Jun 102009

As we all know, creative inspiration sometimes requires a jump start, particularly when a deadline looms. In a previous post, I described how the SCAMPER technique acts as a creative trigger for ideas. SCAMPER, of course, is only one creative thinking tool in a treasure chest filled with idea-generating techniques. Another useful tool for creative inspiration is Attribute Listing.

Back in the 1930s, Attribute Listing was devised to develop new and/or improved products from existing or known products by breaking them down into their characteristic parts, or attributes, listing individual elements that fit these attributes, and then combining selected elements from some of the attributes in new ways. In the industrial world, for example, a manufacturer might decide to develop a new pen that stands out from its competitors. Some of the attributes of a typical pen might be said to be style, color, ink delivery method, comfort, and type of ink. By identifying specific styles, colors, ink delivery methods, elements of comfort, and types of ink, and then combining the best ideas from each of these attributes, it is possible to develop a new and improved pen. The same is true when a fashion designer develops a new bag, whose attributes might be said to be material (fabric, leather, synthetic), hardware (buckle, button, snap, handle), intended use (book bag, evening bag, laptop bag), and style (formal, sporty, classic, playful). By listing specific possibilities for each attribute of a bag, and then selecting and combining the most appealing ideas, a designer produces a new bag.

Attribute Listing is chiefly a creative thinking tool that is designed to be used in a limited way—to improve upon a pre-existing idea or product. However, the possibilities for improvement of an idea or product are endless. To apply the Attribute Listing technique, follow this five-step plan:

1. Identify your goal, i.e., what idea or product do you want to improve.

2. Identify 4 to 8 attributes, or characteristics, of this idea or product. There are no right or wrong answers here; you determine the attributes you want to analyze.

3. List as many specific ideas for each attribute as you can. Resist the urge to reject ideas; write them down without analyzing them.

4. Go back through your list of attributes, and circle the best ideas for each one. This is, of course, subjective.

5. Consider how you might combine the best ideas.Let’s take a look at how you can use Attribute Listing.

If I want to develop an Etsy “Treasury,” a showcase of Etsy products that I believe is special in some way, Attribute Listing provides me with an endless array of ideas. Typical attributes of a Treasury could include theme, style, audience, technique and material. By listing the first ideas that come to mind for each attribute, I will have the start of an Attribute List that I can use to develop a Treasury:

Theme: color, ecological, industrial, nature, floral, toys, songs, books, indoor, outdoor, tools
Style: modern, Western, vintage, Victorian, medieval, eclectic
Audience: adult, women, men, children, teen, baby
Technique: crochet, collage, beadweaving, felting, knitting, metalwork, glassblowing, painting, encaustic, woodworking, sewing, macrame, Scherenschnitte
Material: yarn, fabric, feathers, beads, buttons, paper, glass, wood, metal, plastic

For the purpose of this exercise, I will select the following elements from each Attribute to create a Treasury:

Theme: floral
Style: eclectic
Audience: women
Technique: showcase multiple techniques
Material: showcase multiple materials

Finally, below is a blog-style Treasury of BBEST artists’ floral creations I could develop from the attributes I have listed. Try this yourself the next time you want to create a special Treasury, or to improve upon an idea or product you already have. Creative thinking tools such as Attribute Listing or the previously-described SCAMPER are situation-driven techniques. In other words, much as you would use a hammer and not a block of wood to drive a nail into a board, ideally you can select the right creative thinking tool for the inspirational challenge you are facing.

Midnight in the Garden Flower Focal,
by ZudaGay

large blues felted flower brooch,
by maddyandme

Native American Beaded Bracelet
Prairie Rose Cuff in Pink
, by jstinson

Red flower – encaustic,

Posies – Original Mixed Media,
by sixsisters

Turquoise Flower Martini Glasses,
by GlitznGlass

Korean Flower Scherenschnitte,
by OneDogTalking

Fun Ivory Wool Scarflet,
by CBBasement

Orange Magnetic Needle Nabber Flower,
by birose

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.

