Moments to savor: Reclaiming creativity through charcuterie 

A charcuterie board containing different cheeses, crackers, meats and fruits.
(Sarah Flemming • The Student Life)

A kiwi made me want to create again after two years. Yes, a kiwi. “What are you saying, Emily?” you may be thinking. Well, unexpectedly, it was a small kiwi cut into the shape of a star, sitting on an empty charcuterie board, that jolted me out of a two-year creative slump.

To provide some context: I went to an arts high school where I studied visual arts, and by the time I graduated, I was burnt out creatively. What once was a leisurely pastime became a chore. I didn’t like anything I drew and, slowly, I lost motivation to draw at all. So, after graduation, I put down my art supplies and vowed to explore other passions, which took me to South Korea for an unexpected gap year. 

There, I studied Korean and helped develop stories for an animation company in Seoul. When I returned to school, I immersed myself in non-visual arts related activities: writing for TSL, practicing piano at Thatcher and many other things. 

Writing, piano, language learning — all of these are great things that I was happy to explore. But in the back of my mind I was always wondering when, or if, I would ever want to make art again. Would my visual arts career end in high school and remain a thing of the past?

Fall semester flew by and, again, during winter break I did a lot of non art-related activities: I read, played more piano and fiddled around with my guitar. But when I wasn’t home, I spent a lot of time with my aunt, and one day I was sitting in her kitchen when my eyes turned to an array of neatly sliced fruits — in particular, the star-shaped kiwi. 

“What are you making?” I asked her. My aunt has always been very crafty, and she excitedly informed me that her newest hobby was making charcuterie boards. Now that she finished slicing the fruit — the most labor intensive part of the process — she could start arranging them on the board alongside the crackers, cheese and other goodies.

I watched her reach for a handful of moon-shaped melon slices and, noticing my intrigue, she took it as her cue to elucidate more of her charcuterie-making process to me. 

“Starting with the bulky fruits helps create a general framework for the board’s design,” she explained. “I like to weave the melon slices across the board in an S shape, which is more visually interesting than going straight across.” 

Slowly, I felt a distant yet familiar feeling swell up in me and wanted to hear more. 

“For me, charcuterie is all about the color, shape and texture,” she continued. “Look at how pink this grapefruit is! The star-shaped kiwi is cute, right? Did you know that you could do the same thing with persimmons, too?” 

As we talked more about charcuterie design essentials, the board slowly came together. My aunt filled the empty space around the fruit with crackers and cheese, even shaping salami slices into flowers to place in the corners. In the spirit of winter, she even nestled some Trader Joe’s gingerbread men among the crackers, laying raspberries and cubed dragon fruit atop the melon slices to naturally lead the eye towards the cookies. 

The process not only made the physical board come together, but also my thoughts. I felt intrigued when I first saw the bright green kiwi, satisfied at the way my eyes glided across the board and, altogether, inspired to create again — charcuterie boards and more. I had hardly drawn anything in two years, so it had been a long time since I talked about things like color, visual movement, all the elements of art and principles of design. But discussing these things in the context of charcuterie! How to accomplish visual and textural balance on the board’s blank canvas. How to create a satisfying visual rhythm for the viewer, and seamlessly transition from warm to cool tones. 

Seeing these art concepts outside of the studio was exactly what I needed to pull myself out of my creative slump. Through watching my aunt craft a charcuterie board, I found myself engaging with the visual artist in me once again, and I realized how much I missed it. 

This semester, my desire to create art has been reignited. We may not share the same experiences — you may not be recovering from an intense period of creative indifference — but maybe you are searching for some unconventional creative inspiration. I was able to find some in a humble kiwi, so maybe all you need to do is grab a piece of fruit from the dining hall (or even the trees) and start sketching away. Who knows — that might be just what you need to get those creative juices flowing. 

Emily Kim PO ’25 is from Irvine, California. She loves baggy sweaters, YouTube karaoke and banana bread.

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