I occasionally indulge myself in a flat lay. If you don’t know what that is, it’s an image composed on a flat surface, essentially. The thing is, and this in itself is weird, flat lays have become somewhat controversial within the social media context. Lots of people love them; lots of people think they’re overly-curated/styled and too fake. As always, I rather think all view points are valid and there’s no right answer. Anyway, I’m not here to be controversial (hell no), but it’s something pertinent to me so I thought I’d share my thoughts on it.
As I said, I do occasionally indulge. It’s got to be in summer when there are plenty of flowers to choose from in my garden, and mine usually just feature flowers and yarn, because that’s what my life (sad as it is) generally revolves around.
For me, the first step in creating a flat lay is to gather some yarn and take it outside in a wooden fruit crate. It might be what I’ve dyed that day/week, or just something I have lying around. Or perhaps I’ve noticed that a colourway I dyed would look really nice with some flowers from my garden. Either way, that’s how it starts.
The next step is, for me, one of two creative aspects of the flat lay. It’s the step of going around my garden picking out flowers, leaves, or anything else that I think will go with my yarn as well as together. Now this is the main aspect of creating a flat lay I think – or it should be – because every time I do it I spot new things in my garden, I connect with what’s growing/dying at the time, and I find myself suddenly appreciating plants I may not have done previously.
I don’t have a huge garden. It’s not even that nice most of the time. But every year I throw down a load of wildflower seeds, so those along with the odd other nice bits are more than enough to fulfil my creative inspiration purposes. Don’t tell me you don’t have access to flowers – you can put bulbs and seeds in one indoor plant pot if that’s all you have space for. If you put in winter or early spring bulbs, then a layer of later bulbs, then seeds on top, you’ll have flowers for most of the year.
Anyway, so that’s how I get the most out of creating a flat lay. The next step though is also really creative (for me) – and that’s arranging your piece. It’s easy to get carried away with moving colours or shapes to see how they affect the overall picture. I’ve always really enjoyed photography, so I photograph a lot. You’re not paying per picture so get snap happy! I find that this process encourages me to analyse composition and colour in a really positive way – it’s the same for any photography to be honest – I do find that it makes you a lot more analytical and observant, which is cool. I’ve noticed it in other people too; for example using my partner David to photograph me modelling knitwear for work has made him noticeably more observant and creative.
(I know that mine are not all entirely flat but they’re close enough..)
Back to the flat lay though. For me, it’s a very creative process. It’s the same as sketching, painting, general photography – you look for your subject, then seek to capture it. I know there’s now a cynical aspect. I know that some people think that an Instagram feed full of carefully curated images is ‘not real life’, and it’s a valid point, but it’s only like saying that going to an art gallery and looking at a room full of pretty watercolours is also ‘not real life’. Of course it’s bloody not – it’s picking out pretty things and appreciating them because art enriches our lives. I’m very much a glass half full person, and I believe that however crappy or stressful life can get (which I am not immune to, believe me) there’s always pretty stuff around too – you just have to look and appreciate it. Let it take you out of the stresses of life, if only for the briefest moment.
By the way, over on Instagram my feed is actually not filled with carefully curated or styled images, but I do like to see them peppering it. Since I run a creative business and am under a permanently huge amount of pressure to be creative, I always seek out inspiration (which I find everywhere – I’m quite eclectic) and I like to share it. Don’t worry, I will always retain my cynicism too – I’m northern after all.
Disclaimer: I have no idea where this outpouring has come from. It’s Tuesday lunch time and I was happily dyeing away in my kitchen, looking over the blooms in my garden – maybe a stray thought entered of ‘I’ve not done a flat lay for a while’ – I don’t know, but suddenly all these thoughts happened and I sat down at my laptop and just typed. It’s not stimulated by anything I’ve seen or read recently, and whatever you think about curated imaging on social media I most likely agree with you.
I never write this much; I’m pretty freaked out by it. Normal yarn stuff will resume now. Happy yarn-and-flowers spotting!