Discovering your creative identity.

creative identity graphic

Your creative identity can be a powerful milestone in your path to becoming a better maker and lead you to discover purpose in the things you make.


How might you find your own creative identity?

We pose this question in the second “lap” of our online course (it’s free, this isn’t a sales pitch – check it all out here) and it is an important one that can always use a little more substance. Why? Well, simply put, discovering your creative identity can be a powerful milestone in your path to becoming a better maker. When you recognize your creative identity, it will help keep the “desire to make” alive and well. It’s up to every maker of every skill level to find their creative identity. It’s personal. It comes from constantly trying, failing, and trying again. It arrives almost by accident after a series of successes, failures, and moments of inspiration.

Working toward progress. Making with a purpose.

My creative identity is a bit like the Venn diagram of two quotes that guide every project I take on:

“Design is hope made visible” – Bruce Mau

“Art is the highest form of hope.” – Gerhard Richter

Together, I let these quotes create a cycle, building on each other through all the stages of a build. “Design is hope made visible” is all about putting form to ideas. It’s about “doing” instead of just talking. It guides me to continuously learn new tools, new concepts, and seek new ideas and processes. Making design visible, taking a design from concept to reality, is what moves me to see the progress of my efforts.

But it isn’t the only aspect of a build. The other side is about craftsmanship. That’s where “Art is the highest form of hope” lives. This statement reminds me that what I make should evoke a reaction. It keeps me making with a purpose.

Get excited and then do it.

The best guidance I can give to someone trying to find their creative identity is this: Get excited and then do it. Go. Start!

Observe and critique the world around you.

Look around. What interests you? What makes you wonder? What in your world is a mystery to be solved? I’m talking things like “how do tables work” and “how exactly does 3d printing work…?” or “I wonder if I could design my OWN  children’s book” – but of course, go as high level and global as you want.



Now you have a question – time to find some answers. Research is more than just a Google search. Research is about finding examples of your curiosity and dissecting them, in some cases, actually tearing them apart (it’s a great way to discover how the pieces came together). But you can also research by tinkering, by experimenting with material – (“think to build” or “build to think”). This is where you’ll find lots of “Oh… wow!” moments. This is also where you’ll need to take a lot of notes.


Get excited and then do it.

This can be a stumbling block for A LOT of people. It’s hard to get started with the actual “making” part. What’s your determination? To see if you can? Challenge yourself? Maybe save some money by making your own version? Whatever the motivation – if you are excited… then start. You’ll probably fail. Maybe you’ll fail a lot, and that’s ok. That’s actually good! Failure is the best way to learn how not to do something. And we should always be learning.


Start by copying others.

(This is not a license to plagiarise but rather an encouragement to learn from the experts.) Think of yourself as an apprentice to a master maker.


Keep starting.

There’s always another project, or maybe another version of the same project. Whatever the motivation is, keep starting. Soon you’ll find that spark, or that reason, that inspiration, or that motivation – that’s your Creative Identity.

-TJ Edwards

Additional Reading

For a more in-depth approach to putting it all together, Check out Lap 2 – Fabrication in our Build in Progress MOOC course. You’ll find inspirations and lessons to help you become a better maker and keep searching for your Creative Identity.

You should also be listening to our podcast – Build In Progress. It’s all about creating maker communities. We talk to experts in education and discuss the processes we took to design and build our own maker communities at Mount Vernon.

And on the subject of fabrication, check out FabFoundation. They are a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide access to the tools, the knowledge and the financial means to educate and innovate (i.e. to make fabrication labs).

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