Saturday, March 15, 2008

Creativity isn't made of plastic

I made an uncharacteristic visit to a craft store today. Anyone who knows me will tell you I don't shop very much, and I can scarcely remember the last time I went into a craft store.

The place I visited today is a craft store more than it is an art store. While you can find such things as paints and canvases and good drawing pencils in this place, you have to wander past rows upon rows of beads (largely plastic and ugly), rubber stamps, scrapbook supplies, fake flowers, things that aren't craft supplies at all (stuffed bunnies for Easter this month) and a whole host of other things that strike me as exactly the antithesis of creativity. They're mass-produced and combining them in various ways would most likely result in some object I would be even less inclined to use than something somebody didn't pour hours into decorating.

When I'm in a creative mood, shopping isn't what I generally do about it, and especially not there. What I find in stores, mostly, is things that somebody already thought of. A truly creative person can do amazing things with a pencil and a piece of paper, or even just the paper itself. I tend to start with what I already have sitting around. In the mess on my desk currently there is a cookie tin that may someday be redecorated and repurposed into a pencil container or perhaps a cam in a marble machine. There's a roll of excellent string that represents one of the best dimes I ever spent at a garage sale. There are two plastic cups full of colored pencils and one full of writing implements, though I do most of my writing these days online. There's a roll of craft wire that I periodically mutilate and rearrange. I like to start with basic items and sometimes found items and see what they suggest.

Though I've never been trained in art, I've reached the point in my drawing where I think it might be worthwhile to look beyond the printer paper and plain-old #2 pencil I've been using for drawing. I'd like to have a better range and depth of color pencils, someday, too. So I ventured to the back of this store, where the real art supplies (canvases and pencils and things) reside. I hadn't a clue what to get. I found myself faced with a bewildering array of pencils and paper. Asking one of the employees to explain the merits of the various supplies didn't help much. She waved knowingly at various things with large, artistic price tags, and I felt no wiser.

I decided to start with a $3 box of pencils. There are six pencils in the box, each with varying hardnesses. I figure I can try those for a while and see what difference it makes compared to the plainer, older ones I was using. If I like them, I might go looking for a proper sketch pad one of these days. Perhaps I'll look in another store, next time, one more focused on basic art supplies.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't seen anything that I would call groundbreaking or even original in your blog, so why don't you cut the elitist crap about what creativity is and is not? If someone is gratified by finishing a kit project, or by using prefab items to create something else, who are you to criticize? Kits/prefab are often the first steps leading to more original and complex projects (like the first model rockets I built vs. the ones I built later). They're also a way for one to develop that itch that, over time, the kits just won't scratch any more and one starts to find one's own way in the craft.
While the items you describe are a less than purely creative way of practicing a craft, and while I do agree with you that craft stores often do a disservice to "true" creativity (and don't get me started on chains of corporate stores), it's hardly the "antithesis" of creativity.
Get off your high horse and try to look at it like us mere mortals over whom you love to lord so much. We can't all crank out high-school-art-class quality drawings like you can, nor can we all conceive of the novel approach of using a cookie tin as a pencil holder.

22 April, 2008 16:19  

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