Seizing Inspiration when it Presents

I make things.   Not to earn a living.  Not because I have to.  I make things because I want to and to satisfy a deep-seated desire to create.  I tend to make things that have a practical use, it is just my nature.  In fact, I find it very difficult to create something solely for artistic value.  Sure, I tend to add “artistic” touches to the things that I make, but decorative embellishment is quite different than art for art’s sake.

Given that I don’t have to make anything and that I lean towards the practical, my projects are typically driven by some functional need.  There is no shortage of projects that we need around the house, but, since I also typically design my own projects, inspiration plays a big role in what I make as well.

Over the last several weeks inspiration has been in short supply.  Life tends to work that way.  There was a death in the family, my day job is crazy busy and don’t get me started on the 100F heat.  All of these and a few other factors have combined to stymie the flow of my creative juices.  So when I was struck with a bit of inspiration at lunch today it took me by surprise.  I’m not even sure where it came from, but I’ve learned over the years to seize on these moments before they pass me by.

For some odd reason Japanese/Chinese ink paintings popped into my mind while I was eating my chicken salad sandwich at lunch.  I know nothing about this art form other than I like the look and style of it.  I’m drawn to how they are more suggestive that full pictorial representations.  These suggestive paintings make use of how are minds will fill in missing parts to create a full picture.  Anyway, my thoughts quickly went to wondering if I could create that look in/on wood?  By the end of lunch, I had convinced myself that I could, but I had to go back to work.

As soon as I was home this evening I began sketching ideas.  Then I was off to the shop.

The proverbial “blank slate”.


It seemed to me that kolrosing (a.k.a. Hillbilly Inlay) would be a good candidate for the look I had in mind.  I’ve included a fair bit of kolrosing in my projects over the years, but it tends to be one dimensional and static.  The look I had bouncing around in my head had depth and movement to it.  Hmmm…

OK, the idea here is to create the suggestion of a pond scene.  There is a turtle poking his snout out of the water.  As well as a koi.  Another koi has turned in the water with just the tip of its tail breaking the surface.  Two others swim about a little deeper in the pond.


To create the illusion of depth I used two different mediums for coloring the incised lines of the kolrosing. For the areas “above” the surface of the water I used my typical instant coffee.  The coffee results in a dark distinct line.  I also made these incisions continuous and deep.  For the areas “below” the surface of the water I used paprika to color the incisions.  The paprika gives a reddish brown color that closely matches the tones of the wood.  I also used a light touch with the knife when cutting these lines and intentionally allowed the lines to be broken.  The important bit is to create the pattern in stages, working dark to light.  Incise the lines for the darker areas and rub in the colorant.  Then and only then, move on to the lines for the lighter areas.

It’s a start…and I seized upon the inspiration.

Greg Merritt

This entry was posted in Incense Burner Stand and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Seizing Inspiration when it Presents

  1. When a tragedy happens in our lives a black dog hovers over us and blocks out all our positive thoughts and willingness to work and any inspirational thoughts we had, it’s good to see that this was only temporary for you. I look forward in seeing what you come up with.

  2. Coisas EM'adeira says:

    (1+sqrt 5)/2 Since I re-discovered this and some new ways of looking at it my mind is spinning with too much ideas – its as bad as no inspiration!
    Unless… this post is your way to tell us you’ll be moving on to some kind of Disney/Pixar mode :D….????

    • Greg Merritt says:

      The Golden Ratio can be a great inspiration. I hope that you are filling up a sketch book with all of the ideas that are coming at you!
      No, no big change. Just another way for me to add a little decoration to my projects.

  3. Pingback: Incense Burner Stand-Part 1 | BY MY OWN HANDS

  4. Roy Jensen says:

    Greg, thanks for continually sharing your thoughts on design, inspiration and your own process. I feel like these type of discussions are lacking on the inter web. Much more useful to me than another discussion on sharpening or the merits of pins first dovetails :). I think many get caught up in the physical “making” of things and not enough on the artistic side. Thanks again!

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment Roy. I often wonder if I’m adding anything to the conversation and it’s good to hear that some think that I am.
      I too feel that there is a disproportionate emphasis on the “how” of making vs. the “why” of making. Many only copy existing designs, which is fine, but leaves those of us interested in the design process left out.

  5. Kinderhook88 says:

    You just continue to blow me away with your creativity!

If you don't comment this is just a fancy way for me to talk to myself.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s