Allowing Ideas to Percolate

TAKEAWAY: Sometimes you need to allow your ideas to “percolate,” so your thinking, studying and observing can “gel.”

Imagine a young woman arriving at Vermont’s Middlebury College in the 1950s, discovering the joy of printmaking. Now imagine that woman, more than 50 years later, still going strong, making highly valued, award-winning prints and inspiring younger generations.

You don’t have to imagine this woman. Printmaker Sabra Field is very real, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her this summer in her studio and home on my 35-state trip across the United States.

She shared with me some true wisdom on the articulation of ideas and on the nature of creativity in our modern world. I’ll share some of that here, and you can see a video interview with her at the bottom of this post.

Sabra Field is a force of nature. She lives the furthest from a paved road in the entire state of Vermont, a home she purchased in the 1970s. Her art, however, is global, sold through top galleries and shown in exclusive shows. Some of her most noted prints capture the bucolic charm of her adopted state, but as you can see from the prints behind her, she is a world traveler and everything she’s seen is reflected in her work. Even things she dreams.

Her art is a reflection of her life experience, and as a result the ideas for her prints, as she puts it, “percolate in my head for I don’t know how long.” A striking series she did not too long ago titled “Cosmic Geometry” (also shown in the video) “was fifty years in the making,” she told me:

“The thoughts and the looking and the studying and the being and the traveling over a long period of time makes something gel.”

I asked Sabra about the meme circulating that creativity is on the decline. I don’t personally buy that myself, as I have debated with one of the authors of the infamous Newsweek article, but I wanted Sabra’s take. She took strong issue with that premise:

“I think there’s an explosion of creativity. You might not find it exactly where you’re looking for it. Think of the Italians. People say, ‘Oh, where is Leonardo today?’ Well, he’s designing clothes, and housewares, and they’re brilliant.”

I pretty much got lost trying to find her home, and wondered if my rental car was being damaged by all the gravel and rocks being thrown up from the tires as I sought to find her (it wasn’t, not visibly anyway). But I would have happily traversed far more hazardous terrain to have been able to spend time with this remarkable woman.

5 thoughts on “Allowing Ideas to Percolate

  1. Hi Patrick, I’m a big fan of percolating or what I call “composting.” It often amazes me how my brain comes up with ideas if I feed it a tiny bit and then let go of any expectation. I love that Sabra Fields has been letting some ideas percolate for 50 years!


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