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Celebrating Women’s History Month: Conversations About Creativity, Hope, and Healing, Part 1

I have always been someone who likes to make things. I love to bake and cook, I like to knit, and I make my own ceramics.

I am drawn to items that were made by hand, either by me or someone else, and I am convinced that I will never be finished finding art for my home that inspires me or brings me joy when I look at it or use it. Especially during the past two difficult years of the COVID-19 pandemic, incorporating handmade artifacts and art into my routine and my space has made a big difference in how I experience it.

In honor of Women’s History Month, I spoke with some of my colleagues at the Copyright Office about creativity, hope, healing, and more. They had so many wonderful insights to share, so we are bringing this blog to you in two parts. This is “Conversations About Creativity, Hope, and Healing, Part 1.”

Please note, the following interviews have been edited for space and clarity.

Annette James, Program Coordinator

How do you express your creativity, and what do you love to make?
I enjoy working with my hands. I love taking raw materials—fabric in most cases—and working with the different pieces and textures to create something wearable, functional (like a quilt, for example), or just pretty to look at.

What does it mean for you to be creative or express creativity?
For me, personally, I find expressing my creativity to be cathartic—even healing at times. It is not just the pleasure that I find in being creative, it is also the joy and appreciation of the person receiving something that I have made for them.

Who are the creative women who inspire your creativity?
Both of my grandmothers are the creative women in my life who inspired my love of sewing. My maternal grandmother was a quilter. She used the clothes that my mom and her siblings had outgrown to make quilts—all by hand—for the winter months. My paternal grandmother made exquisite garments, in addition to the pretty dresses she made for me and my sister. She lived in Los Angeles from the 1940s through the mid-1970s and had many “starlets” as clients during that time. The pictures that I have seen of the gowns she made were stunning and impeccably tailored.

Someone is holding up a large quilt with a purple edge, and may differently shaped and colored squares quilted together across the middle. The quilt contains lots of yellows, purples, and shades of brown.

“Pandemonium” is a quilt created to memorialize the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: Annette James

Is there a creative work (or body of work) someone else put into the world that provides healing, hope, or inspiration to you?
The Gee’s Bend quilters have been extremely influential in my work with quilting. I am so inspired by their body of work and their story. As for clothing, anything that Edith Head created or designed makes my heart sing!

Over the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, how has your understanding of your creativity or creative time evolved?
Working with my hands was a major stress reliever at the beginning of the pandemic. I did not know what else to do! I had tons of scrap fabric, and I just went to town making a quilt to memorialize the pandemic. It was a hodgepodge of every kind of fabric I had in my stash—chaotic, just like the times we were living through. Much of the leftover fabric came from the masks that I made to help keep family and friends safe. I lovingly refer to that quilt as “Pandemonium.” Working on it helped me relax a bit and refocus.

What do you want fellow women creators to know about copyright?
In my opinion, copyright is for EVERYONE! For women creators in particular, I want them to understand that we are here to assist and make copyright relatable. I would also encourage women to engage with the Office and take advantage of all of the available resources.

Callie Mosley, Copyright Specialist

How do you express your creativity, and what do you love to make?
I crochet and make home decor. I love to crochet baby blankets and sweaters and make shiny and blingy decor.

What does it mean for you to be creative or express creativity?
It means that I can bring my vision to life and see what I want without having to look for it.

Where do you think creativity intersects with or impacts healing?
Creativity is healing because it brings calmness and peace. Creating things allows me to escape from the worries of the world or at least from my own worries.

How do creativity and being creative provide healing or promote hope in your community?
I think people have their own sense of creativity, and sharing that creativity with others can be soothing and relaxing.

Who are the creative women who inspire your creativity?
My mother inspired my creativity. She brought me my first latch hook kit. Growing up as an only child, I was sometimes bored and would take things apart to see how they worked but then could not put them back together. My mother realized that I had an inquisitive mind, so she gave me something to do that would hold my attention and make me focus.

