creative assignment: within arm’s reach

November 19th, 2014

It’s time for another creative assignment! Are you ready? No? That’s okay neither am I, but that is the point of these creative assignments.

creative assignment on elsie marley

It might seem counterintuitive, but the easiest way access your boundless creativity is to limit yourself. When I was in middle school, I was part of the academic triathlon team (nerd alert!). My favorite event was called Party in a Box (this is a sample and wow! it’s kind of amazing) . We were given a problem to solve and a box of random prop/craft things.  We had to write and star in a play that solved the problem–and do it all in 30 minutes. We had a time limit, a limited theme, and a limited amount of supplies. The creative rush was absolutely exhilarating! and the plays were not half bad either.

Now I can’t get you all in a room, hand you a box of random things, and ask you to make something with them–as much as I would like to! But I can try to limit you as best I can with this month’s creative assignment: within arm’s reach.

creative assignment on elsie marley

1. chevron pencil squiggles 2. number 2 weave 3. sewing 4. tools of the trade 

You are sitting somewhere now: on the couch, in the car, at your desk. What is within your arm’s reach? A random assortment of toys, old receipts, empty coffee cups, a notebook, cds, a pack of gum? (you now know what’s in my car) Make a list. These are your supplies.

What are you going to make with them? A pattern. A repeating pattern. Pick one or two things and create a repeating pattern with them. You can get out your kid’s crayons and draw the pattern out by hand. You can use Illustrator, or the Gimp, or a Paint program to make the pattern. You can draw on your ipad, print it out 30 times, cut it out, and make a pattern using collage.

creative assignment on elsie marley

 1. summer fruits and berries 2. sofa what? who chairs! 3. 4. blackberry pattern 

The ways to tackle this assignment might be limitless, but you have to work with in the limits. One more limit: it’s due next Wednesday. Just before beautiful holiday season explodes into busy manic stressiness you get to go on a creative joy ride.  To hand in you assignment, post your pattern to Instagram with the tag:


Or if you’re not on Instgram, then put a picture to Facebook (or the elsie marley facebook page) and tag it. Extra credit if you upload it to spoonflower :)

creative assignment on elsie marley

1. tacks, teal 2. by debbie powell 3. grilled cheese fabric 4. kalikka by marimekko 

First things, first: make a list of the objects in your arm’s reach. Leave your list in the comments so we can all see!! I found taking a picture of everything with my phone was super helpful. Then you can use different camera apps to play with the object (kaleidoscope camera apps are particularly fun).

Make a pattern! Then throw it up on the internet with the hashtag so we can all see it. By Wednesday! If you need help, Spoonflower is a great place to look (and it’s where I found most of these examples). Pinterest is also good–I have a fabric board that has a lot of great repeating patterns.

Ready? Go!

Posted in creativity.

21 Responses to creative assignment: within arm’s reach

  1. Sara says:

    How fun! I love it and I’m in!

  2. Tasha says:

    SO FUN. Okay. I’m actually taking a break from cleaning my studio, so there are a million things within arms reach:
    scissors, rotary cutter, camera, paper cranes, tiger magnet, gingham fabric, assorted fabric scraps, sharpie, candy cane keychain (??), crown headband, empty gummy bear wrapping, teddy bear, tape, t-square, elastic, hanger, LOTS OF PAPER.

  3. Lexy says:

    Empty mug, side table, sofa, pillow, laptop, bed bath and beyond catalog, swiss colony catalog, child, child’s favorite doll, child’s second favorite doll, costume jewelry bracelet, amber necklace, stuff toy, another pillow.

  4. Maria says:

    Brilliant assignment, I’m in! My desk is a mess, then I have loads of things within my arm reach.

    • Maria says:

      The list: books, pens, fabric samples, daughter’s leap pad, glue stick, seam reaper, scissors, tape, paper, calculator, Vaseline, external hard drive, computer, small sculpture, notebook, tea towels, white thread.

  5. Sarah R says:

    Yay! I have been looking forward to another one of these!

    Sitting at the table feeding the kids lunch, in reach: sippy cup, plates, apple slices, trivet, napkin, tablecloth, cookbooks, today’s mail, wooden toy cars, play kitchen, dishes, salt and pepper…and some random other stuff. (A time to be glad I haven’t tidied up in here today?)

  6. Nele says:

    Woops, I’m at the clean kitchen table. All I have within arm’s reach is a laptop, a tablet, a cup and a cat. And two chairs. Let the brainstorming begin :-)

  7. Cherie says:

    Hope I actually follow through on the assignment this time!!! Things near me . . . two laptops and my phone, one of my daughter’s drawings, a Japanese song book, cloth napkins, a marker, a tissue box, dirty bibs, water bottle . . .

  8. Jo says:

    I have SO MUCH STUFF within arm’s reach! Most of it is office supplies… I’d been wondering when/whether there’d be another one – this’ll be my first time joining in and I’m so excited to get started!

  9. Dam says:

    Water boiler, coffee maker, flour mill, teapot, sugar bowl.
    Obviously I’m in the kitchen.

  10. Jane says:

    I was finishing up lunch at the time and took a picture…I had a cup, fork, bowl, napkin and place mat in front of me.

  11. Juniper says:

    Fun! Great idea ( nice examples to inspire us too!)

  12. Tara says:

    ive got a baby, pillow, hoodie, crib, bath towel, library books, a crinkly fabric sandwich, and a duvet. Oh and an iPad. Ha.

  13. Brienne says:

    tassels. twine. tape. scissors. sticky little hands.

  14. […] creative assignment: within arm’s reach is due today. Most people–including me!–completely forgot, because Thanksgiving. But I […]

  15. martha says:

    I just found this – two weeks too late! What a great idea… Do another creative assignment Elsie. I want to join in!