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Clarissa Callesen: A gentle guide to creating during a crisis

The world has changed and it can be hard to think clearly, let alone be productive as an artist. Clarissa Callesen shares how to stay creative during a crisis.

Clarissa’s Friday Feature Artist Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.

We recently spoke with artist Clarissa Callesen about how to stay creative during a crisis. 

US-based Clarissa summed up how most of us have been feeling this year when she explained that she is “Doing great but also terrible and full of grief.” 

With so much turmoil and unpredictable events happening around us, that’s the kind of world we all live in. However, Clarissa has been using creativity to get through these times, channel her energies and process what has been happening in the world through art. 

“It’s a time when lots of people are feeling really frozen creatively, and it all seems really hard,” Clarissa explains. 

To help others during the troubled times of 2020, Clarissa decided to share her gentle guide to ‘Creating during a crisis’. 

“One of the joys of the difficult things we have going on is that we also have the beauty of connecting in new ways. So I have included four different exercises in my guide. A lot of it is just gentle prompts and questions,” Clarissa explains.


To stay creative during a crisis, Clarissa recommends asking yourself how you’re feeling and what your thoughts are doing while you’re sitting still with your eyes closed. 

Then, it’s about “Not judging those thoughts or those feelings but moving forward and making marks or stitches or painting from that place.” Throughout her guide, Clarissa shares hands-on, creative exercises to help express emotions and encourages artists to reflect by journaling. 

Get a copy of Clarissa’s guide here

Clarissa adds, “I think one of the most important things about creativity, probably all the time, but particularly now, we must remember that creativity is not about a product. I think it’s really, really easy for us to get stuck in thinking that every time we sit down to paint or to draw, we must end up with something beautiful and finished. Creativity has a lot of value just in the process.”

For anyone having trouble staying creative during a crisis, Clarissa explains that you can’t always be dictated by a certain ‘product developer’ way of thinking. Instead, let go of expectations and enjoy the process itself.

“Each time you’re making a mark or a stitch or choosing a new colour, you’re taking a new path,” says Clarissa.

“You kind of have to trust in the unknown, trust in what’s coming and trust the process. And that’s actually a really good metaphor for where we are right now! We don’t know what the outcome is. But we are gonna stick in there and be creative.”


Sometimes, staying creative means stepping away from the idea of perfection. Whether you’re painting, sewing or using technology, it can ‘freeze’ you and prevent forward movement. But as Clarissa explains, “It’s more important that we’re here than if we’re doing things perfectly.”

Clarissa has also created a Facebook group where artists can connect, work through ideas, talk and share. “Some artists feel like they just can’t pick up anything, so we have been discussing that and commiserating.” 

One contribution of Clarissa’s lately has simply been to paint rocks and leave them around the neighbourhood. “It’s such an overwhelming crisis with COVID and then the systemic racism and violence in the US that I just didn’t even know where to start. So painting little bright coloured rocks and sitting them out along the pond or on a street sign and letting them go as little gifts out into the world was helpful. They helped me get into my studio and helped me get out for a walk. It was a joyful little bit of doing something, some small sweet, tangible thing. I recommend it!” 

Clarissa’s final reminder on how to stay creative during a crisis and for creativity, generally, is that “Creativity belongs to everybody. I don’t believe it’s some magical talent that the gods give you. I believe that every one of us can learn to be creative and that it has value in the process.”  

To view our full interview with Clarissa, take an in-depth look at her amazing textile art installations and get involved with The Knotted Project, log into your Fibre Arts Take Two account here or join us on our Facebook Page to stay up to date with our Friday Feature Artists.


About the artist

Clarissa Callesen has been collecting what others pass off as junk for years, working primarily with post-consumer recycled materials. She is a sculptor, installation artist and experienced instructor. 

As a compulsive collector of life’s debris, Clarissa embraces the grunge and cherishes the haphazard, taking what is discarded from life and making it beautiful.

A master of transformation, Clarissa dyes, paints, stitches and further distresses. She has been fortunate enough to work all her adult life as a self-employed artist, doing her best to live a passionate, authentic creative life. 

Clarissa has exhibited her art throughout Washington, including numerous solo exhibitions and large installations. She has taught nationally and internationally at conferences and residences for over 10 years, and her work has appeared in numerous publications and in books, including Art without Waste.


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