Is there a creative work someone else put into the world that provides healing, hope, or inspiration to you?
I love anything and everything that is Black art. Photographs, paintings, movies, sculptures, poems, stories—everything dealing with my culture and African culture.

What do you want fellow women creators to know about copyright?
Be creative, be you, and use your gifts and talents!

Heather Wiggins, Supervisory Copyright Specialist

How do you express your creativity, and what do you love to make?
Ever since I was a child, I have always loved to write. I used to write stories and poems for my family, and my mom still has some of my early writings. As I got older, my love of writing stayed with me, and while I did not pursue it as a career, it has shown up in different ways on my career path.

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to study abroad, and I would spend hours in the internet cafes writing to my family about my experiences in Spain. I wanted them to see it as I was experiencing it, even though they did not get to travel to see me while I was there. I still love to write about my travel experiences, but I also love to create things that feel uplifting and positive.

What does it mean for you to be creative or express creativity?
There is a wonderful book by Julia Cameron called The Artist Way, and in it, Cameron says, “Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.” I do feel that when I am engaging in the creation of something that is calling from within me, I am connected to something much larger than myself. It feels as though I am tapping into something sacred within me and in some ways connecting the past, present, and future. People who came before me expressed themselves and paved the way for me to do the same.

Vertical portrait of two smiling female photographers discussing images on computer screen while working on editing in studio

Engage your creativity with friends and colleagues. Photo credit: Shutterstock

I am also creating so that my future self can have a record of what past me was thinking and doing. In some ways, it also feels like it goes beyond me and extends itself as a service to humanity. Maybe something I create can light the flames of hope or inspiration for someone else.

For me, being creative means freedom, but sometimes it also feels like uncertainty. Sometimes taking a chance to be creative is also taking a risk to pull out something of myself that is private and to share that with the world. Ultimately, once I express myself creatively, whether publicly or privately, I feel a sense of satisfaction that I took my vision and made it into something tangible.

In one of my other favorite books on creativity, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Gilbert says, “A creative life is an amplified life. It is a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.” I could not agree more!

How can creativity and creative works provide healing or promote hope within our society?
Creativity is a huge connecting force. I have seen examples of how one work can bring people from all walks of life and all backgrounds together. We may have differences, but there are things that unite us, including feeling depth of emotions at seeing a beautiful piece of art or at hearing moving music.

I think that when we utilize creativity to show that most people in the world are dealing with the same things and that there is more that connects us than tears us apart, that promotes healing and hope.

Who are the creative women who inspire your creativity?
I am fortunate enough to have an abundance of creative women in my life. My mom is a great example of someone who inspires my creativity and encourages me to work on my creative passion projects. In her day job, my mom is the director of nursing at a senior care facility. This pandemic has been extremely stressful on her and her staff, but I have seen how she uses creativity to help herself decompress and inspire her team. She has a brilliant eye, so her evening and weekend projects are epic. Whether she is painting something, sewing, or knitting, she has created some amazing works of art. My siblings and I may be the only ones who get to see most of her creative works, but public visibility is not the marker of great or inspiring work.

Over the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, how has your understanding of your creativity or creative time evolved?
I think the pandemic has truly highlighted the ways in which creativity and creative time are essential to humanity. So many of us “survived” because of the creative works of someone else, or because we were able to channel our energy into our own projects. I also learned that time is not promised and not to waste time thinking that I have time. Just do the thing!

What is your relationship to copyright?
Copyright is infused into my life in so many ways. It is not only the foundation of my career, working at the Copyright Office and teaching copyright as an adjunct professor, it is also something that I utilize as a content creator. It was not the career path that I set out to have, but despite that, it definitely found me somewhere along the way and has kept me interested over the years.

How does copyright help and support women creators?
I believe that copyright helps and supports women creators because it leaves a paper trail. It shows women what people in the past have done, what people are doing now, and inspires people to do something that will leave a legacy for the future.

What do you want fellow women creators to know about copyright?
I would like women to know that they are immensely creative, and when they feel that spark, they should act on it. You get your vision and your gifts, and you use them. The most important thing, though, is to just do it! By all means, create away!

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