May 132009

“You’re getting up there,” read the card we received this month from my mother-in-law, who sent us a congratulatory card to honor our 30th wedding anniversary. Although my husband and I tend to celebrate special occasions in a fairly low-key manner—usually by dining out at a nice local restaurant—many other couples celebrate wedding anniversaries with gifts, parties, and exotic journeys. Anniversary celebrations are so popular, in fact, that there are hundreds of Web sites that contain suggestions for gifts and vacations. There are “traditional” gifts of paper, tin, crystal, silver, pearl and gold for the 1st, 10th, 15th, 25th, 30th and 50th anniversaries, and corresponding “modern” gifts of clocks, diamonds, watches, sterling silver, more diamonds, and gold.

The custom of celebrating wedding anniversaries on an annual basis is actually a modern notion. More than a thousand years ago, celebrations of any kind tended to be group events, rather than a celebration between individuals. Besides observing the passing of each season with traditional festivities, twice a year the unmarried men of a community would be paired up with the unmarried women in a prescribed group ritual. As weddings between individuals were introduced, however, anniversaries began to be celebrated in the same manner, but not as frequently as today. It is likely that the notion of presenting gifts originated in the Middle Ages in the Germanic region, when the gifts themselves were associated with the concept of bringing good luck to a couple. The typical occasions that were celebrated in this manner included the 25th anniversary, when a husband would place a garland of silver on his wife’s head, or the 50th anniversary, when the husband would present his wife with a golden wreath. By the middle 1930s, this custom evolved into celebrating the 1st, 10th, 20th and 70th milestones, in addition to the 25th and 50th anniversaries.

In the United States, traditional wedding anniversaries begin with gifts of paper and flowers, increasing in substance and value each year, relating directly to the perceived increasing investment the couple makes in each other. In Germany, however, couples uses a list of symbols that represent an increased strengthening in the marriage with each year that passes.

The Hallmark Web site says that the original 75th “diamond anniversary” dates back to the Victorian age, and that the 60th anniversary was added when Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, or the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne in 1897. “The Victorians, so fond of cataloging and classifying,” say Gretchen Scoble and Ann Field in The Meaning of Wedding Anniversaries, “were likely the first to adapt ancient customs into a prescribed list of gifts for each wedding anniversary.”

In 1922, in her Blue Book of Social Usage, Emily Post listed eight anniversaries that ought to be celebrated: the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversaries. She admitted, however, that there was a trend toward celebrating each of the first 15 years of marriage, as well as every five years. For most couples today, this is the anniversary calendar that is used, although the American National Retail Jeweler Association has expanded that list with an annual gift for the first 20 years, with a suggestion for a gift every five years, up to the 75th anniversary.

Whether you follow the gift calendars of Hallmark, etiquette guides or jewelry associations—or no guide at all—the fact of the matter is that most couples enjoy presenting gifts to each other on the anniversary of their commitment to each other. Below are items in BBEST members’ shops that would be wonderful anniversary gifts.

Janine of AltheaP, for example, offers a personalized silk wall hanging. She created the first one for her own parents, when they celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.

Marion of artmixter offers a custom fiber 4×6-inch post card. “Give me a theme, choose your colours, and we’ll create a piece of unique art together!” she says.

Your partner will know you appreciate him or her when you gift that person with Kym of PaperParaphernalia’s journaling booklet, which is accompanied by a matching envelope.

Enjoy some wine at your celebratory dinner, chilled to perfection in this stoneware wine chiller by Pearl of fehustoneware.

These dainty earrings by Gloria of hemlockhollow are perfect for a Crystal Anniversary.

AJ of ajscountrycottage helps you create the perfect tropical setting as you enjoy a romantic dinner together (perhaps the prelude to a cruise?!) with her New Island Coconut Soy Candle.

The Hearts Wind Chimes in Chris1‘s shop is the perfect anniversary gift that can be used every day, reminding both of you about the affection at the center of your relationship.

Candy is never out of style as an anniversary gift! Present it with style in Pam of blazingneedles’ Knit Lace Round Box.

For those of you who prefer to select anniversary gifts according to one of the traditional or modern anniversary, floral or gemstone calendars, visit one of the following sites:

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.