My imagination is always the starting point. I live in Oklahoma. People, open sky-vistas and history of the old American west surround me and make me pause to consider possibilities. I love reading 19th century histories and diaries, which does spark many ideas. Also, hiking at the nearby wildlife refuge allows me to see deer, coyotes, elk, bison, long horns, and, yes, hawks making lazy circles in the sky. These critters prove to be equally fascinating and subjects for my textile art. I carry a sketchbook and a camera.
If I am portraying an era, I believe the details must be as accurate as possible. I do research by looking at period clothing, tack, and other items at a local museum, which permits me access to their collections. The staff also allows me use of their extensive library, where I study old catalogs and other reference materials. And, yes, I have assembled home library of references.