Art & Craftwork as a process of creativity

Strengthen the basis of Creativity

I believe that the most generally useful attitude to strengthening creativity is to think in terms of being a creative process within yourself, rather than only thinking of art and craft-making as a creative form of expression. Thinking of yourself as a creative process strengthens the very foundations and skills out of which your craft making arises. A result of approaching art and craft-making in this way is that you can consciously develop the faculties that help you be more creative. The qualities that you embody when you do your crafts can also help you develop skills which can then be applied to developing your creative business.

Being alive to your experience

Whichever crafts object I am making at any given time I use it to consciously arrive into a more alive experience of my senses and imagination. Doing this over time creates a vital and creative relationship between me and the materials and tools I am using; they are not just things out there but become part of my life and experience. Being observant and vividly experiencing your senses while you do your craft-work makes it more fascinating and draws out surprising opportunities. Part of this process of developing being observant is stimulating your sense of curiosity about what the materials and tools you are working with are really like; there is usually much more there than seen at first glance. When you see or feel the materials directly a sense of physical connection emerges. As you explore the tools and material new opportunities for trying things can occur to you. This connection to your materials stimulates your visual imagination and more ideas emerge. If you keep an experience of your craft materials while simultaneously engaging with your imagination the creative process comes together in a very satisfying way. Making crafts and the arts can be a discipline for becoming increasingly observant. The painter Monet changed the whole direction of painting winter scenes when he saw that snow absorbed and reflected the colours all around it. As a result of his powers of observation the whole past experience of seeing and painting snow as white or grey changed for ever. Being observant is an essential faculty of being creative and can be enhanced by the way we relate to our craft materials. Just asking yourself the question what is here in this seen or physically felt moment? can help focus your attention on noticing more. We can have an idea of what is here but not actually be directly seeing or being physically engaged with what is here in front of us. I had a startling and humbling experience a few years ago. I was in my old bedroom of our family house drawing a London scene outside the window. The drawing process increased my power of observation and I noticed on a wall right in front that there was an old painted ad for Gillette razors, with two people dancing, probably from the 30’s. In 40 years I had never noticed it before. I called my usually rather observant mother to the window and to her amazement she had never seen it before either. I think this goes on all the time with familiar scenes and objects. In that instance the drawing helped me have a fresh take on what my mind had taken a snapshot of and was referring back to every time I looked at the scene.

Instincts, thought and imagination make creativity

Being in a richer more instinctive, imaginative and intuitive frame of mind is essential to the state of creativity. Making crafts and art can become a way of entering into this richer state of mind. While making crafts I always check that I am not just in a conceptual or deductive way of thinking about the craft project. If I notice I am just thinking practically about the project I consciously stimulate my imagination. A way of doing this is ask yourself metaphorical and simile questions, such as ‘ what is this like?’ or, If this were a symbol of something, what is it a symbol of? Asking metaphorical and symbolic based questions turns your mind away from the predominantly conceptual and practical frame of mind and into the language of imagination and symbolism. When you are making things you need both practical and imaginative faculties, but just having one at the exclusion of the other can stultify creativity. There is an important relationship between physical instincts, deductive thought and the imagination in the creative process which can be consciously developed and strengthened while making crafts. When these three things come together in a harmonious way the craft-making process is very enjoyable and the results generally express that.

Creativity and Habit

Part of the nature of a creative process is experimentation and adapting to what is happening in your craft-making or artistic process. To be in a creative frame of mind relies on being flexible and freshly responsive in the way you relate to what you are doing. The antithesis of a creative process is mechanical repetition and going through the motions. An analogy is being on Auto-pilot. You have set the course and your fingers just do it automatically. In a way you are not there doing it, there is a quality of being absent. When habit is active you are not really making a choice, the habit is making the choices, it has it’s own course. In a way there is nothing new in habit, it is the same old story over and over again. When you are in a habitual pattern you are not making true choices moment to moment. It is so much more satisfying to use the craft-making to be vividly engaged and have a sense of real choice. I think there is a useful distinction between habit and conscious routines. You can set up your tools and materials the same way every time but still have a sense of freshness and immediacy in what you do, but doing it on automatic is habit and will set you off on the wrong foot for the project.

©Ian Currie, Creative Engagement, London, December 2009

Ian Currie is an amateur craftsman who particularly enjoys clay-work, printing and making jewellery. He is an experienced meditation teacher and leads workshops on creativity, as well as giving one-to one creative coaching.