Staying Motivated and Inspired About Your Work Feed

Finding Your Signature Voice

Connie Fox has just published her e-book -- Maker Magic: How to Develop YOUR Voice Designing Art Jewelry. The PDF copy of her book arrived New Year's Day. What a fabulous way to begin the new year. She has invested significant effort in trying to help makers find their own voice. 

I wonder if people assume that finding one's own voice or signature style should be easy, but nothing is further from reality. The difference between developing a signature voice and being lost is . . . lots of practice. With practice and experience comes the confidence that with extended effort, the answer will be found. 

My experience is that many tests and trials are thrown away to see what works and what doesn't, but with enough practice, a solution will be found and that special insight will be realized.

The post "Creativity & Creative Confidence" offers two interviews and another book that I found particularly inspiring on the topic of creativity.

Creative-Confidence-Unleashing-the-Creative-Potential-Within-Us-AllThis first interview is with Tom & David Kelley of the design and innovation firm IDEO speaking about their book "Creative Confidence - Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All." 

Now it is a new year -- 2015.

Back to the studio for me as I press forward to complete new work. You can see all my trials and false starts in this Flickr album.


P.S. In an effort for full transparency, Connie Fox included one of my bracelets in her book, which is how I received an early complimentary copy of her book.
Identity Bracelet from post consumer recycled tin cans by Harriete Estel Berman

Identity Bracelet: Bloomingdales collage with black & white radiating stripes and UPC collage
Harriete Estel Berman

Post consumer tin cans
Retail Price: $1,947

Creativity & Creative Confidence

The simple pencil is a power tool and metaphor.  A pencil line on paper is a physical expression of a thought -- but it can also be erased -- which allows for mistakes, adjustments, and corrections without judgment or consequence. 
The pencil enables creativity.
Throughout the fabrication of my installation, Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin, I often thought about the many meanings and iconic potential of the pencil as both medium and message.

The pencil may be relegated to filling in a bubble on a standardized test.  Or the pencil can be a medium for learning and fostering creative confidence.

Two fabulous interviews with noteworthy innovators highlight the creative process and the necessity to actively expend effort to achieve creative outcomes.

Creative-Confidence-Unleashing-the-Creative-Potential-Within-Us-AllThis first interview is with Tom & David Kelley of the design and innovation firm IDEO speaking about their book "Creative Confidence - Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

The Charlie Rose program is embedded in this blog or can be watched on the Charlie Rose website.

Their primary message is that everyone can be creative. "We have to stop this process in which we divide everyone into the creatives and the non-creatives." 

"It isn't like creativity comes from on high. You still have to work at it. Your intuition is informed by your experience. The more times you have gone down this path, coming up with a new idea, testing it with people, and trying to understand the right thing, your intuition is informed, so it is easier to leap to that big idea."

The effort of trying, testing, and experiencing failure is a very familiar scenario in my studio. When I struggle to bring new work to fruition, I know the effort, frustration and the failure.  The self-judgment of the early, lesser outcomes drives the learning and paths to experiment with new directions.

I highly recommend watching this interview and reading the book. There are many insightful comments during the interview.  A comment that particularly resonated with me was, "None of our processes gets you away from the creative leap to a new place."  In other words, a creative leap is going where you have never gone before. A leap is a big jump, not a baby step -- a jump that you would not have recognized unless you had already tried the many baby steps.

There is a 2nd interview that I want to mention in this discussion about creativity.

Red-George-Jensen-Sothebys-cuListen to this Charlie Rose show (below) with Jony Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple, and with industrial designer, Marc Newson. They discuss their "craft" of design. Generally they focus on objects they've designed for the Red collaboration at Sotheby's.

Red-George-Jensen-SothebysThey certainly do know "craft" despite their design background. They describe the gorgeous sterling silver pitcher (left) designed by Henning Koppel for George Jensen with reverence for the craft process. They understand and value "the making" of an object.

A surprising revelation  is that Jony's father was a silversmith, and Marc Newson studied metalsmithing. They discuss this object twice so listen all the way to the end of the show. 

The lecture is embedded in this post or go full screen right here.

Red-George-Jensen-Sothebys-side-viewListen carefully for how they describe their design process at length. Each insight is a treat...but what I always appreciate between the lines is that they never say it is easy. They work at their designs. They open the topic of design, simplicity, function, the beauty of objects, the function of tools, and transcending function to achieve aesthetics. The process of making, with consideration of the materials and the fabrication, is integrated into their thinking.

