Monday, May 25, 2009

Creativity & Collaboration

In the post Why Designs For Good I discussed some motivational factors for giving my work or the proceeds from sales to nonprofit organizations. I stated that this act of giving is in no way selfless or some sort of bleeding heart liberal indulgence. Today's post is an example of receiving far more in return through the act of giving, and being open to 'outside' influences in your creative life.

Just the opposite of that openness is my Circular Obsessions series was a truly obsessively driven singular pursuit of realizing an inner vision by minimizing outside influences. This inner vision came with a set of very restricting standards the sum of which is hard to explain, but I'll list a few for discussion sake.
  • Color was fairly restricted
  • Almost all surfaces had to have unique texturing
  • The disparate media types had to have a seamless integrated look
  • Each piece in the series had to have at least two glass styles: cast glass, kilnworked glass or torchworked
There were many other criteria which I had little control over. Things just either looked and felt right or they didn't. The object 'resonated' or it didn't. When working with/through this inner vision thing you can't talk yourself into a compromise. If it isn't right it just isn't right, and no amount of rationalization will work to change that.

And what I mean by criteria which I had little control over will need to be a subject of another post. For now, just ask yourself.. what is my favorite color, and do you know why? Or why do some people like abstracts and others do not? Suffice it to say that on some very fundamental level we do not control our preferences for certain types of sensation, and my posit - as it pertains to my inner vision thingee - is that it was more in control of me than I in control of its driving aesthetic preferences.

At times I would obsess for a month over how to best hide a seam between two components. In extreme cases it may take over six months to get a glass component both structurally sound and aesthetically 'correct', with many failures along the way.

Working under these conditions is a sort of aesthetic tyranny, which you accept as the process of creation, but it can become oppressive as it seeks an end result which seems continually out of reach.

Needless to say, in this mindset outside influences such as: will it sell; what gallery will show it; or even the basic financial concern of the cost of production versus potential of return are not in consideration. All of which serves to illustrate the somewhat irrational aspects of the inner vision thing.

After completing the Circular Obsessions odyssey I turned my sculpture studio into a photography studio and really didn't have a plan for glass into the future, until I was invited to teach kilnformed glass at Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center (CAFAC), and then some odd things started to happen.

This inner vision thing relentlessly pursued its end and thereby eliminated whole sets of creative potential. Even within the glass area I was restricted to a certain look which eliminated almost everything else in glass except 'the look'.

When I opened myself to 'give' my time to CAFAC the whole world of glass opened back up to me. In short order I found Powder Painting, created an extensive array of art glass tiles which I will be marketing, and most recently have begun experiments in enameling.

This is a copper foil lotus flower I recently prototyped as a small part of a collaborative sculpture which will help illustrate CAFAC's multi media emphasis. It is an example of how glass and metal can be integrated into a single work of art, and what students can learn at the Fire Arts Center.

Being primarily a glass artist I struggled for many weeks trying to make glass flowers, and they always looked.... well like glass flowers. They didn't fit the overall feel of the sculpture which is a collection of found objects mostly of metal.

The final lotus flowers could have multiple layers of petals where the lower layers of petals are only slightly enameled showing mostly copper, and thereby integrating into the largely metal sculpture.

OK, maybe I was just ripe for doing new things after completing Circular Obsessions, and maybe I just needed to get out more instead of being all wrapped up in the inner vision thingee.

That's true, but it was the opening up and the giving away in powerful combination which has totally changed how I now approach my work, and who I am as a creative person. I can see now that collaboration will be a key factor in setting directions, and collaboration will provide a rich open field of creative adventures which will far outstripped what I could have imagined before.

Giving my work away will open doors and provide advantages not available to the lone wolf artist I was. And again, nothing is really being given away. Materials must be paid for from the proceeds, and there are obviuos returns in the form of marketing and publicity.

My goal is to maximize the proceeds so that significant funds are generated for a nonprofit, and as discussed in other posts, that is not a simple process. To that end I will be contacting organizations like the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) for their assistance and advice, and potentially to organize an event for the sale of Circular Obsessions to benefit CERF.

One last note... Enameling is very expensive, especially on a large scale. A large panel of 30x40 inches may take several hundred dollars of enamel powder. So, being a glass artist and having just discovered Powder Painting for myself.... hmmm, can I enamel with my glass powders which are far cheaper than those wee little jars of enamels? Can I make 30x40 enamel panels with Bullseye glass?

Sure.. why not... stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. the lotus is gorgeous, Jim! I get so thrilled about what we'll be able to offer at CAFAC when I see what you're coming up with. And we are on our way - look for a blog post from us soon about a major step forward we took this week!