My Creative Process

Marcus’s recent posts about AI got me thinking and as a part of my thoughts on the issue, I want to start today by writing about my creative process, using my most recent art pieces. Those pieces being knives, because why not.

For me, the idea of how to create something usually pops into my mind without any conscious effort. I can be sleeping, eating my lunch, or driving my car, mulling over this and that and I get the starting of an idea about how to create something. And then it grows from there organically during the process itself.

Of course, all my knives are influenced by my experiences with using and making knives, as well as the designs I saw, whether conscious of that influence or not. But with these two knives, I can be a bit more specific. One of them started nearly thirty years ago and it is inspired by another knifemaker’s blade that I saw in one of my books. I changed both the outline and the grind profile, but the inspiration from someone else’s work was the starting point. For the other knife though, it started with my first failed attempt at a machete (-click-), thus the inspiration for this specific design was an accident.

When I started to make the two blades, I had no concrete plans for them and I had originally intended to make them with ordinary wooden scales. But as the works progressed, I started to think more and more that they would look splendid with engraved bone scales and I left them lying for a year with that idea at the back of my mind. During that year, I worked on other things, as the ideas for what to do with these two slowly matured in my mind. The bigger one got me on a line of thinking that ended up with the idea of engraving a picture of an auroch on the scale, but I still had no idea about the smaller one.

Then in the fall of last year, I successfully sold a knife with a picture of a roe deer on the sheath and when talking with my mother about what animal to use next, she suggested a wild boar. And whilst I have declined the idea for a sheath decoration (for now), I did think that it would look well on a bone scale, thus I finally got the idea for the second knife. Again, inspiration for one came out of some murky associations in my subconscious, the other one came from a nudge by another person’s ideas.

So with a rough idea in my head about what I wanted to accomplish, I started outfitting the knives. And as I wrote in my previous post, during the manufacture I decided to make the handle scales with hidden pins, which gave me an even bigger area to embellish. And when the knives were finally finished, I could start on the designs for the engravings.

With animal designs, I normally start by looking through my books and the interwebs for photos and drawings for inspiration. Not to copy – not the lest because to find a picture with the exact pose that I could use would be a stroke of luck indeed – but to use it as a guideline for a picture that is not egregiously anatomically incorrect. When I find a picture that is roughly what I want the end result to be, I start sketching. Most of that process can be seen in this picture:

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Nowadays I start with biro sketches on paper that I subsequently refine on PC. In the past, I would go with pencils on paper all the way to the finished product. I wanted to use a whole pig, but I had trouble fitting that on the scale due to its shape, so I decided to use just the head.

When I fine-tuned both designs on PC to my satisfaction, I decided to test whether the boar head would look acceptable, so I made a test piece on an offcut of bone.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

As you can see I made again changes from the previous sketches. Not only because I am not a copy machine, but also because each medium imposes its own limits on the creative process and thus each medium demands some changes in attitude to get a usable result. At this stage, I thought I was finished with designing and ready to set out to work, but my mind kept working. It kept nagging me that the scales looked too empty. There were no visible pins and thus there was ample space to fill. I added a rope pattern as framing around the head, but it still was not enough. I tried to fish my mother’s mind for ideas and she delivered – I should add some spruce twigs. I initially dismissed the idea because I did not know how to implement it, but when I tried to google “spruce twig pattern”, I got an idea for how to do it, I drew it and I was finally satisfied.

Nevertheless, I still only had decorative designs for the right side of each knife. I decided to leave the left side on the auroch blade blank, but I felt somehow that the boar needed to have something on the other side too. And without prompting, an idea came to me in the evening just before sleep – to continue the rope frame around the boar head to the other side and engrave a decorative knot there. As far as which knot to use, this time I did not look for inspiration to others, I simply took two pieces of paracord and arranged them into knots for about an hour until I got a result I liked.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I have redrawn the design on the PC into a shape that fits the scale and thus my designs were finished. I printed them out on paper labels and set out to work.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The actual realization is more about craft and technique than about the creative process. If you are interested in that, tomorrow there will be a short article on my Knife Blogge about it.

Next time I would like to write about how this all connects to generative AI. I do not know when, but hopefully next weekend.


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