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Winter reflections on Art & creativity

Winter is upon us, and with icy wind and snow falling up in the high country, it’s time to withdraw to the warmth and get busy making. This blog is a good place to share studio news and my musings on Art and life. There are a few people attending my jewellery workshops now, but I am still teaching Visual Arts for the International Baccalaureate Diploma. As I transition to full time studio, there will be more time for my own practice and more for jewellery students. The experience of teaching anything gives you an insight into the challenges a learner faces, but acutely so when it is something as personal as ‘art’. In self-expression we encounter our vulnerability.

Creativity is risky business, there is no right or wrong, we must find our own right and wrong. Working in such an intuitive realm is not how most adults spend their day. Many people, myself included, can be intimidated by that degree of uncertainty. If we like to make things, as I certainly do, and you too, we must ultimately take a leap of faith. The creative process typically begins with an idea, and we are full of hope, then as we progress and face the inevitable obstacles, doubts arise. We begin to question if our idea is as good as we first thought. We worry that we are not skilful enough to manifest our vision. Sadly, this is the point at which people can give up, abandoning the project and the dream. In his book, “Steal like an Artist”, Austin Kleon captured this succinctly in his illustration, ‘Life of a project’. On my studio pin board I have this quote by famous art critic Robert Hughes.

"The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."

There is a common assumption that ‘artists’ are different somehow. To escape from our discomfort, we rationalise that WE are not artists, we are ’just’ crafty people, as if this was a lesser thing. Historically, the division between Art and Craft is a relatively recent ‘western’ one. If we look back in history or to other cultures, there is no distinction between the artist and the artisan, they are one. In many cultures the making of art is considered a spiritual activity.* Why is all this important? I believe that if you like making things, if working with your hands to create something brings you joy, you should go ahead and make things. The need to express ourselves is fundamental to our wellbeing and there are many ways in which we can do this. For some it is words, others music or dance or food. The visual artist has so many choices and years ago, when I was in Art College in England, I was fortunate to try many of them. I liked them all, but when we did a one-week jewellery workshop, I was hooked. Although I have spent much of my working life teaching Art and Design across many media, it remains my favourite.

Everyone has the right to express themselves creatively and furthermore, must allow themselves the opportunity to do this in ways that are meaningful to them. Ideally you will want to share the experience and the outcomes with others. We all need encouragement, and reassurance; to know that deep down we all feel much the same.

*In the Bhutan culture, the art of weaving is strongly associated with religion, therefore, master weavers are highly respected by people.

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