Metal Clay with Darlene Armstrong: Creative Inspiration, Where are you Hiding?

Recently the Interweave video crew had a great on-location shoot with Darlene Armstrong at her school, The Denver School of Metal Arts, to film four new metal clay eCourses. Darlene shared her thoughts on inspiration with us.

Inspiration: Where does it come from? Where can you get some? What is it?

Metal Clay with Darlene Armstrong: Creative Inspiration, Where are you Hiding?

Darlene and her studio inspiration

In Darlene’s Words

“When I first started on the metalsmithing journey, I only had exactly 12 ideas and was not sure what would happen after I made those. Well, along the way I discovered a lot about jewelry design and how to harness that potential.

Finding My Way

I read a book by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way, and I did what she said to do. Take yourself on an artist’s date once a week. Spend focused time looking at all kinds of art, design, texture, color and patterns. No judgment, just looking.

What happens (I found out later) is much like programming a computer. When you look at something, it’s stored in your brain. You’re taking yourself on these dates in search of jewelry design, and your brain already knows this. It’s in the process of building your cranial “design software” to give you what you want: jewelry designs. When your brain has collected enough visual information, it automatically begins shooting out ideas and designs.”

Metal Clay with Darlene Armstrong: Creative Inspiration, Where are you Hiding?

More inspiration in Darlene’s studio

“This all came as a surprise to me. I wasn’t expecting anything like that to happen. I’m not even sure I was expecting anything to happen.

I took myself on these dates most every week for almost two years. During that time, I spent days on end in my studio making work. I would lie down on the couch after lunch for half an hour to rest my eyes and my back. I wasn’t sleeping, only resting. I found that I began to see a conveyor belt in my mind’s eye, and on it were jewelry designs, all going by slow enough for me to mentally examine them. I didn’t understand at the time what was happening, but I believe that the design software was looking for my feedback so it could fine-tune itself. (How crazy is that?!) Anyway, I would look at each design and mentally critique it, and it would pass by, and another one would come into view. More critiques. This went on daily for many years.”

Slowing The Conveyor Down and Focusing

“I noticed after the first week or so of critiquing, I liked the designs more and more as the days passed. It seemed like what I did not like was removed, and even though a lot of design options were presented, they were more to my taste than they had been in the beginning. Eventually, I liked almost all of them. I sketched some of the ones I really liked and made them. Some years later, I found that I had been exposed to more designs over the years than I could possibly make in a lifetime, so I asked for the conveyor belt to stop. It gradually tapered off until it doesn’t happen anymore, basically because I don’t need it anymore.

What happens now is, if I haven’t worked in my studio for a while, I feel a little distant, much like seeing a long lost friend when at first it is a little slow going and awkward. What I do in that case is tidy up and play around with my stones. I am very careful not to make a commitment to anything actually happening or accomplishing anything. I let myself play with no expectations or judgment.”

Metal Clay with Darlene Armstrong: Creative Inspiration, Where are you Hiding?

More inspiration in Darlene’s studio

From the Top

“If you have expectations and they aren’t met, you tend to feel bad about yourself. I try not to create opportunities for letdowns. If something happens and I begin to feel creative, I allow it to happen without my help. I do not try. Usually, by the end of the day, I am feeling good and creative and have already formed a plan of action for tomorrow–plus my studio is clean and ready for the next creative mess to happen!

I have gotten used to the first-day scenario when I have not been in my studio for a while. Don’t expect to make it work and you won’t be disappointed; if you make something, then good; if you don’t make something, then good. The first day is a sacrifice for the rest of the days. I have learned that it’s alright not to be productive the first day. The other days will always make up for it, and in the end, you will produce more work than you thought you could.

Keeping your mind positive is essential in the shop! Have fun, play, and enjoy the creative process!”


For a peek at Darelene’s course, check out this clip:

Be sure to take one (or all!) Darlene’s courses for a bit of your own inspiration. Check out these other posts for more on this talented artist:


Master metal clay jewelry making with Darlene in her metal clay jewelry-making courses!

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