Sunday, February 26, 2017Embroidery's Voice and Vision



Expand your understanding and hone your technical skills as veteran award-winning digitizer, e-commerce manager and all-around technophile Erich Campbell explores and explains the intersection of embroidery, technology, creativity and business. He’s the go-to guy for stitches and tech at Black Duck Embroidery and Screen Printing in Albuquerque, NM, one of the Southwest's largest screen-printing and embroidery firms. You can find him on Facebook at, follow him on Twitter at or e-mail him at


Consume Broadly – Create with Focus: The Funnel

consume broadly

“I don't know where you come up with this stuff!” “How did you ever think of that?” “I wish I could be ‘creative’ like you!”

I’ve heard all of the above and with a fair amount of regularity. That said, I can categorically say I don’t think of myself as someone who is impossibly gifted or particularly more creative than anyone else. In my opinion, creativity and problem-solving are cultivated, not granted like a wish; they grow, and like any growing thing they must be fed and cared for, given the proper environment. Once grown, the resultant creativity must be trained and exercised, pruned and the selected offshoots allowed to flower. Taken step by step, I think all people are capable of incredible creativity.

Environment: To foster creativity, one must allow judgment-free space for curiosity, expression and ideation. Consume broadly – art, music, history, science, pop-culture – whatever takes you, let it. When ideas come or aspects of what you read, watch or listen to stand out in your mind, capture them. Keep notebooks, sketchpads, etc. Capture your ideas, research the things that grab hold of you, keep clippings of the visual media that strike you, with no necessary planned outcome or project. You can direct this activity toward a goal, but I find that it’s the unplanned ideas and random inspiration that tend to lead us to new discoveries most readily. Sometimes attaching these things to a goal makes them a chore, inhibiting what should be a playful, stress-free activity. This establishes the ‘soil’ for your creativity, the rich plot of ideas, images and culture from which it will grow. Much as we laud originality, there’s rarely anything truly new in this world; however, new and heretofore unexplored connections between things or mash-ups of several different styles are well within our reach and very fruitful methods in which we can create.

Shaping and Pruning: Create in a focused way, particularly if you are looking to establish yourself in a craft or to gain a following. Though you have consumed from all disciplines, there are lessons in all of your inspirational wanderings that you can apply to the thing that you do well or enjoy most. Rather than attempt to be all things, though dabbling is a great way to get unstuck in creative ruts, focus the main stream of your production to one or two areas. Prune away the things that don't fully engage you to the best of your ability in order to leave the energy you need to do those that are most important to you. Digest that material you collected with your broad and whimsical flights of curiosity and funnel them all into your main means of expression. This gives you the best of both worlds: ability to explore and enjoy your creative foundation widely, but the practice, refinement and identification with a focused art.

In short, this has been my strategy, though I'm worse at ‘pruning’ than I should be. Consume widely, create with focus, and you'll see that the novel connections and solutions will follow naturally. You will have the broad base of material and information that allows for new, interesting applications paired with the practiced skill of a technician in your execution.


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