"So much of what we do is trying to imagine something that doesn't yet exist." 

The final thought for today is that they mention sitting and drawing in their sketch books.  

I imagine that they are using PENCILS.

Creative Commons License


Creativity and the Brain

Chuck-Close-48126_largeChuck Close said," Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work."

Listen to a fascinating conversation about creativity on Charlie Rose Series about creativity with artists Richard Serra & Chuck Close; neurologist Oliver Sacks; Ann Temkin, Chief Curator of painting and sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art; and Eric Kandel of Columbia University.

Learn about the physical and psychological basis of creativity. I listened to this program over and over. Unfortunately it is no longer available online. 

Talent is OverratedAnd for those of you wondering about how to find success, consider reading the book  Talent is Overrated by George Colvin. It ties right into the quote from Chuck Close at the top of this post.

Fearfull, Fearless, Scared, Empowered, Makers, Women Make History

The hardest thing to do when I write a lecture, blog post  or a topic for the Professional Guidelines is to speak about the difficult topics, raise challenging issues, or perhaps, even, take an unpopular position.

And it isn't just about writing the topic. It is being prepared for the consequences of challenging the status quo.

The upcoming program on PBS, "Makers: Women Who Make America," uses the word "make" as in homemakers, and in make history, but for all the makers out there that work with their hands, heart and head, I hope you will watch this show, or be inspired by reading these books. Every day is the moment for "our internal revolution" to make the best art or craft we can create.

Well Behaved Women Seldom Make HistoryWell-Behaved Women Seldom Make History












Watch MAKERS: Women Who Make America Trailer on PBS.
See more from Makers: Women Who Make America.


Charlie-Rose-Gloria-SteinemGloria Steinem and Amy Richards speak with Charlie Rose about Makers: Women Who Make America

During the interview they referred to this article in the New York Times, "A Titan's How-To-On-Breaking-the-Glass-Ceiling" by Jodi Cantor. It is worth reading.


On Becoming Fearless in Love, Work and Life by Arianna Huffington

On Becoming Love, Work, and Life by Arianna Huffington








Books listed in this blog post and in the side bar are  affiliate links.

Risky is the New Safe -- Inspired Opinions

Risky-Is-The-New-SafeI just finished reading the book Risky is the New Safe by Randy Gage.* The book raised many concepts that were exciting, challenging or thought provoking.

For me, it is inspiring to discover this kind of external encouragement while making new work or  writing a challenging keynote lecture for the upcoming  conference

It takes a lot of guts to voice strong opinions or do anything counter to the status quo, but  
"...the safe route always leads to mediocrity, and that is the real risk." 

Below, are a few quotes from "Risky is the New Safe" (in red italic) and some information that I think artists and makers may find inspiring.

 Artists and makers, you "know that unconventional approaches, contrarian thinking, and innovation-- which sometimes means tipping things upside down, and sometimes means beginning with a blank canvas".....this is "where the real magic is."

FIND YOUR NICHE MARKET "Seek out the challenges, determine what the problems will be and who will be facing them, because therein lie the greatest opportunities for contrarians, critical thinkers, and people willing to take risks."

ARTIST working with a little color
You know, the internet is such a part of our lives and yet we forget the fact that e-marketing is still in its INFANCY!
Randy Gage writes:  “The statistics you read about online commerce may seem mind-blowing, and the numbers grow substantially every season, but you have to keep in mind that we are still at the very, very earliest stages of online purchasing right now. Those huge sales figures you see reported today are miniscule in comparison to what they will be in 5 to 10 years.”

Now, what does this mean for artists and makers? How can we be a part of the future of e-commerce? What are the tools we need? Learn more about upcoming topics at the Professional Development Seminar. (More information at the bottom of this post.)***

"Success is simply a continuous process of conquering challenges."

ARTISTCOLORBe-GoodRecently, I listened to music from the Beatles and Annie Lennox. Both are music phenomena. Their music has had longevity, power and each a singular voice....well, guess what?  They have tons of music that aren't hits, but they kept on creating. That is what it takes to be successful, and even the most well-known, most successful people don't produce hits all the time, but they keep working. They keep making.

