The Processes of Creation by Erin Farwell

IMG_3021_1In the midst of the house process and end of school craziness I am also preparing to participate in an Arts and Jazz festival at my cousin’s winery in Michigan over Memorial Day Weekend. Lemon Creek Winery has hosted this event for several years and although I live in Georgia, I have sold books and jewelry at the show for the past two years. My father and step mother have a stained glass and mosaic booth next to me and this year my mother will also be in town to help and I am looking forward to spending time with each of them.

I work in a medium called metal clay which comes in a variety of metals including silver, copper, bronze, and steel. I teach classes in metal clay for adults and during the summer I teach week-long camps for kids ages 8 to 12. This year one of my students wanted to learn how to set glass and stones in copper clay. I’ve done this many, many times in silver but not copper. After several weeks of searching, I found one article that explained how to do this. I supplied the clay and my students and I experimented. Everyone’s turned out perfect except mine. The clay shrinks in the kiln so you have to allow for that when you create your setting. Mine came out too small. I had to pound and work the piece until everything came together.

My husband loves the piece I made and said I should make more to take to the Michigan show. While this is a labor-intensive process, the results are wonderful so I said, “sounds like a good idea.” I’ve made six additional pieces and 4 have been fired, each of them too small for the glass that I intended to use. As I struggled to make one of the pieces work, I realized that it isn’t that different from writing.

First, you have a concept, a brilliant idea and you put together your story with great care and planning. You work hard to create a first draft that might not be perfect but it is a good start.

Next you let it sit a bit, like firing the green clay in the kiln. You come back to the story and read it through again and realize that it doesn’t quite work. Somethings don’t fit and other things are just plain wrong.

Now you edit, hammering out the rough edges, making them smooth and appealing. For me this involves clarifying statements and eliminating unnecessary words, like changing, “He walked towards the man” to “He approached the man” which is more concise and interesting.

Sometimes hammering alone isn’t enough, you have to grind out pieces that don’t belong. Sometimes I’ll read a paragraph and stop to admire it. Such wonderful prose. Then I realize that what is really stopped me is that the paragraph, however well-written, isn’t necessary to the story. So out it goes, in all it’s unread glory but pacing is better for it.

Finally, everything works. It all fits and comes together. One last polish and it’s ready to find a home out in the world.

The process of writing a book or making a piece of jewelry really aren’t that different after all.

Learn more about me at:

Farwell-Shadowlands-Final Cover.inddAHE New Cover


11 thoughts on “The Processes of Creation by Erin Farwell

  1. Very colourful and interesting pieces, Erin. Even if they’re not quite what you want initially, I hope you’ll be able to use them in some other way. Regarding the writing- those polishing processes can keep on happening sometimes, and like your labour intensive jewellery making, it might take a lot of edits to perfect the story.


  2. Yep, good way to link to creative processes. The only real difference: Writing is a much more “solitary” pursuit, although I could be wrong since I’ve never worked in metal clay. I know when writing I need to be alone without distractions.


  3. Beautiful pieces, Erin, and great post! All creative pursuits have many things in common, don’t they? The conception, planning, first attempts, reworking, etc. I used to make pottery, mostly wheel-thrown, and learned that a piece can be lost at any step along the way. You can screw it up in the throwing. You can throw a beautiful piece and, through some mishap, it can get misshapen before it dries. It can dry, and then get broken before or during bisque firing. It can make it through the bisque firing and get ruined by bad glazing or in the glaze firing process. Writing is friendlier, because you can rework–a bad paragraph or scene doesn’t mean the whole piece is lost. But sometimes, the reworking can be so thorough, it almost feels like starting over with a brand new piece. The major lesson from all, I suppose, is the importance of the creative process itself–whatever the outcome.


  4. Erin,

    Life does show us those lessons, doesn’t it? Your analogy is perfect.

    I love your jewelry photos and Michigan this time of year is pretty nice (grew up in the mid-west) and wish you well at the winery. Doris


  5. Great analogy! Your jewelry pieces are beautiful. I hate when I have to throw beautiful prose out of my writing, like throwing away a piece of jewelry I don’t wear. At one conference I attended, the instructor said put your beautiful phrases in a file and name it something like “beautiful prose or phrases” and keep them. You may use them in some future piece, but I guess like putting clothes I can’t wear anymore away for when I CAN wear them again (like that’s going to happen), you don’t feel like you’re throwing them away! But you’re right about the hammering away at writing or jewelry. And it seems you are very creative at both.


  6. Erin, I love your jewelry and your writing. Both are hard, and have many phazes. The process is hard and laborious, but both are great when they are polished. Cher’ley


  7. Wonderful post, Erin, and your pieces are INCREDIBLE! I love the creative process and I admire people who can paint, draw, create jewelry, etc. And, I love how so many of create magic with words, how those sentences flow, weave, and develop into stories. I’m in the midst of developing several stories once again and I’m looking forward to this (Memorial Day) weekend of creative process/writing! Best to you in your Michigan endeavors!


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