Thursday, May 01, 2008

Craft and Creativity

From the Telegraph in London:

One could even say that the idea of creativity has become thoroughly debased; very few of us are creators in the pure sense of using our imaginations to make something significantly new, let alone useful. The medievalists were largely right: most of what gets called creative activity is more accurately described as copying or reflecting existing elements.

Meanwhile, as Richard Sennett's recently published book The Craftsman points out, the idea of craft has been subtly demoted to that of a sub-hippie fad or weekend hobby.

"Skill is a capacity that we develop and most people have it in them to become good craftsmen," says Sennett, but somehow this sounds like a drab matter of following inherited conventions and learnt rules - the successful throwing of a pot or the building of a wall doesn't have the glamour that surrounds a "created" novel or painting.

Yet "craft" is more essential to human existence than art: it is craft that keeps you alive on a desert island, it is craft that makes shelter habitable and food edible, it is craft that mends the boiler, car and computer.

Art, almost by definition, doesn't function: it may decorate our lives and enlarge our minds and provide spiritual pleasure and enlightenment, but does it really deserve the sacred status that its association with "creativity" gives it?

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