"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us."
Since moving house, I've been thinking about the Arts and Crafts movement as our house was built in 1930, although this was definitely the latter end of the movement. I remembered that a while ago we bought a lovely book, International Arts and Crafts, and have been looking through it this morning, initially with the idea of finding some inspiration for producing some new work. However, as I read the introduction, I came across a sentence which epitomised the problem I, and other artists or creators, face when trying to come up with an original project. Speaking of John Ruskin, the introduction states,
"[Richard Redgrave] stopped short of outright condemnation of the use of machines, stating that "the best tastes are to be found in those manufacturers and fabrics where handicraft is entirely or partially the means of producing the ornament." The social reformer John Ruskin, on the other hand, felt that Redgrave ahd not gone far enough. Drawing on some... of A.W.N. Pugin's ideas of design reform, Ruskin proposed a return to handcrafted workmanship as a way of dealing with declining standards, both in design and society as a whole. For Ruskin, the two were inextricably linked, and he abhorred the machine and its resultant division of labour, which he regarded as debasing factors in a sick society."
The reason the above verse from Ecclesiastes came to my mind is that once again, society has found itself in a place where it is questioning how it got to this stage, particularly regarding the complete decline in moral values and the realisation that mankind is destroying the planet God gave him to dwell on (whether or not they believe in God). Clearly this is what happened in the time Ruskin put forth his thoughts on the industrialisation of Britain, and strove to promote handicraft as a way of becoming closer to nature and drawing on its inspiration for art and design, which was one of the key aims of the Arts and Crafts movement. Once again we are in a society where handicraft, or "crafting" is promoted and is overwhelmingly popular, with literally countless websites and blogs dedicated to the work of thousands of people all over the world. Where this makes things difficult for someone trying to produce an original body of work is that they can see so many ideas on the internet, many of which are fantastic and inspiring to look at, and desire to produce something similar to what someone else has produced. It can be hard to get back to the inspiration stage when the finished products of thousands of creators are there for all to see; it is easy to forget that these people also began at a starting point to get to where they are now. I suppose the answer is to turn off the computer and to begin by making a list of what one is interested in, preferred mediums of work, and get out and look for inspiration... before turning back to the internet to see that your idea has already been done. That is a very negative attitute and I do not really uphold it - I suppose with the billions of people in the world, it os not surprising that a few come to the same solution.
For me, there is also the issue of not wasting time and producing something that is actually useful. This is a very subjective question, because I would say an object such as a painting is useful because of the way it can affect the viewer. Our house is full of my paintings and I still love to look at them and love the way friends look at them and wonder what they are thinking and whether they are affected in the same way as I am by my paintings. Something created by one's self will always be different in the way one views it, however, and is perhaps not the best measure of whether or not an product of art or creativity is useful.
I am going to continue to consider these questions, as i would like to produce some work before I begin life as a student and a worker again, as long as I am accepted onto the PGCE course I've applied for.