Where Do Ideas Come From - Creativity or Synthesisity?

Where Do Ideas Come From - Creativity or Synthesisity?
The question Where do you get ideas for a piece? is periodically asked in this and other woodworking forums. The underlying questions is What is the source of creativity? - and by implication - How do I tap that source?.
I believe the cliche - Theres nothing new under the sun. - with few exceptions, is true. I believe that creativity is a very rare thing - making something from nothing. I believe what is commonly called creativity is actually synthesisity - combining existing ideas and/or things in a way that theyve not previously been combined. And synthesisity is not the sole domain of artists, inventors, scientists and great thinkers. I think synthesisity is built into all of us. It has to be, or humans wouldve gone extinct a long time ago.
The trick is learning to use what weve already got.
The following is a lathe turning example which hopefully illustrates how synthesisity works and how it can be mistaken for that elusive thing "creativity". Hopefully it will get someone who thinks they don't have The Gift to consider the possibility that they do - but aren't using it.
Ive been playing with an idea that was triggered by a club demonstration, a rare, to everyone but me, mistake and a skew turning exercise.
Here are the elements for the synthesis of a piece thats new - to me. (Its probably been done a thousand times before - but I came up with this on my own)
Element One:
I think its not a totally uncommon turners mistake - accidently cutting or sanding through the bottom of a bowl or hollowed form. The normal fix is to turn a plug to fit the unintentional hole, glue it in place then re-turn the piece to blend the two pieces of wood together visually. If youre very careful, the resulting repair will go unnoticed by all but the really observant.
Element Two:
If you have been into turning for more than a month or two youve probably seen examples of mini or almost micro turnings - tiny chalices, little doll house sized bowls and vases, itty bitty spinning tops.
Element Three:
One of the exercises for learning to use a skew is to turn beads and balls. For the latter, you basically turn a ball on the end of a dowel then turn off the ball.
Element Four:
Turned lidded boxes require turning a lip on one part that fits snugly into the other part. The two parts are held together by friction.
Heres the specifics.
After watching a club demonstration of small turning I tried my hand at turning small - three small bowls in olive - all about 1 O.D., maybe 3/8 to 1/2 tall - basically flat bottomed hemispheres. At that scale, a 3/16ths wall thickness looks really thick so I tried going thinner - 1/8th inch - and that was easy. So I went thinner on the next one - and turned through the bottom of the little bowl. This little thing was too small and too thin for a plug fix. For some reason I left it on my workbench.
The olive was pretty and I turned some large beads and drilled a hole through one - coincidently a that one was a little over 1 in diameter.
Now I had three very small hemispherical bowls, one with a big hole in the bottom, a sphere with a hole through it and a piece left in the chuck for the next bead - a dowel with a ball on the end.
Trying to fit the round bead inside one of the little bowls was impulsive - Will this fit into that? A ball joint! It didnt fit - ball too big to fit all the way inside. Hmmm - a space between the inside of the bowl and the outside of the bead. What if I turned the ball that was in the chuck down and turn down the spigot to go through the hole in the bowl with the hole in the bottom? If the bead on the end of the dowel/spigot was inside the bowl and I glued the spigot into the bead with the hole through it - Id have a captured articulated joint - a ball joint! A little more synthesisity and Ive got a way to make an articulated chain of beads - for a bracelet, necklace, belt, . . .
Here are the elements ) bowl with hole in the bottom O-- ball on the end of a dowel/spigot (----) bead with a hole through it
Heres the synthesisity 0)-- ball inside bowl with the hole in it, spigot through the hole 0)-(- ) ball inside bowel, spigot through the hole in the bowl, end of spigot in the hole in the bead AN ARTICULATED JOINT! --(OO)-(---) spigot through the hole in the bowl, ball inside the bowl, assembly glued to its mirror image whose spigot is glued into a bead with a hole through it. AN ARTICULATED CHAIN!
Since Id already turned a bunch of turned lidded boxes with friction fit lids, it was a no brainer to join the two ball socket the same way. Lots easier than trying to glue two hemispheres together.
So there you have it - an example of serendipitous synthesisity - no creativity here. And anyone can do it - and many no doubt have come up with the idea used in this example.
Have you got an example of your synthesisity youd be willing to share?
charlie b
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You raise an interesting question. I don't have a specific example of personal creativity but I suspect they are rare. We all do things we we have'nt done previously but perhaps we saw it in a book, long forgotten, or on a Norm we've seen or from some mentor we've met along the way, and credit ourselves. Even the genius, Isaac Newton said, the reason he was able to see slightly over the horizon was he was able to stand on the shoulders of giants (he refered to Galileo, Kepler and others back to Aristotle) who came before him. Joe G
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
charlieb wrote:

charlie,
I don't have an example of my own, but I argue the statement "no creativity here". You can call it synthesisity if you like, but I'd prefer to call it a creative process. Some would have looked at what you did and said "Oh, I screwed up - time for the trash bin and let's start over again with those bowls."
Others would scream "fuck" at the top of their lungs and stomp out of the shop.
Still others might have taken a similar tack as yours and gone down a different road.
The latter - and you - let the creative process take them where it was going to go.
Another way of saying this is that the ends justifies the means, but that's a bit out of context. The end that you arrived at was a result of pursuing a creative path, letting your mind (creativity) or perhaps your heart show the direction. In this case the means was a result of an error, but an error that wasn't debilitating to the product. That product, which wasn't envisaged at the beginning, certainly was when you finished.
What I'm saying is that a fully non-creative person doesn't allow those paths to happen. They start over, swear, or have a beer.
Tanus
--
This is not really a sig.

http://users.compzone.ca/george/shop /
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
charlieb wrote:
> Where Do Ideas Come From - Creativity or Synthesisity?
Necessity.
Lew
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
So creativity/synthesisity involves
- Allowing for changes / modifications
Sometimes, rather than work out ALL the details BEFORE you begin a project - and sticking with The Plan, just start and design/build as you go. With furniture, traditional joinery lends itself to this approach because it often allows dry fitting what you've got (without any clamps) so you can see what you've got so for and think about where to go next.
- How you deal with mistakes / unforseen situations.
Rather than trash it, see if there's a way to utilize it - the old "That started out as a mistake and got turned into a feature." trick.
Example of turning a screw up into a feature. This one was done on a tool module in a wall hanging tool cabinet.
(A) is what I wanted to make - box with a shelf in dadoes. (B) is where I routed the dadoes - oops! (C) is my solution - TWO shelves - apparently too close together to be practical - maybe 2" apart. BUT - I needed a place to put japanese saws - laying on their sides - anyway, so . . .
+------------+ +------------+ +------------+ | | | | | | | | | | | | + -----------+ + | +-------------+ | | | + +-------------+ | | | | | | | | | | | | +------------+ +------------+ +------------+ (A) (B) (C)
If you want to see a picture of the results look at the fourth picture on this page - bottom module with the iron and wooden planes on their sides. Notice the short height shelf between the planes? There's a dozuki and azebeki saw tucked in on that short height shelf.
http://web.hypersurf.com/~charlie2/WallToolCabinet/RightToolCabinet.html
Rather than trash a mistake immediately, walk away from it for a while and do something else. Crisis does often present opportunities.
Decisions made while angry or upset are often the wrong ones. In many instances it's best to engage the rational part of the brain before engaging your throwing/ hitting arm.
- Studying the work of others, asking
How'd he/she do that? Then figuring it out, asking the person who did it or just mentally filing the question away and let your brain play with it
What is it about this piece that appeals to me? Is it the proportions, the wood selection, some detail? If you find the answer(s) - use that info on a future project.
Steve Jobs put it succinctly - "If you're going to steal ideas, steal from the best." - the Stand On The Shoulders of Giants idea.
Lew put it in one word - Necessity. The full phrase is Necessity is the Mother of Invention. Some see it as Necessity is a Muthah! Cup half full / cup half empty - depends on how you see it.
Regardless of whether it's creativity or synthesis, what are some of the things a "non-creative" person can use / do to become more creative? The capability is there, how can it be activated?
charlie b
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
charlieb wrote: | So creativity/synthesisity involves | | - Allowing for changes / modifications
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Sometimes.
| Steve Jobs put it succinctly - "If you're going to | steal ideas, steal from the best." - the Stand On | The Shoulders of Giants idea.
Hmm. Stealing ideas doesn't strike me as particularly creative. Learning about other peoples' though processes (giants or otherwise) bears a strong resemblance to "tool acquisition" AFAICT.
| Lew put it in one word - Necessity. The full phrase | is Necessity is the Mother of Invention. Some | see it as Necessity is a Muthah! Cup half full / | cup half empty - depends on how you see it.
Lew is pointing in the right direction, but IMO it isn't so much necessity as the desire to solve some problem, the solution to which may or may not involve actual need. It might be simply a desire to find a more soulful way to communicate "I love you" in poetry/song/woodworking/...
| Regardless of whether it's creativity or synthesis, | what are some of the things a "non-creative" | person can use / do to become more creative? | The capability is there, how can it be activated?
_Always_ be on the lookout for problems. Collect them. Cherish them. Dig old ones out of their dark corners for reconsideration in the light of everything that you've learned since the last time you gave them your attention.
Share 'em with other people. :-)
-- Morris Dovey DeSoto Solar DeSoto, Iowa USA http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto/solar.html
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
: charlieb wrote:
: > Where Do Ideas Come From - Creativity or Synthesisity?
: Necessity.
Well, that's the mother of invention. Possibility is the mother of creativity.
    -- Andy Barss
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I contribute an additional brief thought to this woodworking/ philosophical thread. We have all read biographies of entrepenuers who credit some accidental occurence to their success. (Charles Goodyear & Vulcanization come to mind.) It can be summed up by the adage if life hands you lemons, make lemonade. If life hands you misaligned dados, double up the number of shelves. Joe G
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
GROVER wrote:

I think of James Krenov's and George Nakashima's approach to wood working as a philosophy. I'm after tangible things and tangible examples of ways which increase the likelyhood of being more creative / innovative / synthesistic - that anyone can learn to do.
If I gets angry and frustrated with myself when I make a mistake - and stop there - after a few more mistakes I'm gong to give up - AND maybe stop trying. It's called risk aversion - or fear of failure. I'd tend to do only those things that I've succeeded at, avoid those things I've "failed" at - and not try anything new because there is a possibility of failing. It's hard to be creative / innovative / synthesistic if I stay in risk avoidance mode.

Exactly. Crisis/opportunity, lemon/lemonde, room full of horse manure / find the pony.
So attitude is a significant part of being creative / innovative. (I'll drop synthesis - innovation carries the same idea). A positive, inquisitve attitude can be learned. A Can Do attitude combined with I Wonder What Would Happen If approach can get you closer to being creative / innovative.
As for the low height shelf - the fun part was finding what could fit in that space and still be easily accessible.
Back to avoiding risk aversion and its tendency to stifle creativity / innovation.
If a relatively new woodworker chose a Chippendale High Boy (high think that's what it's called) as an early project, the probablility of failing at one or more of the tasks required would be very high. The cost of failure would also be very high in terms of materials and time.
But - if you start with lower risk, lower materials and time costs projects you get more opportunities to succeed.
I'm going to use my wall hanging tool cabinet as an example of an opportunity to be creative / innovative, not because I'm that good a woodworker or that creative / innovative but rather to demonstrate an approach that gets someone to think "Hey, if even this guy can do it, then I sure as hell can.". The wall hanging tool cabinet is a good example. Once the carcase and doors were done - and since they used the most wood - and I lucked out with the dovetails - filling it with modules let me try finger joints, through dovetails, sliding dovetails, dadoes, rabbets/rebates and the basic stuff like cutting parts to fit a particular space. It also provided the opportunity to evolve an initial idea - the chisel racks for example. The first one was basically a shallow box standing on its side - with holes for the chisels to sit in. It quickly became apparent that the "head clearance" required to get a chisel out of its hole wasted a lot of precious space above it. But if I cut a notch from the front to the hole, I only needed to lift it enough to have the steel part of the chisel fit through the notch. But there was still a problem of keeping the chisels from hitting each other since they could pivot in their holes. So the next chisel rack had a notched shelf in the middle - the steel part of the chisels in a notch which only allowed them to move foreward, not side to side or backwards.
If you examine the pictures on this page you'll see that there are over a dozen modules that fill the cabinet - each made to hold a specific group of tools. http://web.hypersurf.com/~charlie2/WallToolCabinet/RightToolCabinet2.html
Plenty of opportunities for screw ups - and there were more than a few. But none used a lot of wood and none took days, weeks or months to make. Very low risk starting modular with plenty of challenges / opportunities to innovate. When it was done I'd found I was capable of doing a lot more than I thought I could and anxious to try other things.
By the yard it's hard. But by the inch it's a cinch.
So maybe starting with lower risk projects and building on what's learned from them can encourage creativity / innovating.
Now another factor - perhaps.
If you want to learn to be a millionaire, your less apt to learn how to do it from a person who is poor than from a persion who is already a millionaire.
If you've been around musicians and other "creative" people, you'll note that they trade techniques and riffs - or steal each others riffs and modify them. It's a synergistic thing - the sum of the parts is less than the whole. (Math folks have a problem with that, as do physicists). So, do formal or informal gatherings of people with a common interest foster creativity - especially if the participants are willing to share ideas, techniques and "discoveries" - increase the chances for creativity?
What about taking classes from a "master"? Some "teachers" are actually "cloners", insisting, or implying, that their way of doing something is the best - and only way to do it. The result is students that make what the "teacher" makers - but not as well. How does one avoid the Dogma Trap?
