Corset Cuff designed by Mandi Bugatti

The other day I sat down to create a new design for a class I will teach in January. I had no idea where to start. I realized I was staring a my bead mat like a writer stares at a blank computer screen, trying to write the next bestseller. What am I doing?

I started wondering why it was so easy for me to come up with ideas some days, and on other days I don’t get any ideas. Is there really some elusive “muse” that decides when it wants to show up and when it wants to leave you high and dry?


All of my most popular designs ideas have come to easily and effortlessly. Bringing them to life takes some trial and error, but the concept, that’s usually the easy part. When I think about how they came to me, its usually in one of these 5 ways:

  1. Making something for a friend– Maybe its your friend’s birthday, and you come up with something using the beads you already have with her in mind. I think this works because it’s for someone specific, and you know what types of things she would like. Also, there’s no pressure for it to be an epic design that gets accepted to BeadFest, but you might be thinking that when you’ve finished.
  2. Bead Challenge– I’m currently working on a bracelet that was inspired by doing a beaded bottle challenge. This works because you have a deadline and perameters to follow. It’s designing project runway style, where restriction breeds genius.
  3. New Materials– Be inspired by whatever the new/popular beads are coming out. Rivolis were super popular, then tilas, now it’s twin beads, gum drops, and spikes. Think about how you can use these things with your skills and design aesthetic.
  4. Sketchbook– For me, this is combination Pinterest, challenges, and everyday inspiration like nature. Ideas present themselves, and I do my best to capture them all before they disappear. I can do 15-20 sketches on a prolific day, and when I sit down at the blank bead mat, my job is to bring these ideas to life. This is really about paying attention to when your creative genius is talking to you, and learning to listen.
  5. Playtime– The very first design I ever produced as a kit was a moment where I asked, “What would happen if…” I was making earrings for a friend, which led me to another idea because I made a “mistake.” I played with the new idea, and it worked! When I play, and it doesn’t work, I stick it in a tin box labeled Bead Bits. On a playtime day, maybe months from now, I will see it with new eyes, in a different way.

These design idea generators all have one thing in common. They are all creative systems: structures I’ve put in place to keep my pipeline of ideas full. I make sure to participate in challenges, keep my sketchbook around, and keep an eye out for new beads to play with. What works for you?

What do you think? How did you get your best idea? Maybe some of these ideas will work for you, and maybe you have some of your own. Please share you experience with us in the comments below.