‘The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.’ Alan Alda
I have always wanted to write about creativity, as it has always been a very important part of my life and it should be for every person.
The English Oxford Dictionary (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/creativity) defines ‘Creativity’ as :
‘The use of imagination or original ideas to create something’ or ‘inventiveness’.
Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/creativity?s=t ) goes further with :
‘the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination’.
It is one of the fundamental human needs, classified by Max Neef, who was an economist, famous for his taxonomy of Fundamental Human Needs and Human Scale Development. These needs include: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, recreation (in the sense of leisure, time to reflect, or idleness), creation, identity and freedom and can also be defined according to the existential categories of being (qualities), having (things), doing (actions) and interacting (settings), complete with how they can be satisfied.
In the case of Creation (and Creativity) :
Being : Imagination; Boldness; Inventiveness; Curiosity
Having : Abilities; Skills; Work; Techniques
Doing : Invent; Build; Design; Work; Compose; Interpret
Interaction : Spaces for expression; Workshops; Audiences
Here are some websites if you want to read some of Max Neef’s works :
Creativity is incredibly important, not just for an individual’s richness of life, but also for the world with its incredible complexity and problems requiring urgent solutions like climate change, waste disposal, limited resources for an increasing human population, ozone layer depletion and loss of biodiversity and habitat.
‘There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.’ Edward de Bono
Major organizations head hunt highly creative people. Employers want staff, who can think outside the box and find innovative solutions. A 2012 Adobe study on creativity, where 5,000 adults across the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan were interviewed about the role of creativity in business, education and society overall, showed 8 in 10 people feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth and nearly two-thirds of respondents feel creativity is valuable to society. Here is what others have to say :
‘The economic future of an organization depends on its ability to create wealth by fostering innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.’ Linda Naiman
‘The organizations of the future will increasingly depend on the creativity of their members to survive.’ Warren Bennis
‘Access to talented and creative people is to modern business what access to coal and iron ore was to steel-making.’ Richard Florida
‘The heart and soul of the company is creativity and innovation.’ Bob Iger
Business organizations also often use artists to illustrate concepts as speeches are delivered, as it is a well-known fact that humans are highly visual creatures.
A great example is this brilliant YouTube clip of Ken Robinson’s speech for the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) on Changing Education Paradigms for the modern age : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U.
Ken Robinson is a world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin award. He defines creativity as : ‘ the process of having original ideas that have value’, as opposed to divergent thinking.
This clip is part of the RSA Animate series : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvhsiQGy_zcNCiSbeXEjhLg, which also covers other issues titled :
• Re-imagining Work;
• The Power of Outrospection;
• The Truth about Dishonesty; and
• The Power of Networks.
The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) : http://www.thersa.org is also well worth visiting.
Where would the world be without people like :
- Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie ( science and medicine);
- Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (computers);
- William Morris, The Pre-Raphaelites, The Impressionists, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali (art);
- Le Corbusier, Antoni Gaudí , Jørn Utzon (architecture);
- Gertrude Jekyll, Roberto Burle Marx, Christopher Lloyd, Vita Sackville-West, Edna Walling (gardens);
- Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer, Claudia Roden, Rick Stein, Sophie Dahl, Ian Parmentier (cooking);
- Ansel Adams, Olive Cotton, Harold Cazneaux, Alfred Stieglitz(photography);
- Kaffe Fassett (knitting), Brian Chan and Robert J. Lang(origami), Rob Ryan and Su Blackwell (paper cutting), Anita Larkin and Judit Pocs (Felt), Dijanne Cevaal and Jeraldine Just (Textiles);
- Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, the Brontes, Alison Uttley , Charles Dickens (literature);
- Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Samuel Coleridge (poetry);
- Stephen Poliakoff, Steven Spielberg, Philippe Lioret, the Coen Brothers and Walt Disney (Film);
- Emily Watson, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson(drama);
- Amadeus Mozart, Bob Dylan and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music), to name but a few!
