Thursday, 28 February 2013

On creativity

There's a Tom Jones song in which he sings :

I was born like this,
I had no choice,
I was born with the gift of a golden voice
And twenty seven angels from the great beyond,
They tied me to the stage right here in the Tower of Song.

When I hear it I get struck by how lucky I am to be able to live by the gifts I was granted. Whether by genetics or a gift of the gods, the day I decided to live true to myself was profound. I have often felt that creativity is seen by many as a luxury, an indulgence, something to be sidelined and controlled.  It is seen as a precarious career choice and not economically viable. Yet, despite all that advice it is in me to create and I do not feel alive unless I am creating. After having my boys, I thought it would be best to shelve my creativity, to try and find direction that would provide securely for them, and to subvert my creativity to tend to their needs. In some ways I had to, there wasn't enough time or energy for both. Then I became disengaged from myself, and broken. It was then, in a moment of clarity that I accepted myself for who I am, who I want to be, and who I want my children to see me as.  It took me a long time to reach this level of acceptance. What I want to give my children is an understanding of their gifts and the strength to shine. There is a wonderful TED talk by Ken Robinson that I re-watch regularly. In it, Ken Robinson questions  how we educate our children by squashing their creative souls, and with that their ability to think independently, and to create solutions.

I read that if the same money that has been given to the banks to carry us through the banking crisis had been invested in the Creative Industries, we would have a new (creative) industrial base to move our economy forwards. Through social networks, I work alongside some amazing designers, makers and thinkers, all pieces of the jigsaw of our creative industries. Most of us work freelance and make a modest income. There is a huge amount of good will and hard work with small economic rewards.  What if there were social investment in art centres and studios, bursaries for studio spaces and tax breaks for new creative businesses? What if small start up funds from venture capitalists were available to help small creative businesses expand? What if we were told the story of how our Computer Gaming industry sells ideas to the world or our freelancers provide designs for the world to manufacture?

I think it comes down to undervaluing creativity at school. If you do art it's because you flunked your academic subjects, it's because you can't rather than because you can (both statements untrue).  Education needs to embrace the thinkers, dreamers and creators so we can move towards valuing our national creativity. I went in to the Reception class at my son's school where learning is three dimensional and play based. It would be great if it remained that way and the onus was on teaching our children to think independently and creatively. Instead I feel we are educating them to be cogs in a wheel that no longer functions. I am going to start to ask my children 'What do you think?'.  The children at my Valentine workshop were full of their own ideas.  I was told that a heart wasn't really this shape and each child placed the wing differently on each bird, some happy with one, most needing to stick down two.  It was fascinating to see the world through their eyes.

Valentine heart workshop

Well, I didn't start this blog post expecting to come up with a manifesto for the future of the nation (!), more that I wanted to celebrate the wonder of being creative and the joy of living a daily creative life.  I went to York at the weekend with two friends from my London days.  I have come back full of new projects and ideas.  I loved the pleasures of sharing food with good friends, travelling by train across Yorkshire, losing myself in a good book whilst travelling, day dreaming, embracing the unexpected.  Again, it is the time out, the spaces between work that are the fuel for my creative life.  I forget that so easily!  It is by going away that I come back and see things afresh.  It is by being true to myself that I feel fulfilled.


Chloe said...

Fabulous post :) I remember when I was out of normal lessons for my mock GSCE art exam many of the other teachers got rather stroppy about it as they believed their subjects, maths etc, to be more important. I think that art and other creativity related subjects are as important and that by bringing more creativity into other lessons, learning could be improved. I'm not sure I've gotten that across very well but you know what I mean I'm sure!

Helen Hallows said...

Yes Chloe...I do know what you mean. Creativity isn't just about making pretty pictures it's a way of thinking and about nurturing thought, and building brains that are capable of problem solving. I don't think I would ever have passed my A level Maths or Physics without the creative support of my Step-Dad who created visual ways of thinking about technical problems. We all need creativity or it's a very dull world.

Itch Gallery said...

Running the gallery, I can really relate to what you say about creativity being thought of as a luxury. A lot of my customers comment that it would be nice to have the time to be creative, the difference is that my artists MAKE the time, because they know how important it is and that their creativity defines and shapes them in many ways. After reading this post I absolutely cannot wait for your workshop and a chance to stretch myself creatively. Thanks Helen!

Helen Hallows said...

Thanks Jenny. I am looking forward to having you at the workshop. It's always a pleasure to enable people's creativity.

Shane Latham said...

Your site has been extremely informative and its featured content helps in the process of what is being created on the web. Keep it up.
Shane Latham

sally hollingworth said...

I absolutely agree with you Helen, what an inspirational post and one that resonates with me. I have two small boys myself and although I am now a full-time mum (used to be an art teacher) I am making work and realise I really have to as it is a part of who I am. I also agree with your comments on funding for the arts and small creative business'- so valuable and yet so undervalued. Thankyou!

Tracey Lamb said...

You are right Helen. When I was at school, many moons ago, art was definitely not seen as a viable career option. And even today, I think it's seen as something of a luxury - an indulgence while you decide on a 'proper job.'

Unfortunately life does gets in the way and unless you have a strong sense of direction and lots of support, your creativity can easily get lost along the way. But you are so generous in sharing so much of yourself and your work, you are an inspiration to those of us who are struggling.

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