The Creative Process: A Makers Year: 5.


A part of moving to the new studio has been a recognition of my own creative process. For years, I’ve known that creativity is just that, a process. I set myself a problem. I’ll go and meet with a client. Talk over what they want. Ask them lots of open and leading questions. “How big is it?” “Is it blonde?” “Is it heavy? Is it tiny and light?” “How you do going to use it?” “,Where’s it going to go?” All of that is the basis for a brief which I reflect back to them. I’m writing down as clearly as I can what I’ve heard from their problem.

I write this and I say  “I’m not going to do anything for two weeks ”. I do that, first of all, to give myself some time to think. And second, to let my brain digest and analyse the problem. I don’t want the front of my head working on it. I want the back of my head working on it! That’s the part where there’s a lot of unconscious thought going on. The front of my head has got an answer right away, but usually it’s an answer I already know. What I want is an answer coming from my unconscious.

IMG_1391 (1)

Creativity is just an assembly of all sorts of memories, experiences, skills, knowledges. Each of us are a totally unique mixture of different experiences. Things we’ve known, things we’ve found, skills and experiences, right from way back. And our creativity is the way we assemble that into a unique solution for this particular problem. You just have to give your brain that opportunity to dig around in the filing system at the back of your head. So I forget about it for two weeks.

If I haven’t heard from you, the client, in two weeks, I’ll start drawings. If I haven’t got it right and there’s something you want to change about the brief let me know before then. If you don’t come back to me then I know that my brief is OK and the kind of budget I’ve given is OK and I’m not wasting any further brain cells.

IMG_1393 (1)

Two weeks later I clear three days from schedule and sit down with my orange ear phones on. I put a creative playlist on my phone. This is a playlist that doesn’t have any words, it has music, it may have opera but I don’t speak Italian so that’s OK. No words because what we’re doing now are non-verbal. We’re wanting this right hand side of the brain to start functioning and we always want to put the dominant control centre on the left hand side, to sleep.

I’ll work with to a notepad and pencil and listen to music. John Cleese is very good about this. He speaks of going in to a room and sitting quietly for about 40 minutes. And he sits with the problem. Maybe it’s a script or something he’s going to write, not in front of him but alongside like a faithful Labrador dog. He doesn’t confront it, he just accompanies it. I have set out the problem two weeks before. It’s there. It’s written down in black and white. Now I’m just sitting with a pad and a pen and seeing what is going to come out of the end of my pencil. I’ll doodle and doodle and draw and doodle. Often things not associated with the problem will drop off the end of the pencil, but I am drawing around it. Just seeing what happens.

Something will come out. Maybe it won’t. If not I’ve got  “version one”  from the front of my head, which came out of my brain at the moment the client gave me the brief. But I’m looking for stuff at the back of my head. After about thirty to forty minutes, I’ll stop. The ideas will stop coming off my pencil and I’ll start repeating myself so there’s no point in keeping on.

The process is non-critical drawing. You draw, draw, draw! Nothing is analysed or challenged or greeted with gratitude. You’re just drawing.

When the session is over I’ll go for a cup of coffee, get a break and come back and workout which of the sketches has the promise of being worked up into a presentation drawing. That I will be done in the afternoon. In the afternoon, I will bang out a front view, side view, plan and elevation. Possibly a perspective as well. These will be scale drawings done on watercolour paper to explain to the consumer, as near as I can, the best view of this particular idea.

IMG_1392 (1)

Next comes the tricky bit. I go to bed and just try to sleep. During that night, I will probably have a lousy night’s sleep because I’m going to do the whole process all over again tomorrow and dig for the second version. The second version is very important. That’s the one that’s usually the original idea. John Cleese talked about how he didn’t think he was in any way cleverer than his colleagues on Monty Python. However,, he always had better ideas simply because he dug deeper. He would work on it for longer. Other Pythons were perhaps more content to play with the first idea. He would go for the second and third version.

That’s what we’re doing here. We’re going for the second version. Also, its good marketing. You show your client one idea and the response are either yes or no. You show your client two ideas and the response is either that one, or that one. I don’t like no.


David established Rowden Atelier in 1995, a now world renowned fine woodworking school. Discover Rowden, the woodworking courses, and the work that students go on to do.

Looking for our woodworking courses? is the new home of Rowden Atelier Fine Woodworking School.

It is where you will now find all the information about our renowned fine woodworking courses, our ethos, and why our students go on to do so many great things. This site remains dedicated to the designs and work, of Rowden’s Founder; David Savage. If you are looking for our woodworking courses, please click here.