef it.” We pull out all the pieces and parts of ingredients from the fridge, freezer, and cupboards, look at what we’ve got, and invent. Surprisingly, these meals always turn out great, even though they’d sound gross. (Like a stir fry made from leftover Thai food, old rice, old veggies, some eggs, and some extra sauces of various sorts. Surprisingly delicious and impossible to replicate.)

When it comes to your art, at least all of the visual arts, it’s tempting to seek out new supplies in order to inspire new projects. Many writers end up with considerably large collections of blank notebooks and new pens or pencils, for example. More than once, I’ve come home with a pen or paint color that I already own because I did not first assess what supplies I actually have in my quest for a fresh start. (Which you know from “Aa: allure,” I don’t really believe in anyway.)

To appreciate what you already have, to use up pieces and parts of things, and to give yourself a limitation to spark invention: use only what you already have on hand.

Constrain yourself to the supplies you have right now and see what you can make from what you’ve got. Using neglected supplies makes room for new ones, and it pushes you out of familiar habits, if only for a few days of practice. If you weren’t using these supplies anyway, it really doesn’t matter if you don’t love what you create, but you might come into a new idea.

The most inspiring example of limiting your materials in order to ignite invention is here: Embrace the Shake. Phil Hansen creates art from the simplest means, like bananas and a push pin.

As if it were your kitchen, go to your work space and pull out all the scraps, pieces, and remnants, then stand back and assess. How might something be used differently? What might function better in a totally different form?

What if you used crimson where you thought you’d use cerulean blue? What if you turned some scraps into a collage and create an illuminated letter to start the story you’ve been working on? Could that dribble of spray paint work on college-ruled notebook paper? What if you cut up your story drafts and turned them into ribbon-adorned bookmarks?

When you have time to try it, let me know how it goes. Maybe your flash fiction piece written on a tower of paper cups finds a home in an art gallery! I’d love to hear about what you invent.

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About TRISTA

I write and illustrate stationery, cards, customized snail mail (yes, you can receive handwritten and illustrated letters in your mail!!), coloring books, and more. My business name is "Carrot Condo." After teaching English for 15 years (gasp!), I am now a full-time parent and part-time artist slowly, but steadily, building a creative business and life. You can read more at carrotcondo.com or see my products at etsy.com/shop/CarrotCondo. Thanks for your interest and support!!
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10 Responses to Kk: Kitchen, Using What You’ve Got on Hand

  1. AC Hoekwater says:

    Love this. I do the same thing. I’ve even bought the same book more than once forgetting the first purchase.

    • TRISTA says:

      New sketch books or journals have such appeal. They promise a fresh start where I’ll have so many great ideas, and they’ll all be rendered clearly. Sigh. I’m glad to learn I’m not alone in this!

  2. timsbrannan says:

    Tonight was certainly and Iron Chef night here. I have been sick and homework went till almost 8 pm.


    Tim Brannan, The Other Side Blog
    2015 A to Z of Vampires
    http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/

  3. Alex Hurst says:

    Totally agree. I used to make dolls out of pine needles, broad leaves and twine, because I didn’t have crafty materials. My boss at a flower shop liked them so much she asked me to make her one, too. 🙂

  4. Rose L. says:

    “I did not first asses what supplies I actually…” I think you need another S in there (asses) LOL Just found that funny! I am good at making do with what is on hand, especially in a craft project.

    • TRISTA says:

      Ha!!!! I double-checked this before posting, Rose, but only for the first “assess.” I used the word twice, and you’re right, the other seemed closer to donkeys or rear ends than I’d meant. I fixed it. Thanks!!

  5. weebluebirdie says:

    I do prefer to rummage among what I have, but it’s so exciting to find new unexpected things! I’ve moved to textile works, so you can imagine the stash that entails! And yes, the other day I came home with threads I already had. But….in the thread shop I also found tiny exquisite paper flowers which I am already using! And oh, the allure of that clean slate of a fresh notebook…….

    • TRISTA says:

      Wee Blue Birdie — This is a helpful comment. While I was tackling the allure of the fresh notebook and how it might be just one more way of avoiding actual work, your comment reminded me that creative work requires a diverse range of supplies and inspirations, and being too tidy or too strict about new materials can hamper invention. Maybe there’s a second step here, and that is we buy new materials if we need them–or if a new tool inspires us to play, experiment, and expand our skills. Hmmm… I will continue to ponder this. Thanks!!

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