How about a Inductive vs Deductive approaches? The Inductive approach - how do I make what I've got fit with what I want. The Deductive approach - I've got this - what do I do with it. Both can lead to an innovation. Is one more or less apt to get you there?
We're not looking for Mona Lisa or E=Mc^2 stuff here. It's stuff anyone can do - and maybe not acknowledge. The jig maker is being creative. The tool maker is being creative. The sheet metal fabricator is being creative. What underlying commonality is there to find - and use.
Surely you (everybody in this group) made something that turned out much better than you thought you were capable of making. How'd it happen?
charlie b
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
charlieb wrote: > > Exactly. Crisis/opportunity, lemon/lemonde, room full of > horse manure / find the pony. > > So attitude is a significant part of being creative / innovative. > (I'll drop synthesis - innovation carries the same idea). A > positive, inquisitve attitude can be learned. A Can Do attitude > combined with I Wonder What Would Happen If approach can > get you closer to being creative / innovative. > > As for the low height shelf - the fun part was finding what > could fit in that space and still be easily accessible. > > Back to avoiding risk aversion and its tendency to stifle > creativity / innovation. > > If a relatively new woodworker chose a Chippendale High Boy > (high think that's what it's called) as an early project, the > probablility of failing at one or more of the tasks required > would be very high. The cost of failure would also be very > high in terms of materials and time.
And it's something that's promoted within the wreck. Start slow, start relatively simple, and add features later. Learn the basics before you try something that's over your head. I don't know how many times I've read that here. For some people, it's instinctive. For others, like me, it's something I have to learn - and relearn. "I can do that" is often true. We underestimate our capabalities and don't go for our full potential.
However, "I can do that" is also not true. Which sets us into one of two camps at the end of what we're attempting. We either realize part way through that we can't do as much as we thought we could, and alter our plans and make something that we're still happy with. OR, we bugger the entire thing up and never attempt it again, or don't try it for some time until we've licked our wounds. What you refer to as aversion later on. > > But - if you start with lower risk, lower materials and time > costs projects you get more opportunities to succeed. > > I'm going to use my wall hanging tool cabinet as an example > of an opportunity to be creative / innovative, not because > I'm that good a woodworker or that creative / innovative > but rather to demonstrate an approach that gets someone > to think "Hey, if even this guy can do it, then I sure as hell > can.".
In another thread, I was exploring this as well. There are times when I'm hesitant to click on someone's link cause I may see something I'd like to build, but know I can't with the skills I have now. However, I end up looking anyway and get a mix of wonder and awe and admiration, tinged with envy. > > The wall hanging tool cabinet is a good example. Once the > carcase and doors were done - and since they used the > most wood - and I lucked out with the dovetails - filling > it with modules let me try finger joints, through dovetails, > sliding dovetails, dadoes, rabbets/rebates and the basic > stuff like cutting parts to fit a particular space. It also > provided the opportunity to evolve an initial idea - the > chisel racks for example. The first one was basically > a shallow box standing on its side - with holes for the > chisels to sit in. It quickly became apparent that the > "head clearance" required to get a chisel out of its hole > wasted a lot of precious space above it. But if I cut > a notch from the front to the hole, I only needed to > lift it enough to have the steel part of the chisel fit > through the notch. But there was still a problem of > keeping the chisels from hitting each other since they > could pivot in their holes. So the next chisel rack had > a notched shelf in the middle - the steel part of the > chisels in a notch which only allowed them to move > foreward, not side to side or backwards. > > If you examine the pictures on this page you'll see > that there are over a dozen modules that fill the > cabinet - each made to hold a specific group of > tools. > http://web.hypersurf.com/~charlie2/WallToolCabinet/RightToolCabinet2.html > > Plenty of opportunities for screw ups - and > there were more than a few. But none used a lot > of wood and none took days, weeks or months to > make. Very low risk starting modular with plenty > of challenges / opportunities to innovate. When it > was done I'd found I was capable of doing a lot > more than I thought I could and anxious to try > other things. > > By the yard it's hard. But by the inch it's a cinch.