"Successful people are people in motion. They move a step closer to their dream daily. They are in action every day, even when they don't feel like it. This takes motivation."

Risky is the New Safe is worth reading.
I recommend getting this book from your local library, uploading it to your I-pad...or buying the book to savor every word.

*Risky is the New Safe is an affiliate link


Creativity is rooted in self-reflection, personal expression, and social context. But context comes by connecting to a larger community. The Internet encourages “Us” to share, but tutorials, books, and social networks sometimes facilitate copying or infringement with questionable consequences. Do we understand the impact of copying, under-pricing, sharing information, and skills that someone else invented? A challenge to the status quo is worth considering.


Your comments about this topic are most welcome.


What Will Happen Depends on You

My KICKSTARTER Project is LIVE and your help can make a difference!!!

Yes, your help can advocate for arts in education at any time.

This KICKSTARTER project was perhaps the most uncertain thing that I have ever done, but crowdsource funding is dependent on everyone helping a little to bring a big project to fruition. In this case, I was asking the arts community to support the making of a video.


The video Pencils Make a Point is about the impact of standardized testing on education and raises a voice for the arts in education.

Every contribution to this KICKSTARTER project will receive a reward. There were 11 different REWARDS for various levels from $10 to $2,500.

The goal was to raise $10,000 to cover the production of the 8-10 minute video. 

Envelope1920I also created more personal Rewards for larger contributions.  Descriptions of the rewards are also on KICKSTARTER.

If the $10,000 goal is not achieved on KICKSTARTER, no one is charged for their contribution. I also don't get any of the money. Poof! The project disappears. There were 26 days to bring this project to the goal.

_MG_7078improvedDuring the 30 day campaign on KICKSTARTER, I learned more through the experience of making a documentary video, working with online sites, and tips you can use yourself in professional development for your own work.

All of the donations go to funding the expenses. Producing a professional quality video such as camera operators, audio recording, video footage, editing, and music. Video is a very expensive medium usually costing $3,000 to $5,000 per minute. It is a team effort. No wonder Hollywood budgets are so huge!.

If you are interested in more information about the four-year project in creating the installation Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin, the documentation is available on my website.
We're getting great support!!!!!!!!!.......

AMAT_Foundation_Logo_v3sSo far the project has had great success with a two-page article in American Craft and a grant for $5,000 from Applied Materials Foundation for the Arts Council of Silicon Valley. (More information about this in another post.)

Please become part of the success with your donation.

For twelve years I have shared my "lessons learned through experience" in the Professional Guidelines, the Professional Development Seminar, and ASK Harriete. My goal is to help others succeed in their professional careers bringing their work to a larger audience.

Can I ask for your help to give a voice to arts in education?



This post was update February 27, 2023 

Decision Fatigue: The Impact On Artist Productivity.

Have you ever experienced Decision Fatigue when working on your art or craft? It happens to me all the time, but it wasn't until recently that I figured out what it was and why it was happening and how this was affecting my work in the studio.

Pam Yellow Butter Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman

In the past year, I began to recognize that I only had a couple of productive hours to make decisions about the layers in my Flower pins, but didn't understand what was happening.  I'd just get to a point that nothing would work out. Then I'd come back the next day and layer after layer would "come together," but only for a couple of hours.

Pencils sculpture based on a bell curve about education by Harriete Estel BermanIt was happening when I was working on the curve of the pencils in the sculpture Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin. I just didn't understand what was wrong with me.

It continues to happen, but now I know why and how to work more effectively in the studio.

Tu Bishvat contemporary seder plate by Harriete Estel BErman is constructed from recycled tin cans.Now I am working on a new piece of Judaica (see the whole portfolio of work in progress), and many decisions to make about the gold strips.

Tu Bishvat Seder plate in progress by Harriete Estel BErman is constructed from recycled tin cans.After about four hours, if more decisions are required, I can't make much progress. It is like slogging through mud.


Does this ever happen to you?


Well, this phenomenon has a name, "decision fatigue." The New York Times published an article "Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?".  It is worth reading.

Experiment after experiment proves that the brain can only continue making well-reasoned decisions for a limited amount of time. Each and every person has a finite store of mental energy for decisions whether it is exerting self-control (e.g. resisting M & M's), purchasing, test-taking, or (for artists and makers) making aesthetic decisions. 

