I recently read Sir Ken Robinson's thought-provoking book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything (2009). I had previously viewed a recording of his famous 2006 TED Lecture: Do Schools Kill Creativity? http://www.ted.com/speakers/sir_ken_robinson.html
Robinson defines the "element" as the place where the things you love and the things you are good at come together (p. 8). Stated another way, the element is "the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion" (p. 21). I like to think of the aptitude piece as the unique God-given talents we all possess. 1 Cor. 7:7. The passion piece is a sense of "getting it" and "loving it." A person in her element can become totally absorbed in a task and lose track of time. A person in her element feels that she has found her true self.
Robinson also discussed the importance of connecting with others who share your passion, or, in his words, finding your "tribe." My tribe consists mostly of my quilting buddies (family and friends) but also includes my cyberspace buddies --people in my Etsy circles and teams, none of whom I have met in person. My tribe also extends to my local and state quilt guilds, and a local, regional, and online community of fabric vendors and fabric lovers, most of whom identify themselves as quilt shops or dedicated quilters. A handful are fabric artists, but they are really members of a more creative tribe. (For an interesting profile of the national quilting "tribe," see a summary of the most recent Quilting in America survey by Quilts, Inc.: http://www.quilts.com/announcements/y2010/QIA2010_OneSheet.pdf .)
I am in my element when I am playing with fabrics, and that has been true since I was very young.
I love this old photo of me at age 4, sitting at a big old Domestic sewing machine – no fancy stitches, but a real workhorse! Best of all, it had a knee pedal, so I could sew even though my feet did not touch the floor. The pin box shown at the corner of the sewing table was an old metal Sucrets container. I still have it---and I still use it as a pin box.
I was blessed to have a mother who encouraged my love of fabric and gave me carte blanche to raid the scrap bag. If she was worried that I might hurt myself with scissors or poke myself with a needle, she handled it by urging me to be careful, not by forbidding me to learn and play. She also taught me to embroider at a very young age, and I've enjoyed handwork ever since. I was delighted to see that a resurgence of hand embroidery was one of the trends noted by Kim and Kris of The DIY Dish in their recent report from this year's Quilt Market. http://www.thediydish.com/2011/05/kim-kris-interview-anna-maria-horner-at-quilt-market-free-pattern
Robinson calls creativity "applied imagination." I like that concept. It works for me.
May each of us find our "element" and our supportive "tribe."
LeAnn aka pasqueflowerhttp://www.etsy.com/shop/pasqueflower