The Creativity of Living Under a Rock

As passionate as I am about metalsmithing, the processes and techniques I do plus 20 years of experience doing them, leaves much of my brain free to wander as I tap tap tap with my chasing hammer on a piece of repoussé or fuse that 400th link for a long complex chain. Most of my mental meanderings revolve around the creative process and what is entailed in starting it up and keeping it going. Put all that time theorizing and creating with over two decades of helping others to unlock their own creative powers in the realms of visual and performing arts, and I might know a few things.

There is one powerful thing I have learned about my own process, that every time I forget, I have to spend hours or even days recovering from: I should not venture out from under my very selective rock. Now it takes my clueless expression at a reference to a certain news items, celebrity gossip, or the latest stupid trendy chachkha, which Americans are conned into buying before anyone realizes that I'm not merely the gregarious, out there artist happy to share her expertise and opinions with the world. (I'm proud to say all references to American Idol cause me to assume the same polite but bored expression, despite my friend, Beth, coercing me into watching an episode a few weeks ago.)

A manufacturer I was speaking with a while back was aghast that I had no idea what Pandora jewelry was. I almost asked if it was related to the online music website but thought that might make him wonder if I was on medication. Not wishing to be rude, I refrained from asking, "Why would I know what that is?" but really, why would I?!? Like any decent artist I like to think I help set trends not follow them. I don't go for the pre-packaged, don't question it world, and being bombarded with reminders of it doesn't make for good flow states.

I was talking with friends yesterday about how so much of what we take in informs our ideas without our even being aware of it. Our brains are constantly yet unconsciously registering all manner of input from the commanding no nonsense helvetica fonts on street signs to the decadent swirls of the filling on a TV commercial for chocolate candy. As I stare at my monitor the naked branches of the water oak tree in my back yard are visible above it through the window in front of my desk. Though I'm not focusing on the tree, my brain takes in not only the shapes and lines of the branches, but also the gray-blue light of the negative shapes that are formed by them at the same time as the minor keys and blue notes of Jazz 24 stream through my speakers.

How these shapes and sounds will morph and synthisize with all the other semi and unconscious input that I will receive today, or any input from the thousands of days past, is anyone's guess, but they will likely one day inspire and inform concrete objects that have yet to come into being. That I will not be able to contain the overwhelming desire that drives me to release their synthesized form is at the heart of being an artist. The endless process of perfecting the craft of one's choice is merely the vehicle through which such objects are born in an endless recycling of the world which surrounds us.

That lofty statement said, I have found it essential to screen what gets in the same way health nuts don't eat junk food. Now this might sound snobbish, but it's really just discernment for survival. I'm not like most people, who can rent and watch 3 movies in a weekend. I watched Cassablanca last weekend, and I'm still replaying the scenes in my head and processing the absolutely insane attention to detail that director Micahel Curtiz created. I still have all the frequently quoted lines running through my head, which is a hell of a lot of dialog because, like Hamlet, Cassablanca is one oft repeated sound byte after another from "Here's looking at you kid" to "Round up the usual suspects" to "Louis, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship" to "If she can stand it, I can. Play it!"... you get the idea. - One of my favorite bits of trivia is that Rick never actually said, "Play it again, Sam." That was Woody Allen.

It takes days or weeks for me to finish the deep ponderings of books, movies, and certain TV shows. (I finally read Harry Potter 6 & 7 a few weeks ago, and I'm still reeling just a bit.) Watching the news if far more depressing than hearing it from my honey or my friends (who are always happy to tell me whether I want to hear it or not) If I get a song stuck in my head, there's always a bit of lyric that's playing like a looped Freudian slip until I decipher what's really on my mind, so you might imagine that in order to maintain any kind of clarity and productivity (or sanity) I'm rather careful about where I spend my time. It's not so much OCD as it is a desperate need to solve things. My left brain will hack away at a piece of information or a problem with the same tenacity and determination that drives a border collie to catch a frisbee.

Less atuned people might dub me "too sensitive," but I've spent decades expanding my capacity for taking more in because doing so allows me to delve deeper into design and composition to create the unexpected and the innovative. Art is a congommeration of details all in service of the larger picture (pun intneded). If I can't be aware of all those nuances, including the balls in the air, house of cards processes of hammers, punches, tiny wires, and fire, then I'd probably make a lot of unexciting half melted pieces.

For each of us, the limit of what we'd really like to let in is probably far less than the amount of stimulus we Westerners receive and are expected to engage in and return. I'll happily champion anyone's right to be part ostrcih with his/her head in the sand just enough to survive. (How else could I have successfully made beautiful things or raised a happy child in the George W. Bush years?) If we are what we eat, then I believe our creations are the bodies of our synthesized soul foods, perceptions, feelings, and ideas. Be selective. Be reflective. Be creative.

No comments: