The appearance of a thing, a thought, mental conception or image, an opinion or belief, a plan or scheme, meaning or significance. Thus spake Webster’s dictionary.
The cliché graphic symbol for idea is a light bulb suddenly turning on above a cartoon character’s head. I guess that’s as good as anything. I don’t have a better idea, do you?
I’m not a EUREKA guy. I don’t sit bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night and shout, “I’ve got it!” My wife would say, “What have you got and is it catching?” Ideas don’t pop into my head or turn on like a light. They grow from a smile to a titter, to a giggle, and eventually a belly laugh. An image, an event, a word, a sound; almost anything could be the stimulus for an idea.
Many years and dozens of paper sculptures can happen before I fully develop an idea, and even then, it may not be complete but I simply abandon it to work on other ideas. Frustration can be a great idea killer.
Idea is a four-letter word much like an iceberg, with little bitty four letters sticking up above the ocean and an enormous number of words below it. Concept, group-think, word-play, clustered thinking, meditation, long walks, hot showers, thinking out of the box and brain-storming. We have to include “creativity,” an over-used label that demeans real creativity, because it’s so flagrantly used to describe things and activities barely above average and not usually unique, useful, or accepted.
Take my paper flies as an example. They may be reasonably well designed because, after all, I am a grad-u-8 designer of stuff, and you might think them pretty but they are not creative by Mihaly Csikszentmialyi’s definition.
They are only an adaptation of a real idea, which was to make feathered copies of insects, on hooks, for catching fish to feed the family. A unique idea that is useful and accepted by the culture. That’s the basic definition of creativity. Please don’t accuse me of being creative. Clever maybe, damned clever, now and then, and a great thief. I steal from the best, but not creative.
Carousels are a super idea that has been realized superbly over many generations and the culture loves them. The original idea was definitely creative. My “cutesy-pie” adaptations are with cats from many cultures as the decorative animals on a fantasy carousel. Here is “Samurai Cat.”
This Samurai cat is so Japanese
His fancy kimono catches a breeze
Mount Fuji and tea
Rising sun on the sea
Haiku blossoms on cherry trees.
The work, and the ideas are in the design of the cats and writing the limericks that carry the story. A lot of fun for any designer, and I hope to finish this children’s book, but really, not a really, really, creative contribution to the culture, not really.
This carousel cat sits in the saddle
Cowboy cat makes cattle skedaddle
With Stetson and spur
Roping cows with a purr
Listening for rattlesnakes rattle.
When you label someone as creative, it becomes a comparative term. That person has to wonder where you have put him or her in those many slices of the creativity baloney. “Where do I rate? Am I one of the ends, somewhere in the middle, way up at the top, and, by the way, how thick is my slice?”
Often people ask me, “How long does it take to do a paper sculpture, and where do you get your ideas?” I’ve got to say something, so I answer, “one week for the small ones and two weeks for the large ones.” I have no idea how long they take because I am so scattered in my work habits and my studio is so messy, it’s like the inside of a goat. If I used Neil Boyle’s answer I would say, “So far, they’ve taken about fifty-five years to make.”
As for the idea question, they always seem to be there but I have no idea where they come from. As simple as they might be, I hope they keep on coming, but no EUREKAS.
They scare hell out of my wife.
Visiting me was a good idea…