An excellent site, well worth looking at if you wish to pursue the topic of creativity further is: http://www.creativityatwork.com .
But here for now is my tuppence worth !!!
What I Know About Creativity
Because of an enormous word count, I have decided to divide this post into 2 sections :
Part 1 : Everyone has it from birth!!!
: Children and Creativity
: My Personal Experiences
Part 2 : Creativity can be developed and fostered by the
: Provision of materials; learning spaces; learning opportunities and inspiration
: Exercises and practice
: Recognizing its importance and paying homage to it
: Praise and encouragement
1.Children and Creativity
‘Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people’ Leo Burnett
Before they start school, all children are highly creative confident little beings. They are enthralled by their amazing new environment and want to know everything there is to know about it.
‘Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every conceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing.’ Thomas Huxley
They have no filters like ego or self-consciousness to block their creativity.
‘Your ego can become an obstacle to your work. If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.’ Marina Abramovic
Unfortunately, by the time they reach 8 years of age, their critical brain has kicked in, as well as peer group comparisons and they begin to doubt their own abilities!
‘If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.’ Vincent Van Gogh
Ken Robinson cites a book called ‘Break Point and Beyond’ by George Land and Beth Jarman (http://artof4elements.com/entry/35/divergent-thinking/mindfulness-training-articles ), who conducted a longitudinal study of 1600 children aged 3 – 5 years, who they then tested at 5 yearly intervals.
Apparently, 98 percent of Kindergarten children are creative geniuses in divergent thinking, but unfortunately, this figure steadily declines with increasing age.
At 8 – 10 years old, only 32 per cent of these same children scored in the creative genius category.
Five years later, only 10 per cent of the children scored in this category.
In tests of over 200,000 adults over 25, only 2 per cent scored enough to be classified as creative geniuses! Incidentally , this is also a very good site on creativity.
‘Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up’
‘There is no use trying,” said Alice. “One can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’ Lewis Carroll
2. My Personal Experiences
I think at this point, it is useful to compare my experiences with the creative journeys of my children, who I believe to be highly confident, creative and talented young adults!
As a child, I enjoyed playing with art materials and creating things. At school, my report card showed that in the early years of school, I was a bit clumsy with sewing and handwork, which is really quite ironical now, given my chosen field of creativity!!!
But then, I was not much good at ball sports either and was often among the last to be chosen for teams in the playground, until Grade 6 that is! There is a school of thought that believes that it takes 10 years for all the physical, emotional, cognitive and social skills to fully evolve and come together! I was obviously a late bloomer!
Back home, we would dress up and put on plays for my parents, perform concerts with singing and recorder, make dolls’ houses out of cardboard shoe boxes and mud pies with filched food colouring, rouge our lips with fuchsia berries, make up poems, paint Easter cards with water colours and make Fimo chess figures. We dressed cardboard dolls with paper cut-out clothing and made crepe paper flowers and Christmas decorations, as well as learning how to cook and sew our own clothes.
But as school lessons became more serious and homework and assignments occupied more and more free time, creativity started to take a back step. Art lessons were replaced by Languages and Sciences, although I still sang in the school choir and performed in school plays and musicals.
In Year 11, I studied Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Maths. Because the former 2 subjects were spread out over 2 years, I could not matriculate in the first year like so many of my arts-based friends and because we had to study 4 subjects a year, I chose English Literature and Art !!!
However, the damage in my confidence had already been achieved over the preceding years and I compared myself unfavourably with my art peers, who I felt were so much more talented ( and they were, because they’d never stopped art study!!!). As a consequence, I chose to specialize in the Art Major History strand with Batik as my practical component! There was certainly no competition there- I was the only one doing it!!!
I thoroughly enjoyed learning about art history though – it gave me a wonderful understanding of the foundations of Modern Art, informed my later art practice and gave me a lifelong interest in art. And the batik was so much fun too, albeit a little basic at that stage!
