Sometimes the best way to beat maker’s block is to leave your desk, close the computer and go for a walk. For this Creative Walkabout, I spent the afternoon with our Intro to Acrylic Painting teacher Courtney Pilgrim of My Friend Court and took her to my favorite spots for finding unusual color palettes, beautiful objects and… really fancy toast.
Before Courtney hopped on a plane to jet from Atlanta to SF, I asked her what types of places she likes to go for inspiration. When she has a spare 30 minutes, where can you find her?
Here’s what she said: When I need inspiration or need to refresh my ideas I like to get out of the house and go get coffee, go be in nature somewhere. From there, I tend to browse around bookstores, looking through big coffee table books to gather inspiration. I also LOVE thrifting and antiquing — the art of breathing new life into something old.
Challenge accepted! And you know what else, we can help all y’all beat maker’s block. Even though the locations listed below are specific to San Francisco, an artsy cafe, quirky boutique and macaron-focused sweet shop are just a stone’s throw away from anyone living in a city or large town. So, forget about losing yourself on Pinterest and Tumblr — get out of the house and get inspired.
1. Fuel Up: Any good adventure starts with fuel. In our case, this fuel took the shape of a hot cup of espresso and a totally-worth-it piece of $4 toast at San Francisco’s hipster breakfast sweetheart, The Mill.
A place that champions simple, well-made things, The Mill features Four Barrel Coffee and Josey Baker Bread. Though I’ve been to this spot a handful of times, this was the first time I took time to notice the colorful squares on the wall, panels of color leading down the hallway and the collection of coffee and bread-centric objects for purchase.
What’s obvious here is the time, care and intention that goes into each cup of coffee or slice of toast served. At times it may seem borderline preposterous, but when looking through the lens of a maker, it’s easy to understand why each sip and bite is so darn good — you can taste the care that went into it.
2. Flip Through a Bunch of Books: Considering the nature of books is to share information, it is fairly obvious that books are a great source of inspiration. A well-curated coffee table book collection is like the perfect salon wall — nothing matches perfectly but it all seems to magically go together. The table located front and center of The Perish Trust is curated to a T, with vintage novellas, contemporary design books and obscure tomes to boot.
And that typewriter? SWOON. Alongside books, you can find all sorts of odd and unexpected treasures on that front table, and throughout the store.
The shop feels more like a curated experience, closer to a crowded art gallery and antique store than a modern-day boutique. There’s something very curious about the objects that find their way to this spot, and we’re guessing the carefully selected combination of items is no accident.
3. Appreciate the Art of Others: Next up, it’s time to appreciate artists and makers that are just like you. Or perhaps ones that you aspire to be like. Located on Divisadero Street cozied right between The Perish Trust, NOPA and Bi-Rite is Rare Device, a beautifully curated shop filled with whimsical, modern and handmade goods.
This spot also happens to be home to an extremely colorful mural… that we just had to take about 50 photos in front of. Aside from making for a stellar backdrop, the great thing about walls like this is that they force you to think about large scale art and how it interacts with the world around it.
4. Get Back to Nature, Even in the City: Whether you’ve got a huge expanse like Central Park or a little parklet in the middle of a boulevard, there’s nothing like breathing in freshly cut grass, towering eucalyptus trees or straight up manure to help reset your creativity. We hit up Alamo Square Park to ogle at the Full House house and to go for a little wander through the woods. You’ll notice that the grass is not green at all — it’s all part of a “brown is the new green” campaign to get San Francisco parks to use less water. We’re into it!
Truth be told, this park is where my husband David and I shot our engagement photos. And wouldn’t you know it, Courtney and I seem to have accidentally shot our own set of engagement photos during this part of the walk ;)
5. Find a Gallery/Shop/Cafe You’d Like to See Your Work In: Where do you see your work? Strictly art gallery? Or jewelry store? Or perhaps a small little zone in a coffee shop? Wherever it is you picture, find a place similar to that in your neighborhood. Take a look at the types of items they sell/curate, and figure out what your in might be. In Hayes Valley, the gift shop Lavish has a ton of amazing stationery and textiles, including an entire wall dedicated to Rifle Paper Co. Flowers and pink patterns for days!
6. A Midday Refreshment is a Must: Whether you go for a cocktail, mocktail or second cup of coffee, it’s important to take a moment and just chill. Seriously. Sometimes the business of walking around to get inspired can get so distracting that you forget to absorb everything you’re seeing. If you’re with a friend, take a minute to chat about what you’ve seen or even to chat about nothing at all.
7. Take a Dance Break: For real. Dancing in the street gets your adrenaline pumping and will help you take yourself less seriously. Don’t get us wrong, there’s a time to be serious. But sometimes you just need to act like a total fool and dance your face off in public.
We stumbled upon this amazing building that happened to match our outfits perfectly. Turns out it’s the outside of Warby Parker’s San Francisco outpost so it makes sense that it would be expertly designed. The folks at illustration studio Lab Partners created this piece, and we love how perfectly it captures the neighborhood it’s nestled in.
8. Try on Silly Hats (and Pose with Hat-Wearing Mannequins): Never underestimate the power of silly hats, silly faces and silly mannequins.
9. Reward Yourself with the Most Colorful Cookies Ever: And finally, close out your day with extremely colorful French cookies. Macarons, of course! Chantal Guillon on Hayes Street is where it’s at, and I highly recommend the Salted Caramel Macaron. It has edible gold paint on it! Yum.
And there you have it — a couple hours, a couple gals and a whole lot of new patterns, colors and odds and ends to get us inspired.
Where do you go for inspiration? What’s your solution to maker’s block? How do you get into the zone? Talk to us in the comments below.