Thursday, October 20, 2011


Attempting to define creativity is like trying to eloquently and concisely express a conflicting emotion. Frustrating, on the top of your tongue... fraught with the imprecision of language itself, and most of all, perhaps a little futile?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Language (of the artist, creator, designer, human...)

I've come to realise that trying to say what creativity 'is' might be quite a futile goal in itself. There are just so many different ways of understanding what it might be, and a whole list of frameworks from which it may be defined.

It is much like language in this regard - meanings shift and change. More than that, however, it is a concept which breaks out from the words which attempt to define it. Everyone has a sense of what creativity is, even if they cannot put it into precise words. It is evocative and emotional, in the same way that a particular word might have a sense of power behind it.

I know that mayn't make much sense. I might revisit this later and try and express this ill-defined thought a little better!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


When is a work finished? Can it ever be finished? (what is a work?)

Or is the initial inspiration for its creation simply exhausted?

Is the first design generated and made for a collection something of a template, from which
branching ideas are then expressed as the remainder of the collection?

(did that make sense?)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

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Sometimes I wonder if the creative process (particularly relating to the design process) is anything like one of the basic tenets of quantum theory: the idea that observation alters the outcome.

That is... well, I often feel as though there is a weight of expectation placed upon me as designer - that there are certain motions I am expected to go though (inspiration, generation of ideas, initial sketches, toiling and prototyping, resolved idea...) when developing something new.

Of course, these 'motions' are nothing but labels that have been identified and quantified from what is generally a very fluid, flexible process. Thankfully this has always been taught as such during my study at RMIT - though it was initially hard to break away from following these processes in a linear fashion as they were taught to me during high school.

Despite knowing all this stuff intellectually, it can be difficult to break away from the idea of what I 'should' be doing, or to stop thinking about what I am doing in terms of these processes. I know that if I were creating anything outside of a university environment that I would go through the same motions (pretty much), but perhaps with a little less self consciousness and (a lot) less angst.

The fact that I know my work and processes will be assessed leads me to approach my work differently, though I can't really tell you exactly how because I'm not to clear on that point myself. Am sure, however, that we all as students make the effort to make certain processes clearer, and pivotal decisions more obvious so that all our 'angsting' does not go unacknowledged.

So... to come back to my original point. The fact that work is being observed by assessors impacts the final outcome to some degree. I wonder if the same holds true for creativity itself. If all the processes comprising creative thought were recognised and labelled, would knowledge of them impact upon creative thinking? Would understanding these mechanisms in a more precise way make them more... well, mechanical?

Monday, September 26, 2011


All of this might just do my head in. Have just been reading about 'what is a "work"?', "work" being a term I have freely been using thought my research as to refer to something that has been made, as an expression of creative thought or processes.

Of course, nothing is ever that simple! After all, as this reading has pointed out to me, when does a 'work' become a 'work', and when is one ever completed? As I said in the title of this post: "ughhhhh".

Naturally, I don't have to talk about this in depth in my thesis, but I feel as though I should acknowledge it somehow. For now, I shall just add it to the ever increasing list of terms I need to define...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Creativity and Skill

Really interesting essay on the link between creativity and skill by Berys Gaut - essentially an argument that the two are intrinsically linked. Possibly I thinking it's so fascinating because I agree with this premise wholeheartedly.

After four years of undertaking a design degree, and spending a good deal of my life making things, I personally would deem my most creative works as those stemming from an understanding of the techniques I was using at the time, and perhaps outcomes utilising a technique in an unexpected way. This has evolved over time, however... when learning a technique, such as beading or embroidery, I wasn't doing anything but following a pattern or instructions from a book - I might have been creating something, but the act of simply producing something was not 'creative'.

The argument that "the core capacity involved in creativity is skill", writes Gaut, is a "long philosophical tradition, stretching from Plato to recent times." From Plato's Phaedrus:

'if any man come to the gates of poetry with out the madness of the Muses, persuaded that skill alone will make him a good poet, the shall he and his works of sanity with him be brought to nought by the poetry of madness, and behold, their place is nowhere to be found.'

...Or if you prefer, works that are deemed creative by their very nature (such as poetry) are not able to be generated using a formulaic approach and have any value as a highly creative work. There was (is?) a belief that creativity is something requiring a spark of inspiration, perhaps a touch of madness. But is this perhaps the distinction between skill and genius, 'genius' somehow encompassing the ability to generate something original, inspiring, and able to stand the test of time.

I've yet to re-read the essay, so there's a lot of thinking, understanding and interpreting to still do. But the concept and opening quote really grabbed me, and I think a study of the interplay between creativity and skill is extremely relevant to looking at creativity in fashion design. It is an industry which relies heavily on skills, such as pattern drafting, draping, sewing, etc... At one extreme, there is no creative thought associated with the skill of being able to copy a design and produce a pattern from it. But at the other end of this spectrum, a deep understanding of a skill (eg. embroidery) might allow it to be utilised creatively, in a way that has not been done before.

More on this later (much more, probably)...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Benefits to understanding creativity?

"Some people appear to be offended by questions about how creativity works, believing that it is not possible for us to understand this... Creativity does not work by magic or by divine inspiration. We cannot explain it in terms of intuition. It is true, to be sure, that creativity involves intuition, but to say that does not tell is much, since the word 'intuition' is just a placeholder for some unknown psychological process, invisible even to creative persons. If we want to understand how creativity is possible... we cannot rely on appeals to intuition... In other words, we have to understand how intuition works."
From 'Creativity: How Does It Work?' (Margaret Boden)

I like the idea that we cannot perhaps truly understand creativity as a phenomenon, short of perhaps completely understanding what consciousness is (and that's a whole other conundrum!). We can, however, study the processes of creativity; perhaps separate the generation of a work or idea into stages. Even if it is only these 'stages' that are distilled, this information can still be used by an individual to better understand their own creative process, with the possible outcome being more productive generation of ideas (critical to the fashion industry, which typically thrives on fast turn overs).