Christina Hesford: Do we all have creative bones?
Hand weaver Christina Hesford creates beautiful woven artwork and has a particular interest in the traces of humanity’s passage on earth.
Christina was born in Indonesia and lived in Brazil, before moving to England. She received her Foundation degree from Cleveland College of Art & Design, before gaining her BA (Hons) in Textiles in Practice from Manchester School of Art.
In this article, which is part of our new Creative Development series, Christina Hesford shares with us her thoughts on creativity, what it means to be creative and how she responds to and develops her breathtaking art.
Is everyone creative?
Art is a subject with an air of mystery. There seems to be a myth that works of art magically appear in the night, seemingly by the aid of elves, with fully formed concepts implanted in the artist’s mind for them to regurgitate at the next opportunity. The hard work, the skill behind the finished piece, is often forgotten about, perhaps providing the basis for the idea that some people are creative and some people are not.
I have lost count of the number of people who have responded to my profession with, ‘I don’t have a creative bone in my body!’ Or perhaps, ‘I could never come up with an idea like that.’ Surprisingly, these people are often scientists or mathematicians, flower arrangers or joiners; jobs that, I have often assumed, must require problem-solving abilities, and therefore the capacity to think creatively.
I believe that everyone has the capacity to think creatively, and to apply it to whichever field they are involved in.
Based on my own creative process, this article is a brief guide to using not only textile art, but any art or craft, to develop creative-thinking skills which, once learnt, can be applied to any other field! Everyone can think creatively!
My creative process
For me, creativity has a cyclical process. My own working process begins with an initial stimulus. I research this idea and gather information. Next, I begin to respond. If I am stuck, I have a list of activities that help me to get going. Lastly, I reflect on the responses I have made. I can keep going with responding and reflecting until a new stimulus or direction emerges, and the cycle starts again.
An initial stimulus is simply a starting point. This might be an event in your life, an article in a newspaper, a word from a dictionary, an image, a new colour or material which you’ve never used before, or a brand new process you’ve just discovered or invented! It should be something that excites you, interests you, or challenges you.
I know another textile artist who used the cockroach infestation in her student housing as the stimulus for her next project!
Research (Feeding time)
Ideas don’t come from nowhere. It may sound like a science project, but research is hugely important in thinking creatively. You have to feed your brain in order for it to have something to create an idea from. It also sounds hugely boring, which is why I like to think of it as gathering! Read articles, watch films, read stories, listen to radio shows related to and unrelated to your subject.
It can also help to think of this as observation: an active form of looking at or experiencing your interest.
For example, time is a concept that I have come back to a lot. One day, I visited the beach. It could have been a normal wander along the sand, but I was thinking about time, and noticed the strata in the cliffs along the beach. I realised that the layers in the rock were a way of physically representing time. I took photographs to document this research.
The research photography of strata led to woven samples that utilised similar lines of colour.
Lastly, make yourself aware of other artworks or artists who may have a similar theme, or material use as you do; this may not directly feed your ideas, but it will challenge how you think about what you are doing.
The ability to think laterally is one of the crucial points of creative thinking.
Again, whilst researching, you should look at things both related to, and unrelated to your subject.
This is because creating a tangent between two different ideas often provides the spark for a truly exciting direction that is full of potential.
You can practice lateral thinking by choosing any old word – put down any connection that comes to mind (however bizarre), then make more connections with those. You can also practice this by playing word association with another person and seeing where you end up! It will help to take your work in new directions and prevent it from becoming stale and uninteresting.
Responding and reflecting
Once you have collected and immersed your brain in all of your gatherings, it is time to start responding. This might be through drawing (still-life, observational, or imagined), it might be by constructing objects related to your concept, or an activity which helps you to develop what you are doing, and move on from your stimulus. Your outcomes might not be amazing, and probably won’t be final pieces!
At this point, it is important to reflect on your responses. They should help you to move on and feed further ideas, and further responses.
Ask yourself questions like: How did I do this? Can I change my process? Are there parts I like or don’t like? Does this look similar to anything else I have done or seen? How would someone else perceive this? Is my concept coming through or not, and does this matter? Can I produce variations of this?
A list of activities
Sometimes, I know that I need to respond, but I’m not quite sure how. My ‘First Aid Kit’ for this situation is a list of activities that, over time, I have developed to suit me. These include words or actions like: construct, de-construct, enlarge, make a new tool, take it somewhere else, show it to someone who hasn’t seen it before, read a book, repair, paint, saturate, embroider, burn, conceal, reveal, change your perspective.
Some artists also use chance as a part of their process, perhaps assigning an action to each card in a deck, or each side of a dice. When a card is selected, the action must be performed upon the work in progress.
These words help me as a textile artist, but might also help a painter, whereas a mathematician might have a buzz list of: multiply, subtract, divide by two, find the square root of, hold a discussion. For a knitter: change yarn colour, change yarn type, change needle size, drop a stitch every row, add a stitch every third, purl when you remember something, use an unorthodox material, unravel.
When we practice an art, whether that is knitting, dancing, painting, or music-making, we learn the cyclical process that develops idea-generating and lateral-thinking skills.
I hope that as you have read this article, you have realised the universal applicability of this process to any situation. Whether you’re a carpet-layer, a fruit-vendor, or a physicist at CERN, you can be creative in the choices that you make and hopefully this guide will be as useful for you in your own field, as it is for me as textile artist.
By realising the potential for creativity in every field, we can improve how we develop new solutions, solve problems, and indicate new directions. Everyone definitely has creative bones.
For more information visit: www.christinahesford.com
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