Artists and makers usually make a lot of creative decisions when working in the studio. I am suggesting that if we recognize this limitation in our studio time, we might reschedule our day to work more effectively. We may have six, eight, or even up to 12 hours of physical work in our body, but maybe only four hours of substantive decision making.

Think smart and work smart for your most productive day.


This post was updated on February 11, 2022.

Tu Bishvat Seder Plate by Harriete Estel Berman in progress


Make Work YOU WANT TO MAKE and then... THE WORK Will Find a SHOW

I have spent the afternoon reading Ask Harriete.  Oftentimes, I see a show I feel my work would fit into...due to the subject matter, title, etc., however, there is NOT enough time to create a piece and get it submitted in time.  After reading what you say in the Etsy Recycler's Guild interview of Harriete Estel Berman interview (from Etsy Recycler's Guild, I am surprised to see, that you most likely enter shows after the work is done. 

Or as you once told me, you shop the work around in order to find an exhibition space.  So, what can you offer to those of us who have the problem?  

Mary Anne Enriquez

Harriete Estel Berman standing near Measuring Compliance at the exhibition ManufracturedbstandingThis issue often causes artists and makers to feel overwhelmed.  Your schedule is already full and then an opportunity arises that would demand even more time. Who can just drop everything and start
                                                    something new?

Although I do make work for some shows (and will show some examples in the next post on ASK Harriete),  I prefer to make work that I want to make based on my long-term goals.

I recommend that all artists and makers make the work they want to make.


Measuring Compliance Poster
Measuring Compliance Poster
portrays sculpture by the same title.
Measuring Compliance © 2006
Recycled materials, 3rd-grade desk,
3rd-grade chair, banners, custom made
straight jacket, yardstick, rulers.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

It is the artist's or maker's responsibility to bring important or significant ideas to fruition without the dictates of a theme, exhibition, or invitation. Maybe these ideas are big, expensive, demanding, or even scary. So what if it takes a year or more to finish because you have to put it down, work on your day job, or do other artwork that makes money. Just keep working with the big goals in mind.

If you wait for a show invitation to start making something big or important, you may never get around to creating significant artwork. Too often, I have heard artists expressing disappointment that they didn't get invited to be part of a particular exhibition even though they had been thinking about making something that would have been "perfect" for the show.  Don't wait for a show to prompt the making . . .  start making.  By waiting to make something "for a show" ... they lost an opportunity.

The emphasis is on making work that is challenging, significant, and stands on its own . . .  not making work that fits into a show in a few weeks.   Make work that you will be proud of for a lifetime.  Sooner or later a show or some other opportunity will turn up that is right for your work -- not the other way around.

Alyssa Endo working on Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin HERE IS AN EXAMPLE:
I just finished the project Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin.
It took the better part of five years. I often had to put it away until  I had time or help available to work on it.

Penci lBrotheres Pencils in Pick Up Your Pencils Begin by Harriete Estel Bermans582bellcurve

Most often, the bigger or high-risk projects aren't necessarily the ones that will sell, but they may become the "show stopper" that establishes your reputation years later.

Close up of Pencils fabrication Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin by Harriete Estel Berman Here is my real-life example.    The day before I finished Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin, a major magazine emailed me about writing an article on a topic highly relevant to this work! Wow!!!!! They need photos of the installation, so now I need to find an exhibition space.

This wasn't magic. I have also been working on documenting the construction of this artwork, writing about it on my website, Facebook, blog, Crafthaus, and other social networking sites.

Website for Harriete Estel Berman The editor had become aware of this project from my website. I've had a link on my home page ever since I started the project.

Apparently, editors and writers spend some of their time "trolling"  the internet for ideas and new work. Marthe Le Van, editor for Lark Books talked about this during her presentation for the Professional Development Seminar. A lesson to all of us to keep making our work, documenting our progress, never give up...steady progress wins the race!

MAKE WORK YOU WANT TO MAKE and then... find an exhibition space.

Does anyone know of an exhibition space for Pick UP Your Pencils, Begin?

I'd love to hear your ideas! There are 3-4 weeks before the article goes to press.


You can see the documentation of Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin on my website.

NEXT POSTS on ASK Harriete:

  • Is it fruitless to even think of creating something fast to get into a show?
  • How Do You Find Exhibition Opportunities For Finished Work?

