When I first started teaching, teachers had tons of files. Paper files. I had filing cabinets crammed with them. Yellowed and dog-earred and overstuffed with the detritus of a hundred great ideas, there were my backups, my templates, and my go-to creative compendiums of a pre-digital age. Clipped, photocopied, or scrawled from a hundred different sources, only seven of which I would probably ever use. 

Today an artist friend bequeathed her “idea file” to me, one overfull with a gazillion pottery and clay ideas, none of which I’ve ever seen before. Diagrams. Glaze recipes. Step-but-step instructions on how to use the coil pot method in making clay masks. A magazine bio on an Arizona potter previously unknown to me.

As a potter, and life-long lover of “hard copy” books and documents – I was thrilled to receive such a gift. For me it was a secret vault, or a new friend, yet familiar in its yellowed, snaggletooth appearance. A grimy ore of artistic ideas, compiled especially for me.

It will take me some time to sift through them all. A hundred great ideas, though I may use only seven. But those seven ideas – when I find them – are mine now, and I would not have found them otherwise. 

I am eternally grateful for those idea caches, and the big-hearted people willing to share them. I know I’m a better person for it – creatively, and personally.

What about you? Where do you keep your best ideas? Or has someone gifted you a creative treasure that made a difference in your life? Let me know in the comments!

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