Monday, 4 April 2011

on creative process

screen prints drying
silk screen prints, Kylie Budge

While sitting in my doctor's waiting room recently I was flicking through a 1996 edition of World Interiors and came across an article about the English modernist potter Edmund de Waal. His work is deeply beautiful, simple and clean, and very influenced by Asian aesthetics. A simple sentence from the article struck me as being quite significant. To paraphrase (no, though tempted, I didn't take the mag home with me) de Waal is known for rigorous critiques of his work, which means that he destroys about half of what he makes after it is fired.

I find this fact about his process very interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, at the time of the article de Waal was working with an expensive kind of porcelain but nevertheless he wasn't afraid to destroy something he created. Perhaps he could afford to be this ruthless, perhaps not. Secondly, he focuses on releasing the best of what he can make (or what he considers to be the best), and nothing less. So quality is clearly important to him. And third, there is something deeply thrilling to me about the idea of letting go of the 'lesser pieces', the work that hasn't quite resolved itself (to use an art-y term), and being ok about that. Not tearing yourself up about it but just letting it go and accepting that it is part of the process of developing and creating.

Does anything from this ring a bell for you in terms of your process?


  1. Oh wow. That is serious commitment to perfection.

    I am not so great at letting go, but I am learning to. It is hard to let go of something that you have put your heart and soul into.

    The other thing is, what makes something better or worse? I guess it is how you perceive it. But what if someone else perceives something that you think is less than perfect as being the closest thing to perfection that they have ever seen?

    I am such a perfectionist that I NEVER feel like anything I do is complete or as good as it can be. Eventually I just have to let it go, but I still feel unsettled about it.

    If I had loved that article I think I might have taken the magazine home with me. I mean, come on, it's 1996 and it's in a doctors waiting room - it's unloved. You deserve it. ;)

  2. I'm a bit of a keeper too ST! Need to let go of more though I think.
    On the mag - I was very tempted!!!

  3. This is something to aspire to. I simply never manage to make enough work to be able to discard anything, always squeaking in under the deadline. But it's a really good argument for making work even when there is no deadline!

  4. interesting + so ideal!
    i go back and forth lots of times between hoarding things i half like and letting go. the in between phase can go on for a while too . .
    your prints are beautiful :)

  5. Belinda - thank you! I also go back and forth a bit before making the final cull. It's hard sometimes!

  6. Have you read his Hare with the Amber eyes? - you would love it.


  7. Lisa - thanks for letting me know of de Waal's book. Looks wonderful! Will put it on my list.