Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Inspiration and Execution

I spent this past weekend teaching introductory Glass Fusing and Design workshops at Wired Designs Studio. In class students watch me demonstrate techniques by making an example project before they create theirs. During one of these exercises we began discussing inspiration and this theme seemed to carry through the entire weekend. The initial question was if creation is better if it is planned or in the moment? During workshops my small projects are made in the moment. I never really know what materials and colors will be available, so planning is generally not helpful. At first it was kind of difficult to make something knowing I had only a finite amount of time, unknown supplies and ten pairs of eyes staring at me. Over time this challenge has helped me learn to think through design options on the spot. Nothing I make in class is a "master piece" but some things turn our rather lovely. This is not at all the way I work outside of class. I can be slow and linger over projects for long periods of time. I journal ideas, take detailed notes and return to projects over and over to change things. Sometimes I know exactly what I am after (whether I can achieve it or not is another thing). Other times the concept develops one piece at a time, like the piece I did for the SACG Spring Exhibit - A Rough Night on the Morsel. This was more a case study which I hope will lead to other projects. In both cases I'm a thinker, slow and meticulous.

Nina "Sam" Hibler with Dream Fire Glass does a wonderful job of taking her inspiration and translating it directly into her work. I love to watch her work through a concept from beginning to end. It's not uncommon for to see her one day with a book or a swatch of fabric and then over the following weeks working to develop a concept which translates that original inspiration into her work. I watched her do that with the Fiesta necklace and again as she worked on a series of tide pool beads, like the Jelly Fish below. Each sea creature and plant life was researched before hand. This effort shows in the detail, color selection and perceived movement of the currents in each bead. Someday when I grow up I want to be just like Sam, only a fuser.
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Bead and photo by Nina "Sam" Hibler

A fitting closure to this weekend’s theme came Sunday night when I joined a visiting artist, one of the Wire Designs Studio partners and Sam for dinner. During our conversation it was mentioned that if you are spontaneous you shouldn't force yourself to plan it may stifle you and if you are a planner you shouldn't necessarily try to be spontaneous it may come across forced. Do what works for you. Be who you are. I found this thought a very poignant and comforting end to the weekend’s discussions on inspiration and execution.

How do you work? Are you a planner, do you go where the wind takes you, or something entirely different?

2 comments:

rebosse said...

This would actually make for an interesting documentary or article -- how do practitioners of different creative disciplines deal with this questions of Planning versus Spontaneity? Clearly there are certain projects to avoid doing on the fly. And I'm thinking of certain projects where the supplies and resources are too cost-prohibitive to use in such a cavalier manner. I like your distinction between smaller projects and larger, more serious works. I do this with video projects. I enjoy making quick, ephemeral personal films. I don't do this sort of stuff often enough. But I find that I'm much more free in the execution of these little experiments. In fact, I'm more than happy in breaking the traditional rules, because if I screw up, who cares? I mean, I'm not collaborating with others, nor are people expecting to see the final outcome. Usually I'm the only one who knows about the piece. However, if I'm bringing in a crew, and I'm corralling actors, and I'm securing locations, and on and on, I would be very uncomfortable not to show up with a solid plan of action. I would be irresponsible to squander those resources with experimentation. But, when all my film and video work is considered, my favorite scenes and vignettes are from these little on-the-fly pieces. I like to think I use them to learn from; though, the fact is, at this early point in my work in this medium, these two approaches are still on opposites ends of the spectrum. (I hope to eventually introduce them to one another.)

With writing, I'm always approaching the work with a free spontaneity. I've never entered into a short story, novel, or screenplay with anything more than a vague idea. I want to watch the piece unfold. I want to be surprised. The idea that some fiction writers work from outlines just strikes me as wrong. They are missing the best thing about writing. There's a weird alchemy that comes out of creative expression (and I've heard friends who are painters, musicians, dancers, and photographers talk about this). This irrational business where one mysteriously manages to create gold out of a mound of crap happens every so often on a film project, true, but, for me, it happens with a wonderful and addictive frequency when I write ... without a plan, without a net. It's why I keep doing it.

We all create for different reasons (although I'm sure there's an overarching commonality), but, for me, it's that rush of bringing something into the world that is clearly from someone or something more inventive and intelligent than myself. And yet out it came. And I'm the first person to see it.

Nicole V Lozano said...

Interesting you bring up alchemy. That’s the second time this week I have heard someone refer to working on their craft that way. I guess it is a fitting analogy, in the end we are all after a nugget of gold whether that nugget is made of glass, words, graphite, clay or whatever. Hmmm interesting…