Thursday, January 7, 2010

365 Creative Challenge

I subscribe to quite a few jewelry and craft arts blogs (note to self - update the blog roll to the left), and a few have written about a recent challenge - to complete a piece a day for the entire year. This is a bit of a head-scratcher for me, looking at it from a jewelry arts perspective.

If I was a professional jeweler/artisan - then completing 365 items/one per day for a year may make some sense, but as a hobbyist? Is the point of a hobby to create as much as possible in the shortest amount of time reasonable, and is the jewelry actually being completed worthwhile and something to be proud of?

Some of the challenge participants are lampwork artists who are using their own glass beads as the principle elements of a work, others are making very simple earrings with premade earwires and single crystal beads. To me, this latter group is cheating - big time. While simple works such as these have their place (usually the $2.00 basket at a local crafts fair), how is this being creative? It seems to me that such "efforts" are done for the sake of achieving the challenge, not for advancing one's skills (unless closing a headpin is a skill that needs improving) or creating something to be proud of.

Okay - I may be making a huge pile of assumptions here - but looking at the works of some of the participants (the earring-makers) - these artisans are capable of so much better that bead on a wire dreck.

Perhaps my issue is not with "cheating" the challenge - i.e., creating something simple and mindless just for the sake of achieving the goal of one piece per day, but with the challenge itself. Artists and artisans, just like writers, go through both periods of great creativity and periods where nothing seems to go right, when works in progress just pile up, or pieces started and ripped apart. This is, to me at least, a part of the creative process, and it makes us better - whether in a spiritual sense (suffering improves the soul), or in a technical sense (working on the process hones your skills). A challenge that is essentially makes the challenge participant a factory production line is pointless.

Would not a better challenge for an artist or artisan be to learn a new skill a week for a whole year? A skill could be anything that improves your workflow, reduces your costs, or betters the completed product. For example, learning how to use flush cutters to create two flush ends on a jump ring - this may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but it's a skill that means you don't have to purchase pre-made jump rings.

I need to think about this some more...


Magdalen Islands said...

You are right! I haven't heard of the 365 challenge but I am capable of making 365 items per year easily. They may all be the same thing but they are items. Artistically speaking, there is a lot of trial and error in creating a new piece of work and therefore a lot of time.
On the other hand, I would certainly enjoy learning something new each and every week.

Sunflower Studios Jewelry said...

Your skills idea is so much better! Like many designers, I could easily make an item a day, especially if it's a copy of something I've already done, whereas designing something original takes longer.

I may just take up this 52 skills challenge... [in a few years, lol]

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