It's easy to lose inspiration. One minute you're full of exaltation and motivation, encouraged by new ideas and creativity; the next you're struggling for stimulus and stuck in a quagmire of inactivity. To make things more difficult, influences come and go so quickly that sometimes we miss The Muse when it passes through. All too often I've noticed something amazing that illuminated that moment in time, but have then forgotten it in the onslaught of life. The flash that could have been a magnificent impetus had faded before I'd even had a chance to properly absorb it.
That's why I take photos. Instagram is no doubt wonderful for this but a simple camera or notepad will also do. I'll use anything to scribble, sketch, record or jot down notes and ideas as they appear. I'll also collect things – beautiful cards from bookstores and museum and gallery giftshops, publicity material from exhibitions, and of course pages from magazines – and then collate the 'Papers of Inspiration' (as my partner calls it) in a pocket of my suitcase for when I get home. (That's the best part: going through it all again!)
Inspiration doesn't just come on cue. You have to seek out The Muse. It's like being an anthropologist of ideas; a David Attenborough of stimuli.
Here are some places where I find inspiration. Hopefully they'll help you find it again too.
VOGUE LIVINGI was lucky enough to write for this beautiful magazine in the 1990s (albeit under a different name), and I still have a soft spot for it. It's one of the most inspirational magazines in the world, which is why you always see it on newsstands in New York and London. I was saddened to hear that long-time editor David Clark has resigned (quite suddenly) and is now taking a much-needed break in Hawaii. However, I'm sure the new editor (whomever it is) will take the publication to even greater aesthetic heights. The latest issue is quite possibly the best ever. The online version has a story on the remarkable photographer Steve Back and his aerial shots of Hutt Lagoon (image at very top of post). If I could paint, I'd paint that photo. Just beautiful. Here are two more of Steve Back's extraordinary landscape studies...
EXHIBITIONSIt's difficult to make time to see exhibitions – especially in Paris, where the queues for the just-opened shows, Paris By hollywood (Hotel de Ville), the Bohemians (Grand Palais) and Van Cleef & Arpels (Les Arts Décoratifs) took over an hour. (Surprisingly, London's shows, including Tim Walker, Hollywood Costume and Ballgowns, and were easy to access.) However, it's worth tracking down and seeing good exhibitions, as the inspiration they provide can keep you energised for months. If you can't see the exhibitions, then ordering the book can be the next best thing. I've just bought the exquisitely miniature catalogue of the Cristóbal Balenciaga, Philippe Venet, and Hubert de Givenchy exhibition. It juxtaposes the gowns with the influences of the designers – from roses to paintings, staircases, artwork, interiors, mirrors, even balustrades (one of my favourite things.) It's format is so beautiful, it has inspired the design of our next Paris book.
BOOKSHOPSA bookshop is a magical place, which is why it's such a shame that Amazon is teasing us with cheap prices. In Paris last week, I popped by the bookshop at the Decorative Arts Museum next to the Louvre (Les Arts Décoratifs), and stumbled upon an entire section of vintage fashion books. It was like finding the veta madre – the Mother Lode! Bibliophilia bliss. There was more inspiration there than you could shake a Balenciage gown at.
Those of you who read The Library's regularly will know I have a great weakness for a foreign place (especially if it's Paris or New York). Condé Nast Traveler magazine and its English version are valuable sources for ideas on places to go, even if you're only an armchair traveller. Their stories are always wonderful sources of inspiration, and this month's 25th Anniversary Issue, with Hilary Clinton on the cover is one of the best yet. The issue has offered a list of the 32 Best Trips in The World, and it includes Australia. (Thanks CN; we love you too.)
As a little addendum to the list, here are five destinations on my '32 Best Trips List':
1. Lake Como, Italy, and a day-long tour of the waterfront mansions in a 1950's wooden speedboat. BYO picnic and handsome man. (I'd take mine.)
2. Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, and arriving at either island in a puddle-jumper plane from Boston, crossing the beauty of Cape Cod as you do. Nantucket village and Edgartown are arguably two of the most beautiful villages in the US.
3. Key West on Fantasy Fest Weekend. Hire a convertible Mustang, drive down the Keys, pay your respect at Hemingway's mansion, have a drink or three at a sunset bar and stop for some palm-tree-enhanced R&R at The Moorings on the way back.
4. A long weekend on Harbour Island, a far-flung island in the Bahamas. The celebrity spotting is incredible, but the pastel-painted Caribbean architecture (above) is even better.
5. Sailing the Whitsunday Islands in a little Beneteau yacht. Ask one of the sea plane companies to pick you up on the way out to the reef and go snorkelling on the reef: one of the world's most magical places. I get inspiration just from swimming amongst the tropical fish for an hour.