A while back one of my fellow Fine Ounce Collective members wrote an amusing piece about her (as she termed them) “well-organized, calm and collected” German companions at the Design Indaba Expo 2012. The writer went so far as to state that she would prefer to be German in her next life (http://fineouncegoldsmithcollective.blogspot.com/2012/03/double-sided-design-indaba-baba.html).
Being German myself (if only by descent, background, education and mother-tongue) I could relate to the writer’s observations. Some of us tend to be well organized, and yes, some of us rarely panic (at least not in an easily discernible way). There is, however, a conundrum involved with “being German”. The dilemma is best expressed in the series of images below:
How the world would look if we would all be German:
(images courtesy of a private email received)
You laugh? Me too – because the essence is only too true for me: with my tendency and/or urge to organize, label, classify and neaten everything, I often find myself taking away from things (usually considerably), rather than adding to them… especially when it comes to my creative work.
Before I elaborate, I would like to interject that being from German descent certainly does not account for my way of approaching and doing things on its own. Upbringing, habit and personality are other major contributing factors. For myself, however, I have come to refer to the outcome of the entire bundle of influencing dynamics as “being German”, and it is within that rather epitomizing sense that I use it here.
Thus, in relation to my creative practice, I often consider “being German” as both my best and my worst attribute. When it comes to technical detail and craftsmanship, my inherent need for perfection, precision and neatness is definitely well placed. I pride myself on the technical quality of my pieces – even though I have to guard against finishing them off until too little of them remains to ensure their structural integrity. Similarly, when seeking solutions to technical problems, my engineering-like “Vorsprung durch Technik” mindset usually yields some interesting, positive results.
When it comes to the truly creative part of my work, however, I often feel profoundly inhibited by my “German” characteristics. Allowing chaos to exist, even only on paper in my design pages, is often a real challenge for me. The urge to straighten and neaten lines, and to impose a system where perhaps there should be none, is considerable. Also, to embrace deviations from anticipated and planned outcomes of ideas, processes or techniques is often somewhat arduous.
How then, do I deal with the dilemma of “being German”?
I somehow realized early on that my creative practise and its outcomes are an inevitable mirror of who I am, the life I lead and the way I think and feel about it. My jewellery is such an integral part of my self-expression that, in order to have any effect on it, I would have to change the fabric of who I am and how I operate. I wanted to break through my limiting boundaries, and so worked at it deliberately: trying to be more spontaneous in my approach to life, learning to trust invisible, undefined, unpremeditated processes, seeking to exercise less control over my surroundings, attempting to steer away from perfection in everything but the technical execution of my pieces, consciously opening and exposing myself to the “strange” and “unfamiliar”, allowing chaos to exist and refraining from seeking out and establishing systems everywhere.
Did I succeed in some way?
In some small, encouraging ways, yes: my home is a bit less than perfectly neat these days, I welcome serendipity into my creative process more readily, I play and experiment more, and now and again I succeed in not taking everything so serious. These tiny changes reflect in my work, which has gradually evolved over the past years to become somewhat more light-hearted and playful, less structured and perhaps thus slightly more accessible. Yet, even though these achievements are heartening, it will probably be an on-going battle for me, fighting the urge to structure and systemize the playground and so take away from its essence and lively beauty.