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).

Saturday, September 17, 2011


... honing in on the field of fashion design is probably the way to go - the more specific, the better. That's not to say that there is no merit in looking at approaches to being creative that are not fashion related, but being too broad will probably do my head in.

Common to just about every definition of creativity is that the work produced is valuable, that an idea has been generated that no-one else has ever had before.

As Margaret Boden writes in Creativity: How does it work?:

"What different people regard as interesting varies, so new ideas can be valuable in many different ways. Encyclopedia writers, gallery curators, chemists, sculptors, property developers, entrepreneurs, and advertising executives focus on different sorts of creative idea, different sorts of value."

Essentially, depending on which field a work is being evaluated for creative merit, different aspects will be seen as having value. If I'm to focus on the fashion industry specifically, I need to evaluate what is of value in terms of creativity within this field as a means of contextualising my findings. My predominant interest, however, is in identifying methods by which a fashion designer may be able to generate ideas with greater ease - to take apart the creative process so that it might be better understood.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Am still trying to decide if I will refer all my findings re: creativity back to the area of fashion design. Does it need to be contextualised that way? Or should I just use a variety of examples from different design (or 'creative' fields)?

Obviously I need to have a specific focus, and part of me wants to write about creativity in fashion design simply because there is hardly anything written about it at all. Of any study focusing on creativity, fashion design and the processes employed are never mentioned as a way of illustrating the different approaches to being creative.

However, I don't know if trying to limit everything to fashion will make my research... well, limited.

I guess I'll just have to see what I come across; see what develops. One solution might be to take my findings about approaches to creativity to fashion designers/design students relate to them...