Getting a job after school was (and still is!) very important, so I studied physiotherapy, where employment prospects were still excellent, but at university, I still managed to slip in a creative course or two like handmade paper making. I enjoyed my work, especially rehabilitation therapy for stroke and head injured patients, where you could be much more creative, but once I married and moved to the country, the more prescriptive outpatient’s work was more available.
‘The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.’ Pablo Picasso
We started a family and by the time I was pregnant with No. 3, all my earnings as a part-time physio were going in child care. So I stopped working outside home and became a Stay-at-Home Mum, as well as helping on the farm. Unfortunately, I was the last generation to be able to do this acceptably and only just. It’s an enormous financial sacrifice, as well as damaging to your career prospects, but I loved it! In my book, child rearing is a full time job and it was wonderful to share my childhood pursuits and books and toys with my children, as well as provide them with longed-for desires like real dolls’ houses, made by their clever Dad!!! Here are the girls, when they were younger, making their Christmas fairies at the kitchen table.Because of my lack of confidence in my artistic abilities , I was determined that my children would not face the same frustrations and so placed an extra strong emphasis on creativity in my child rearing! The job market was by now so competitive, that the general consensus about careers was the best option was to pursue your love and maybe you would be talented enough to score that job! Also, creative skills were becoming increasingly valued by the workforce.
My kids grew up surrounded by magical books, both fiction and how-to guides and plenty of easily accessible art materials and dressing-up outfits. They too performed plays and concerts and made boats and fairies out of leaves and twigs.One big advantage was that because they went through public education and we did not have to pay exorbitant school fees, we had a bit of money to spend on music lessons, tennis, drama, dance, art lessons with the local art gallery and even a philosophy discussion group.
Some of the art courses included : Basketry with Natural Materials with Tim Johnson in his early days as a visiting artist-in-residence at NERAM before he became famous :http://www.timjohnsonartist.com/basketmaking/; lino cutting; screen printing; ceramics and drawing. We made mosaic stepping stones with a friend, which you will have seen in my first garden post, ‘New Beginnings’. Here are some of the creations made by my kids from Tim’s class: a goanna and a frilled neck lizard.We visited inspiring exhibitions and attended plays, film and concerts on our travels. They performed in eisteddfods and school plays. We were very proud of our eldest daughter and her 3 school friends (1st photo below), when they won the State Shakespeare Festival in Grade 11 for the whole of New South Wales, against all the other public schools, private schools and performing arts schools. Not bad for a country public high school !!! She also sang with her school in a massed choir at the Sydney Opera House in Grade 8 and was part of a Celtic Dance group in Years 9 and 10. Here is a photo of the Shakespeare group practicing on our verandah. The 2nd photo below was another school drama performance.My three children had their own alter egos – a hippo, camel and piglet with distinct personalities, language and histories. Life was always full of fun, you never knew who was going to emerge and it was often a brilliant way for conflict resolution! These lovable characters featured in a self-produced monthly magazine, complete with articles, stories and fashion, makeup, quiz, astrology and Help pages and even a first novel about the adventures of their alter egos in its own handmade book!
At school, the kids continued their art all the way through and became competent sketchers and confident in their creative abilities. That is not to say, they never had their own misgivings or doubts – there are always incredibly talented people out there, if you let yourself fall into the trap of comparisons – but on the whole, I think they are all incredibly talented and well-rounded. Not only are they all good artists, but they also play guitar (self-taught), piano and accordion and write their own songs, which they perform at ‘Open Mic’ nights.
