“Inspiration is for Amateurs”

Marcy Petrini

June 19, 2016 


I was reading my current issue of Handwoven (#180, May/June 1916) which includes a nice project by Rebecca Fox called Plan B Pillow Top, where she explains how she changed course when a fabric she originally designed for a scarf made a better pillow. 

What struck me right below the title of the article was a quote by painter and photographer Chuck Close that said: “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.” So I am back thinking about inspiration.

I couldn’t disagree more with the “Inspiration is for amateurs” part. Perhaps it’s just a poor choice of words.

“The rest of us just show up and get to work” is, of course, saying “just do it.” But to “just do it” we need inspiration. 

I would argue that the non-amateurs – for a lack of a better word – internalize the inspiration. The sunrise on the beach (Space Coast, FL, June 2016) will find itself in some weaving: maybe a color combination, perhaps the undulation of the waves, or maybe remembering the pebbly texture of the sand.

We are moved by music: the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet inspired two of my shawl, here is the latest knitted one:

 The wonderful smell of freshly cut grass inspired the woven shawl “Stepping through the Garden”:

We take all of our sensory inputs and make them part of our being, and in turn they show up when we “show up and get to work.” 

None of us stare at our warping board and say: “oh, muse, show me what to weave next.” We sit down with an idea of turning some beautiful yarns into gorgeous fabric – where does that idea come from? Inspiration!

Chuck Close’s advice to young artists is “not to wait around for inspiration.” I would say that a better advice to young artists is to pay attention so that the sights and sounds around us become internalized: notice the small and large things you encounter, stop and smell the proverbial roses, carefully observe the world around you, not only what Mother Nature offers but also what human ingenuity has created (Rocket Garden, Kennedy Space Center, Space Coast, Florida, June 2016).


 Then “showing up and getting to work” – just do it! – become infinitely easier.


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