Hello! Welcome to week 3 of the #sparksummerschool. This week we are going to be spending time Looking Outside.
Last week’s focus was on Looking Inside as a way to re-consider what it is that drives our own creativity. We spent some time thinking about the nature of creativity itself, how it manifests in so many ways and areas of life. The resources I shared hopefully led you to contemplate how your own creativity came to light, and how it likes to be nurtured. The activity – of paying attention to what you pay attention to – should have given you the chance to notice any patterns or themes which your creativity loves to explore. It was all about understanding whatever is already inside you.
This week we’ll turn our attention outwards – finding sources of wonder in our surroundings, paying attention to the ordinary and extraordinary in our urban or rural everyday lives.
Something you might have noticed, as I did, when I spent time interrogating my creativity, was just how much external things inspire it. In fact, I think that for me, there are very few internal prompts or sources of inspiration for my creativity. I’m not motivated by things that originate within me, or that are directly about me – even though I know a lot of creative people who take these things as their starting point. No, for me, my greatest source of inspiration is the world outside myself, and how I relate to it.
As I learnt through questioning myself, not all external sources of inspiration do it for me. Although I love to be in nature and find it incredibly calming, I don’t feel inspired to create because of it. For some reason (perhaps because I grew up in the countryside) I am drawn to urban spaces and the amazing things they offer someone who likes to be nosey and to investigate stuff.
This week is all about noticing what is already around you – the places you visit often – as well as considering the places you do not know, the places you dream of visiting. It’s going to be an opportunity to look at things with fresh eyes as well as being open to the wonder of the ordinary. Sometimes, when our creativity is feeling a bit fragile or is in need of some attention, the easiest way to spark something is to get out of ourselves, to go for a walk, to take a short trip, to change the scenery. But, it doesn’t need to be somewhere inherently exciting or different. As one of my favourite quote by Proust reminds us:
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
So, let’s start considering what lies out there, what we are most excited by, and going on a creative adventure in our everyday worlds.
Start by asking yourself:
• What places or environments excite my creativity most?
• Am I drawn to outdoor places or indoor spaces?
• Am I drawn to nature, to rural settings?
• Or am I drawn to the man-made, to towns and cities?
• What is it about these places that I enjoy? What elements of them? What feelings that they produce in me?
• Is there a deeper connection, part of your own story, that explains your attraction to these places?
Next, I’d like you to consider your ‘dream’ location:
• If money, time, family commitments etc were no issue, where would you most like to go to be inspired, creatively?
• What is it about that place that you long to experience?
• How do you think it would affect your creativity? What would it offer you?
And then, locations closer to home:
• Is there anywhere else that has given you a similar feeling or you think might give you a similar feeling?
• Do you have a place within walking distance or a short journey away that you go to when you want to be inspired creatively?
• If you do – when was the last time you went there?
• If you don’t – can you think of somewhere that feels like it might be an inspiring place to visit?
We don’t always have the ability to do or go to the places we hope will fire us up with creative energy. Most of the time we operate in a fairly small geographic area, going about our daily routines. It can be tempting to think ‘when I get time to do such and such…’ or ‘when I can go to that place…’ that is when the ideas will flow. But, really, you have the conditions around you, all the time, to get access to your best ideas. Your creativity just needs to be directed and its interest piqued. It is the ordinary, not the extraordinary, that provides the biggest source of inspiration, available to everyone all the time. This week’s resources and activity are all aimed at opening up to that source of wonder.
Don’t forget to check in on Wednesday on Instagram for our practical activity.
This week we’re joined by fine art photographer and landscape architect Nadine Haigh, who uses her creative practice to develop an intuitive and contextual understanding of nature and landscape. She is particularly interested in the concept of ‘Biophillia’, tapping into the restorative and therapeutic qualities of nature, and the value of our familiar everyday places.
She’s going to be leading us on a meditative-based activity in spaces familiar to us, so don’t miss it!
RESOURCES FOR THE WEEK
The resources I’ve selected for you to read, watch, listen to aren’t a definitive list. There’s lots out there on connecting with your environment and being in different kinds of spaces (nature, urban etc).
I’m not expecting anyone to go out and get all the books or to listen to every episode of these podcasts. They’re just some places I found interesting ideas or that sparked some thinking for me
Later on in the week I’ll be asking you for your list of resources to do with Looking Outside – I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Good luck exploring this week!
“You do not have to be good” by Austin Kleon (written in response to the death of poet Mary Oliver) austinkleon.com
Eerie photos of manmade landscapes by Edward Burtynsky ideas.ted.com
Any collection of poetry by Mary Oliver
If you haven’t read any of her words I urge you to do so immediately! Even if you think poetry about nature may not be your thing, I assure you, it’s not really about that – it’s about how to live.
On Looking by Alexandra Howrowitz
A wonderful book about how it’s possible to see our everyday environments through new eyes, with a little help. A great one for urban explorers. Read my review here
The Sense of Wonder, A celebration of Nature for parents and children by Rachel Carson
This small but beautiful book encourages us to foster the sensory and emotional connection to nature in children, but reminds us how vital it is not to lose it as we grow. A great one for nature lovers.
The Beauty of Everyday Things by Soetsu Yanagi
It may have been written in 1930s/40s but this beautiful meditation on the meaning of ordinary objects has such relevance for today and issues facing contemporary craft. A great one for object lovers and creators.
The Poetics of Space
A treasure trove of ideas on the experience of intimate and domestic spaces. Words that elevate the ordinary and remind us how much there is right here to explore. A great one for lovers of interior spaces.
‘The unexpected beauty of everyday sounds.’ Meklit Hadero
I love this talk more and more each time I watch it. Hadero shows us that there is music in ordinary sounds, that our environment is generous with its gifts. (It also makes me want to watch Spaced again just for bike messenger Tyres here’s a clip)
TED Talk playlist
How to notice and build joy into your life
‘Sculpted space, within and without’ Anthony Gormley
A talk that explores the spaces that sculpture engages with, our relationships to within ourselves and outside of ourselves.
This podcast is about all the ideas behind everything around us, “the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world” it is bursting with amazing stories about things you never knew you needed to know about!