This post was updated on February 9,  2022.

How do you stay motivated when trying to find a market for your work?


Dear Harriete,

There's so much to consider when making and marketing work that I sometimes feel like the crazy plate spinner in the circus.  For the past year, sales have been almost non-existent which also has me feeling a bit disgruntled.  I have a ton of work that I've made during the eight years since my BFA and I'm kinda tired of looking at it.

How do you stay motivated when trying to find a market for your work?


Disgruntled and lost


Dear Disgruntled,

For aspiring artists and craftspeople, the path for success is NOT about making work to sell. The path to success is to make the best most interesting, deep, esoteric, off the beaten path, unique,  "_________(fill in the blank here)" in the whole world. It has to reflect your inner core, not what you think will sell.  You need to dig deep.

PlanExpecting to sell what you make as a measure of success is a poor measure of the merit for your work (and bound to make you feel bad in this poor economy). [Covid 2022 update: This is not a good time to measure success from what you are selling. Covid quarantine is the time to stay home and work in the studio.} This is the  oIf you want to make work to sell, then make work for Target or Wal-Mart. That is what sells. In reality, nearly all artists and craftspeople must find supplemental income.

As for staying motivated, the book titled, Talent is Overrated, by Geoff Colvin. analyzes how people become successful. I recommend that you read it. A very important concept of the book is regular, "deliberate practice."  Most successful people accumulate over 10,000 hours of deliberate practice before they become a success.  If you started in elementary school, or when you were 3 years old like Tiger Woods, then you will have your 10,000 by the age of 21, or 24. But if you started your deliberate practice as a student in college, then you've just begun your 10,000 hours of practice. 

My favorite part of the book is in the last chapter, "Where Does the Passion Come From?"   Colvin points out that focusing on extrinsic motivation such as awards (or money) reduces the creativity of the outcome. This principle is backed up by academic research.  So where does passion come from? It certainly has to come from within.  Think about what you really love to do.

Push-Flower-pin-graduated-background-betterWhile doing your "deliberate practice" every day in the studio, develop visibility for your work outside of or beyond the gallery/consignment world.  Look for other opportunities to gain insights and experience like submitting your work to calendars or magazines, or volunteering with your local or national arts organization, or at a local small museum or non-profit.

Share your work online. Comment on other people's images.

Save your money from your day job for professional photography when you are ready. (Taking your own pictures is a backup plan.)

Start or join a Critique group.  I have been in several critique groups for over 28 years. It is an absolute necessity to hear solid critical feedback from your professional peers. Eventually, the group may even create or lead to group show opportunities.  Avoid talking about children, dogs, cats, and personal problems. Talk only about the work of the members.

If you don't have a Critique Group, invite another artist friend, one on one to critique your work. Give permission for honest feedback. Be specific. 

Ask your mother! My mother has a great eye and she doesn't hold back her sharp criticism. This can be a great opportunity to get the feedback you need.  

One final thought. Have you considered giving away a few of your experiments or finished pieces to friends or family that appreciate your work? This may expose your work to a wider and diverse audience.

Above all, .......Keep working. Get your  10,000 of practice.



This post was updated on January 6,  2022.

Staying Motivated and Inspired


Staying inspired and motivated
can be difficult for an artist or maker, especially in this slow economy (or during this Covid pandemic) when retail sales are down. Don't let it get you down. When things are slow, you need to refocus your efforts on quality work and refining your inspiration.

Cutting-black-plastic-Harriete Estel Berman for new jewelrybI highly recommend reading a book by Twyla Tharp titled, "The Creative Habit". She reveals many of her tricks and techniques for staying focused on her work.  She continuously stresses the importance of practicing her craft all the time..." scratching" (as she calls it) to develop new ideas.

Another suggestion is to  "Quit before you are exhausted". She likes to quit before her creative focus is exhausted, she wants to be able to retain some energy for the next step in the studio.

When my work is going well and I have to quit and walk away, my trick is to write down what I need to do next. I put a note to myself, front and center on my workbench with the next half hour of work laid out for me to do.  When I walk in the next day, feeling cold (there is no heat in my studio) and uninspired, my day's first task is ready to go. This can jump-start my day.


GO-GREEN-container-and-cut copy

This post was updated on January 9, 2022