Over the years, we and their friends and extended family have been the recipients of some wonderful home-made gifts from hand-painted chequerboards, Monopoly boards, flags and wall maps to framed artwork, coasters, sculptures, pottery bowls and china serving plates and oil burners, jewellery, delicious feasts with menus and brilliant plays and concerts. I love my little piglet and elephant bowls, the piglet and Monopoly boards, my daughter’s hand-painted world map (which she made while saving for her overseas trip), my wooden turtle and snake coasters and my beautiful ceramic plate!My eldest daughter became an art teacher, who inspired her own students to achieve their creative goals, but now travels, writes and plays music with a bit of casual teaching on the side to fund her lifestyle!!! You can follow her travels on :
‘Creativity is contagious, pass it on’ Albert Einstein
My youngest daughter had a stint of being a highly artistic Makeup Queen, winning the Best Makeup Student of the Year in her TAFE Diploma studies for the whole of Victoria, working as a makeup artist on the film ‘Blinder’, doing film shoots with Guy Sebastian and being a founding staff member and second-in-command at Geelong’s MAC store, a highly creative and successful makeup company, which does all the makeup for the Melbourne Fashion shows and film industry.
And my son is rediscovering his creativity through sketching and is a very inventive problem solver!
So I feel so proud of them all and believe I have achieved that goal of conserving and developing their creativity streak at least!!!
Throughout their childhood, I also continued my creative journey. While I was at home with the kids, we did still work and ran a small tourism business with 2 self-catering cottages, which enabled me to stay home, as well as pursue my love of interior decorating, floristry and home cooking. I made all our own soft furnishings, as well as clothes. I knitted scarves and hats, made bags and enjoyed sewing cross-stitch pictures. We renovated our old 1904 house and one of the cottages and built the other larger one from scratch. I studied Clothing Assembly at TAFE, as well as a few other textile related courses like more batik, fabric dyeing, shibori and tie-dye, embroidery and knitting. Here are some of my cross-stitches from commercial patterns:And a case for eye glasses with a cross-stitch design of my own :
We built another little guest cottage on our magical country block in the rainforest, to which we moved on lock-up, as we really wanted to experience life over there. I studied more courses in art, design and photography and started my own small clothing business, Izzie and Ozzie, specializing in clothing and toys for children.Once the kids left home, we decided, after a 6 month trip around our amazing continent, to continue the journey of self-discovery and spent the last 5 years in Victoria – the first year in Melbourne studying a Diploma of Textile Art, then 4 years in Geelong, where I studied floristry with TAFE and garden design at Burnley (Melbourne University), as well as working with my wonderful roses at Soho Rose Farm for 2 years. I joined the Victorian Felters and the Victorian Embroiderer’s Guild and enjoyed both their extensive libraries and courses. I learnt how to dye indigo with a friend, made cushions and stuffed toys, studied pattern making and did a few wonderful mosaic workshops with Helen Millar. For more information, see : http://www.flockofbirdsmosaics.org/. I was so inspired by Elizabeth Armstrong’s wonderful sense of colour, fun and creativity. We made our own felt, then bravely had to chop it up into the pattern pieces and make dolls out of it. See : http://www.frostfair.com and http://elizabeth-armstrong.blogspot.com.au/. I love my green Gaia doll!
I then spent 18 months working full-time at Deakin University on computers, creating records for all the university academics research output. While the upshot of this career change meant that I lost my fear of computers and greatly improved my digital skills and my semi-retired husband took over all the shopping, cooking and house cleaning, I missed my free time, my sewing and gardening and even the dreaded cleaning!! I still managed to make these small Easter and Christmas gifts during the weekends though!
And that has been the wonderful thing about our move here to Candelo and our resumption of a time-rich, but dirt-poor existence! I have time and freedom to pursue all my old activities and to specialize in my strongest areas. Having experimented with very many different art forms, mainly in the textile area, I have finally decided that hand embroidery is my thing, with a bit of paper work and photography on the side, as well as cooking, gardening and home making of course!!! And now writing this blog, which has been wonderful!!! I don’t know how I filled all my time before this !!! But I am loving it and my days of full-time work are definitely over!
‘Creativity is intelligence having fun.’ Albert Einstein
‘Creativity is a drug I cannot live without.’ Cecil B. DeMille