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creativity can’t be forced

I thought I’d try writing a different kind of post today: an insight into my design process, and what happens when things don’t work out as planned.

crocheted orang utan hand by planetjune

Remember this picture? This is the orang utan I started crocheting at last spring’s Creativ Festival. My goal was to make a life-sized, realistic baby orang. After the show, I finished both arms and then moved onto the head, and that’s where things started to go wrong…

My first attempt looked like a silly smiling cartoon monkey. My second attempt was much more realistic, but hideously ugly. The more I tried to fix them, the less confidence I had that I would ever be able to complete my orang. Maybe it’s because it was so important to me – I love all the animals that inspire my designs, but the orang utan is one of my all-time favourites. When I conceived this project, I wanted to make something really special just for me – not a simple replicable design, but a real one-of-a-kind art piece.

There didn’t seem to be any point in making the body or legs for my orang project when it didn’t seem like there would ever be a head to go with it, so the pieces have sat in a zip-lock bag in my ‘in progress’ drawer for months, untouched. I often thought about the project, but couldn’t see any way forward.

Yesterday, I went back to basics. I sat down with a sketch book and a dozen reference photos of baby orangs, and spent an hour drawing, redrawing, refining. Looking for the ‘essence of orang utan’ that I had failed to capture to date, instead of thinking of it as a crochet problem. I think I have it: my final sketch crystallized what I needed to do, and then it was almost an afterthought to crochet and sculpt the head. (I won’t share any pics yet… I want it to have a big reveal, after all the work that has gone into this!)

At the Creativ Festival this spring (April 24-26, in Mississauga Ontario), I’ll be giving a talk about my work, called Who’s Who in the Crochet Zoo. Now I’m confident that I will be able to bring my orang utan along – nicely circular when you consider where the project was ‘born’, exactly one year earlier.


  1. KraftyCat said

    I have to say, the first thing I thought when I saw that was, “Ook?”
    Which, of course, is Orang Utan, for “Is that the librarian?”
    Which, of course, is reference to the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.
    In which, the librarian of the Unseen University, is an Orang Utan.
    Just don’t call him a Monkey.

  2. IdaDown said

    Well you know I’ve been waiting to see your finished project. I am delighted the end is near…cant wait for the reveal… You prob just needed this time (away from “work”) to get your head in the right place. And may rhis be the start of many more fabulous one off art designs.

  3. futuregirl said

    You’re so right. Creativity can’t be forced. 🙂 That little hand looks perfect!

  4. Rebekah said

    Wow! I can tell by just looking at the arm that this is going to be awesome! I cant wait for the big reveal! I know it will be amazing!

  5. Hi– I came across your site during a Google search and saw the amazing orangutan hand. I would love to see the completed baby!

    Thanks! Rich

    Richard Zimmerman
    Director, Orangutan Outreach
    Reach out and save the orangutans!
    Facebook Cause:

  6. Carina said

    Oh well done! Congrats on the problem solving! (-: Can’t wait to see it.

  7. Jana said

    Hi, June! I thought the pic above was some kind of hideous GLOVE! LOL!! Did you get my email about the wrist problem? You should check it out. Who knows, maybe YOU have it too!
    Can’t wait to see the finished Orang Utan!
    Have fun in the UK!

  8. Oh, I can’t wait to see your Orang Utan, the cute long handed monkey found in my country, Malaysia!!!!

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