Climbing to creativity

Sculptures by the Sea Sydney 2013

The pursuit of a more creative lifestyle was one of the main motivators for jumping into fine furniture making… But what exactly is ‘creativity’?

A couple of months into the new year I will have finished all the ‘set projects’, and will then have free reign over what I make. The prospect is thrilling, but the thrill is tempered by apprehension – so much choice for starters! And then there’s self doubt – will my design be an embarrassing mix of odd proportions or conflicting timber species? Can I strike the right balance between flare, highlight and flamboyance with constraint, reserve and understatement? What will my peers and mentors say when I lay bare sketches that look like a chicken has jumped into an ink well and then run across my page?

It feels somehow like I’m showing more of myself through this type of work than any other work I’ve done in the past. A design that you have created is a tangled expression of your past experiences, memories, taste, ideas and emotions. It represents, in abstract, a part of you, and because these things can’t ever be fully articulated when justifying or describing the premise of the work, it leaves it open to critique in a way that is more cutting than any other type of work. This tends to lead you to second guess yourself, or take the more conservative route.

This type of internal judgement made sure that my mind was fertile ground when I recently listened to a Design Matters podcast that touched on the subject by one of its callers – none other than critically acclaimed designer/artist Milton Glaser. He discussed the intersection of two realms of interest to me, but that I had never really considered this deeply before – art and meditation.

He says: “In your mind the experience of art and the experience of meditation are very related. They each free you from the incessant chatter of the brain you can’t control, and allow you to experience reality without the interference of judgement.”

How true. I would add to this many other experiences, such as being in a state of flow in sport, music, etc. or a connection with nature in some way.

Glaser expands on this statement with what he describes as a new theory of his, one that claims art is a survival mechanism of our species.

He says: “Art, whether it be commercial art, fine art, low art, high art, art’s purpose is to make us more attentive. Art helps our survival, because by definition if it didn’t it would’ve disappeared a long time ago. It’s a survival mechanism because when we pay attention to art, we learn about what we are, who we are and what’s real, through the experience of art in a way that has no equivalence to anything else, except for meditation which produces the same results, where you attempt to stop the chatter in the brain and you attempt to observe what is in front of you, clearly, without any preconditions…”

This type of clear thinking that removes the perceived barriers of the silos of thought, particularly between culture and science, is where I recently find my interests navigating towards. I found Edge a couple of years ago and was hooked. As it’s motto states, it aims to “arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves”.

Shining a light on what makes us creative is important to understanding how to become more creative. It’s not some kind of inexplicable quality, but something that can be understood with increasing levels of insight. While some may have a more creative disposition due to their nature or environmental conditions, we all have the ability to unlock the creative power of our subconcious mind and to be able to learn how to express our ideas and thoughts more effectively and with more vigor.

I at least hope this is true – we’ll see as I start to let the creative juices flow for my first potential commission – a lamp base for one of David’s clients. But that’s another post.

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