Yep.
> > So maybe starting with lower risk projects and building > on what's learned from them can encourage creativity / > innovating.
I'd like to think that most of us do that most of the time. There will always be a small percentage of people who will always attempt grand things first off. Some of them will succeed. There will also be some of us who, a small percentage of the time, will attempt something beyond our (perceived) reach. And when we succeed. THAT is lovely. Spurs us on to grander projects. Allows us to expand our perception of what we can do. Which in my mind.....leads to creativity. Or at the very least, allows creativity to work alongside the more mundane tasks that must be done for completion. > > Now another factor - perhaps. > > If you want to learn to be a millionaire, your less apt > to learn how to do it from a person who is poor than > from a persion who is already a millionaire. > > If you've been around musicians and other "creative" > people, you'll note that they trade techniques and > riffs - or steal each others riffs and modify them. > It's a synergistic thing - the sum of the parts is > less than the whole. (Math folks have a problem with > that, as do physicists). > > So, do formal or informal gatherings of people with > a common interest foster creativity - especially > if the participants are willing to share ideas, techniques > and "discoveries" - increase the chances for creativity?
Most of the time. Assuming pure interests and pure motives. Jealousy and envy can bugger this process up. As can people who prefer simply to be on their own to explore and create. But most of us benefit from peer involvement. > > What about taking classes from a "master"? Some > "teachers" are actually "cloners", insisting, or implying, > that their way of doing something is the best - and only > way to do it. The result is students that make what > the "teacher" makers - but not as well. How does one > avoid the Dogma Trap? > > How about a Inductive vs Deductive approaches? The > Inductive approach - how do I make what I've got fit > with what I want. The Deductive approach - I've got > this - what do I do with it. Both can lead to an innovation. > Is one more or less apt to get you there? > > We're not looking for Mona Lisa or E=Mc^2 stuff here. > It's stuff anyone can do - and maybe not acknowledge. > The jig maker is being creative. The tool maker is being > creative. The sheet metal fabricator is being creative. > What underlying commonality is there to find - and use. > > Surely you (everybody in this group) made something > that turned out much better than you thought you were > capable of making. How'd it happen?
In my case, whenever things work out at least as well as I'd hoped, or even better, it was when I allowed myself time to think it through properly - seeing where I might err, watching for the places that could trip me up, and recognizing that I was too damned tired to go on. Coming at it the next day, fresh, allowed me to get back into the groove of what I was doing. This has proven true for woodworking, writing, cutting the lawn, or interacting with someone else. > > charlie b
--
This is not really a sig.

http://users.compzone.ca/george/shop /
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Does it count if you started off to make a bed and wound up with an ottoman?
--
FF



Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@spamcop.net wrote:

Sure. It's an expectation thing. If you started out expecting to make a bed and for whatever reason, couldn't make a bed but could make a shorter bed, or perhaps an ottoman that's creative. Adapting one's expectations based on the current reality and continuing on is part of the creative process. Giving up and kissing the whole thing off when there are other possibilities isn't.
Saying "I'm just not creative." without adding "now, but I think I can be if I set my mind to it" is creative. Saying "I'm just not creative and no matter what I do, I will never be creative." is not creative.
We're born with the ability to be creative? What can one do to activate and use what one has had since birth?
charlie b
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Tue, Mar 20, 2007, 11:25am (EDT-4) snipped-for-privacy@accesscom.com (charlieb) doth query: Where Do Ideas Come From - Creativity or Synthesisity? <snip>
I hold seances and channel the Woodworking Gods. You mean it doesn't work that way for you too?
JOAT Custom philosophizing done. No job too small; must be indoor work, with no heavy lifting.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

I used to have ideas for woodworking projects but after 25 years of marriage I've learned that only my Wife does. I have no idea where the hell she gets em! ;-)
Mike O.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.