Thursday, December 30, 2010

Improvisation and Creativity

some of the yarns for John C. Campbell that I hope to get woven off while there....

The above URL is a link to an article about improvising while playing music. I found the article quite interesting and learned more about some classical composers than I knew before.

But I started thinking that all acts of creation are really human beings improvising. Before we can improvise we must have a foundation of knowledge - we must understand the limits of the materials we are working with, how to use them to their fullest, perhaps even push them beyond what might at first thought may have seemed a limit.

When I was first learning how to weave I was almost paralyzed by the limitless possibilities that were available. So many yarns, so many colours, so many different textiles that could be made! And let's face it, my base of knowledge was pretty limited so there was also the fear of failure - of making a textile that wouldn't perform as it ought to.

Fortunately I don't fear failure all that much, preferring to consider each failure a lesson and another brick in the foundation of my knowledge. Even if the lesson is "Well, I won't do that again!" It was all the other stuff that I found daunting. What weave structure? What density? What colour?

The way forward was through the doubt and the path I used was to set creative limitations. The first limitation was that I had to make a functional textile and make it with as much beauty as my limited knowledge of colour and design would allow. I found that by setting up limitations (four shafts, twill, cotton = household textile) I could, little by little, see the possibilities by taking each step at a time. (four shafts, overshot, cotton = household textile of a different quality)

Each step forward was linked to the step I had just taken. Where I went next was sometimes not known until I actually got there. The goal was always a functional textile.

I've said elsewhere that I consider my 'failures' to be stepping stones. Each step forward has been interesting and not always the destination I thought I was heading towards. At times I had to cut and toss things that were simply not working out.

Sometimes I just experimented to see what the materials could tell me about themselves.

When I look back on my career, I consider that most often any creative leaps were improvisations on where I had been before. But those leaps were always based on my current knowledge, that each element in the new cloth came from somewhere so that I built on what I knew, allowing me to extrapolate where I might - potentially - go next.

The journey continues........

Currently reading Needles and Pearls by Gil McNeil

1 comment:

Dayle Ann Stratton said...

Thanks, Laura. This is exactly the stage I'm at right now. I started with rag rugs just to get a feel (after many decades) of the loom and shuttle, warping, etc. Now I'm making myself nuts trying to choose what to make so I can place an order! I sat myself down, and asked myself what I wanted to DO, and it came out pretty much as you wrote in this post. I needed that validation. I want so much to do a pretty, drapey shawl for my beautiful 94 year old aunt, but I'm not there yet (though maybe I'll order the materials just so I have them for when I am ready).