12 December 2008

The Art of Mistakes

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. " ~ Scott Adams

When you are creating something -- a poem, a painting, a recipe, a necklace -- do you ever make any mistakes?

I have a dear friend whose husband, Charles, is a music professor at our local university. He is a highly sought after composer of orchestral works and has had commissions from all over the world. His pieces range from a wood ensemble to a full orchestra and his finished pieces could be from three minutes or more when played. I asked my friend to explain to me the process that her husband goes through to make these audible works of art come to fruition. And I was amazed.

As a composer, sounds are very important. Humming in the bathroom can make him understandably crazy. He needs complete and utter quiet when composing, which can no doubt be frustrating for my friend and their 9 year old daughter. But Charles is very driven to complete these works, which can often take months for one 3 minute song. I suggested that he needed a treehouse retreat where he could go to escape (or perhaps for them to escape from him!).

Charles writes most things by hand on various pieces of paper, stuffing them into an envelope as he goes. When he is ready to put it all together he places these random notes on piles all around him, discarding what doesn't work. When all the pieces to this musical puzzle are found, Charles then has them transcribed onto a computer. My friend said that once a client asked to see how much was not suitable and subsequently discarded. The sheer volume that didn't make the finished piece was astounding, not only in mounds of paper but in time and even musical phrases.

I wondered if Charles could "save" those riffs for use in another piece some time, sort of like storing treasures that could be unearthed when the time or project was right. But alas, they are destined for the trash, never making it past his highly trained and critical ear, never to be heard by the likes of you or me. I wonder what musical treasures the world might be missing.

I found his process fascinating.

I have my own creative process for designing jewelry. And I almost always have a vision.

I take the time to interview my clients. Not only about specific colors and patterns, I listen for clues as to their interests and lifestyle. I want my works of wearable art to be worn, not placed in a drawer, so I am very attentive to the desires of my clients, whether stated or not.

Next, I gather the materials. I have quite a few bead boards where each project begins and ends. I start pulling from my stock those things that may work -- found objects like keys and subway tokens, pearls and gemstones -- and, like Charles, lay all the pieces out in front of me until the puzzle takes shape. The vision is inspired by the story the person wants to tell, or sometimes the beads and components themselves. And they all get a name because they are one of a kind and have a personality all their own. My works of art rarely take months to make, but there is certainly as much care and thought put into them.

Like all artists, I make mistakes. But I don't view them as mistakes. I believe that they are "happy accidents," and I don't relegate these to the recycling bin. I keep those bits and pieces in a bin as inspiration for another day. And when I run out of new ideas I take solace in that bin...it reminds me that I had hit a wall before, but that I was able to bring the vision to life anyway, and it also could be useful for some other purpose to be reincarnated in another way.

If you make mistakes (and really, who doesn't?), what do you do with them?

Check it Out:: http://www.creativeeveryday.com/
This website is a total inspiration to me! I have it on my mug from PaperSource to remind me to "Do Something Creative Every Day", and this site certainly gives me things to think about!

Enjoy the day!

7 comments:

Scriptor Senex said...

Sadly I nearly always bin my mistakes - I don't think it's because I'm afraid to show them to the world; it's just that they are so bad the world wouldn't want to look!

The Gentle Lemur said...

Funny you should mention mistakes - I was looking for an excuse to blog one of mine!

Leah said...

Yep, mistakes are definitely part of the process! I loved hearing about your composer friend's process. It reminded me of something I read about how J.K. Rowling has a box where she keeps the characters and scraps of stories that just didn't quite make the cut or didn't work for some reason. But she says sometimes she does pull these things out and use them later.

I definitely experience "happy accidents" when creating art. i think it's good to leave some room for the unexpected, it leaves you open to possibilities you might not have considered until you're in the middle of creating and sometimes those "accidents" will lead to something wonderful!

p.s. thanks for mentioning the creative every day blog! :-)

TesoriTrovati said...

Greetings to Scriptor Senex, The Gentle Lemur and Leah...I appreciate your comments in response to my question. I invite you to look at your "happy accidents" in another way and perhaps find a way to recycle them into something new!
Erin

Filigree said...

So great to hear about how your friend composes his masterpieces. I love hearing how others creative process works, it never ceases to amaze me.
Great blog Erin!

Rose

www.vintaj.com/wpblog

linda said...

well, maybe my garbage can can become my inspiration can as I am very quick to give up in frustration and know it but.....

thank you for your inspiring thoughts...found you through leah and will return..

TesoriTrovati said...

Welcome to Filigree and Linda. So glad you've come! Thank you for your kind comments. Do come again!
Erin, TesoriTrovati

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