I asked my followers what keeps them from being creative. I want to break through the barriers that keep you from tasting that delicious creative juice. It really can be the nectar of life.

One of the first answers I got was “money,” which is a totally valid point. Lack of funds prevents us from doing many things, but I assure you, m’junky friends, creating is not one of them.

A photo of Creek and the context in which I took it is applicable to the money question. When I took this pic we were out foraging for free craft materials in the wooded area behind our pond, where there is a big honeysuckle thicket.

This pic embodies my thoughts on foraging for ideas and inspiration in the thick of the hunt for tangible materials; in this case, honeysuckle knots.

“Being creative” doesn’t always mean “creating something.” Sometimes it is just boiling ideas (great ones!) out of your head and not doing a thing with them. And guess what? That doesn’t cost a thing. And it can be a wonderful creative release.

Creek and I were out looking for something very specific when we chanced upon this bird’s nest: we were looking for twisted-together honeysuckle vines to whittle on.

Incidentally, twisted vines are absolutely free materials, easily accessible and easy to create something with. I’ll get to that more in a minute.

Back to this bird’s nest…we spotted it, and it was a bit of a chore to get to it, but Creek eventually got there and removed it. She held it and said breathlessly, “Mom, we can take this and put it on a grapevine wreath and add a little robin egg to it and some moss and it will be SO beautiful! But oh no! It’s falling apart!”

And I replied, “Those are GREAT ideas! That would be so pretty. But maybe we should just set it back in that little crook of the tree and another bird can use it to build a nest this coming spring. I don’t think we can get it back to the house in one piece. Just look, before we put it back, at how beautifully that little bird twisted and bent every twig and blade of grass to make it all work. It’s a little work of art in itself.”

And we did. We looked it over and I relished that moment of wonderful delicious ideas swirling around, giving us a taste of the creating to be done this spring. See, these ideas set us up to begin watching out for free or cheap materials to make these ideas come to fruition in the coming months: Grapevine wreaths from last fall set out on the curb or in a garage sale for $1. Those wreaths are ‘spensive if you buy ‘em new! Robin’s eggs blown out of their nest in a spring storm are all the time finding their way into my house, and they can be preserved and used when dealt with properly. Moss gathered on nature walks or discovered on the north side of the machine shed to add a dash of bright green to the scene. Just thinking about all the potential tasty “finds” in our future is exhilarating. THIS is being creative without creating ANYTHING!

Anyway, we put it back. Then we went back to clipping our twisted honeysuckle vines. We took about a dozen chunks of twisted beauty back to the house, where we sat together on the porch and talked and whittled the bark away from them to begin the initial drying process.

I’ll say it again: being creative isn’t always the act of creating something. Being creative is also rolling ideas around like wine on the tongue. The ideas are like wine in that they get better with time and some mulling around. And sharing the ideas with someone else, just blurting them out like you aren’t afraid of how silly it may sound, is delicious too. Creative fellowship, whether with your friends or with children, is totally free and so much fun.

Creek and I discussed the potential each hunk of vine held, what it could be, and the mystery held by each piece until, at some point in the whittling, it finally reveals what it should be. We just blurted it out, no matter how wild.

A couple of my birds whittled from honeysuckle. The one on the right is two vines that twisted around each other and grew so tight that they’re inseparable. Carving the dried bark that was compacted between them was an obsession for a few days and I thought was the whole purpose of the project, until the final thing revealed itself. If you turn the bird around to the point that its tail disappears, it looks like an old woman peering from under a hooded cloak.

After we did the initial bark peeling out on the porch {it’s a messy job so it’s best done outdoors, where cleanup is simple as sweeping off the porch and the birds can pick the scraps up later for bedding}, we carried our whittling widgets into the sun room and sat by the woodstove and carved on them together and chatted. I tried a “5-minute Wizard Carving” tutorial from her Beginner’s Guide to Whittling {affiliate link} while she peeled more layers from a walking stick she is working on and rolled around ideas of what she is going to carve on it.

My first attempt at a 5-Minute Wizard from the Beginner’s Guide to Whittling {affiliate link}

It was all so delicious.

If you love the idea of traipsing through the woods with the kiddos in search of fun FREE things to use in your creative endeavors, then we can definitely be friends. I love taking the girls out. For one thing, it’s a great workout, and when we return from one of our trips, we are ALL happy, tired, satiated in our hunger for all things outdoors, and we usually always find something naturally nifty to work with. A great book that my mom gave me is called Foraged Flora {affiliate link}, and it’s FULL of inspo on using natural materials. When I’m feeling couped up and depressed in the winter months, this book really perks me up and gets my imagination going, which is what I NEED: time “being creative” when I’m not actually “creating something.”

If you’re not an outdoorsy person, that’s totally fine! This narrative applies in other ways besides trekking out behind the pond with a set of loppers. It’s just one example of how I practice being creative and teach it to my kids. It’s basically just learning and growing through play. Go do the same thing at HobLob, but leave your wallet at home. Cruise the aisles and gather inspiration from the mass-produced stuff in there, and dream about what you can use to acheive the same effects of those products. I love doing that, but HobLob is 35 miles away, so I find other ways to stretch my creative muscles. I could go to my studio, but my kids get sick of being there sometimes, so we find new avenues to be wild and create.

In terms of creating something without spending money, well, honestly, I don’t pay for a lot of the materials I use. I like to say “the free junk is where it’s at.” So take my word for it when I say that money doesn’t have to be a factor in creating beautiful art and funky functional decor. Watch the curb when you’re out and about. People throw stuff away all the time, so keep the shame out of your junkin’ game and pick up tasty treasures that have been cast aside by others. Hit up a garage sale when you chance upon it; you might find a little something for practically nothing, and you will ALWAYS meet interesting people.

If the tools and the little nickel and dime materials are keeping you from creating, well, I get it, that stuff can break you when you need a bunch of it for one project, and that’s what my studio is for! Bring your free junk into the studio and help yourself to my saw, sander, air nailer, paints, brushes, finishes, stencil cutter, whatEVER you need to get the job done. Including guidance, if you need it.

The best inspiration is free. Drink it up.

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