Shop Talk

How to Escape a Creative Rut… Literally

We all end up stuck in a creative rut from time to time, and after decades of research into various forms of escape — from coffee, to walks in the woods, to booze, to sleeping, to wallowing in the depths of self-pity — we finally figured out the ultimate way to get out of the soul-sucking pit of despair…

Climb out of it.


So we came up with this tutorial on how to make, and when to use an emergency escape rope ladder.

As we all know creative ruts cost the international art industry upwards of 800 billion dollars every year in what the has been described as “Rut Time”. But this madness has to end.

That’s why we’re going to show you how build an escape ladder.

So next time you’re helplessly staring into your refrigerator wondering if a slice of pizza or cupcake will inspire you, or if you find yourself hypnotized by blinking cursors,  blank notebook pages, or empty canvases, you’ll know exactly what to do.

You’ll bail. Post haste.


  • One length of rope. We used a 10mm wide x 20 meter length of rope. If you want a long ladder, find a long piece of rope.
    As a rough guide, 20 meters makes about 6 ladder rungs.

Good quality rope is necessary to ensure your ladder doesn't fray over time

Follow these steps to build your ladder. Because your life depends on it.

Make the anchor loop at the top of your ladder

1. Find the middle of your rope length, and make a loop at the top of the ladder as shown above. Take the top of the loop and move the rope to the right and under itself to make a knot at the top of your ladder.

2. With the two long pieces of rope, lay them out to make a giant “A” frame on the ground.

3. Starting with the piece of rope on your left, make an ‘S’ shape with the rope that reaches across to the other side of the “A”.

4. This ‘S’ is your first ladder rung, so make sure the ‘S’ shape is at least a foot from your knot at the top of the “A”.

5. With the bottom end of the ‘S’, begin to tightly loop it over and over the top of the ‘S’ to make a ladder rung, like a rope doughnut-sausage rung.


Your ladder should assist you when you need to scale a wall, or leave an exhibition or pretentious party

6. Tie off, or loop to the right hand side of your ‘A’, and then begin again on the next rung.

7. Every second ladder rung, we switched sides to ensure we used both pieces of rope, right and left, equally.

8. Tie off the ladder the same way you started as shown below.

Neat knots are superior knots. They ensure a no-tangle exit from any creative rut

Your escape ladder has a myriad of uses. We’ve highlighted a  universally shared creative frustrations few below. We recommend you keep your ladder on your body over your chest at all times. If this is not practical, keep it in your hand bag or on your studio desk ALWAYS.

Don't risk it: keep your ladder nearby when working through a creative rut

Drawings, mock ups and design pitches all require a backup ladder for support.

Use it when you have to explain confusing conceptual art to anyone, ever.

Practice the line, “Sorry, I actually don’t know how this functions as art…let me just grab my ladder and I’ll see if I can help you with that. Be right back.” Then never come back.

No. Just No. This is a classic example of needing to whip out the ladder.

Get out now. See ya.

Use it when your clients change their mind. Again.

When stressful news hits and send you into a creative rut, it’s important to be able to escape quickly. Your client would like a bird on your design? You didn’t get an arts grant? An artwork in an exhibition fell off the wall and smashed? Find the door, window, or wall closest to you and get climbin’.

Stressful news? Never be caught off guard again with your escape ladder.

Use it when someone spills coffee on your artwork or you are the victim of art sabotage.

Don’t cry over spilt milk (or coffee or beer). You have a way out. Has someone scratched your print on purpose? Break out the ladder.  Art sabotage is more common than you think. Avoid jealousy, fights, and tears by getting climbing away. In fact, it’s probably wise to have your ladder on you whenever you come into contact with another artist or beverage.

Art accidents do happen, but they're probably purposeful sabotage. Bail with your ladder just to be safe.

Use it when you have to explain “what art you do” or write an artist statement

This may seem pretty obvious, but when you’re in a creative rut you’re more vulnerable than usual. And when you have to justify or legitimize your artwork to other people, it’s good to have a way out.

Don't suffer alone any longer. Keep your ladder near you when explaining your artistic vision.

These are just a few examples of situations in which an artist could find him or herself. What are some others that persistently plague your creative existence? Do you need a rope ladder? What are some others ways to creatively escape a creative rut? Let us know what works for you in the comments.