We're continuing our series and talking to our artist Giles Newman about how he finds creativity in his daily life.
Giles is a fine art woodcarver based in northern England and Wales, carving nature-inspired art spoons and jewellery by axe and knife with naturally fallen wood.
What’s your favourite way to start the day?
I love to wake up early, while the rest of the world is still asleep and quiet. It gives me the chance to gather my thoughts and note down any ideas that I have had overnight. The early morning is my most creative time of day.
What is your usual morning routine?
My morning routine really depends on whether I’m at home or in the woods. In the woods the morning routine is very practical; get up at first light, check the shelter, stoke or relight the fire, make a cup (or several cups) of tea, prepare firewood, make some breakfast and then get carving. When I’m at home my morning usually starts before dawn, around 4 am, and always starts with a cup of tea (I’m a tea addict!).
I like to spend a couple of hours sketching and researching ideas before the chaos of the day starts. I try to steer clear of emails and social media until later in the morning as I find they can derail my creativity.
What would your ideal day look like?
My ideal day is any day spent in the woods.
Do you have any personal or creative rituals that you do throughout the day?
Other than ensuring that a cup of tea is no more than an arms reach away at any given moment, my main creative ritual is to take regular breaks to step away from my work and try to look at it from a different perspective. It can be very easy to get drawn in to obsessing over the details of a project and lose sight of the bigger picture (or carving in my particular case).
Where do you like to do your work and why? What makes a perfect workspace for your creative pursuits?
I try to work in the outdoors as much as possible as that was my original motivation for taking up woodcarving. My whole approach to carving, and the principle behind my tool selection, is to enable me to work anywhere, to be free from the practical and financial constraints of a workshop or studio. Though I have a small desk/ workspace at the back of my house where I work at night and in the early hours of the morning, my favourite place to work is in the woods.
Being outdoors, surrounded by trees and sitting next to a warming fire is what makes my perfect workspace.
What is in front of you when you begin?
Every piece that I carve starts life the same way, with a log and my axe; until I’ve split the log and have seen the character of the wood, its grain pattern, position of any knots and the flow of the wood fibres, I don’t know what it is I’m going to carve. Although I always have lots of ideas and designs in mind, they are purely conceptual and exist almost like a back catalogue of ideas in my imagination that I can call upon and adapt to suit the piece of wood that I’m working with.
How do you stay inspired or find creativity when it's lacking?
Being constantly open to inspiration in all its forms is key for me. Whether it’s the natural environment, music, literature, film, art… anything and everything can be a source of inspiration if you’re open to it. Don’t expect ideas to be delivered fully formed from any single source, but in bitesize pieces with multiple sources feeding in to create each unique concept.
Thankfully I rarely suffer from creative block as my work is a direct response to the character of the wood itself; I just have to be open-minded to be able to see what forms are locked within the timber.
If ever I’m struggling creatively I find the best way to move forward is to let go of any self-imposed barriers like the fear of failure or the fear that the work won’t be well received and just start. It’s often the first step that is the hardest to take and, if you can push past that, the creativity tends to return naturally.
How do you wind down after a long day?
My favourite way to wind down after a long day is simply to sit by the fire, spend time with family and friends and maybe have a glass of cider (just for a change from the copious cups of tea).
What advice would you give to those seeking a more creative life?
Be open to every creative opportunity. Don’t let self-doubt stifle you; we all doubt ourselves and abilities from time to time, but just have a go.
Explore your creativity, experiment with different mediums and different approaches, have fun, and remember that, first and foremost, you’re doing it for yourself even though you will always be your harshest critic.
Take advice, never stop learning and never fall into the trap of comparing your work to the work of others. Creativity is an act of self-expression – let your work be as unique as you are.
Fall in love with the creative process, not just the finished product because if you don’t love the process you won’t have the patience or persistence to discover what you are truly capable of.