A few days ago, my friend Wendy MacNaughton (who has a terrific new column in the New York Times) posted this “Mistakes” jar, filled with eraser shavings “and tears.”
Einstein supposedly said that creativity is the residue of wasted time, but I think a lot about the residue of creativity. Sometimes that residue is a work of art, but more often than not, it’s a tiny trail of waste —debris, dust, shavings, clippings, trash, etc.
I love it when artists collect and display this residue. (Sometimes they even sell it.) One of my favorite parts of Edward Carey’s show at the Austin Public Library was a bowl of his pencils, used all the way to the stumps.
Years ago, I saw a show of book carver Brian Dettmer, and there was a box of his X-acto blades on a pedestal. (He estimates he goes through “15-50 blades a day, usually switching over to a new blade every ten minutes to half hour.”
In 2013, designer Craighton Berman ran a funny, tongue-in-cheek Kickstarter called “The Campaign for the Accurate Measurement of Creativity.” It included a “Sharpener Jar” — “a product designed to quantify creative output.”
Since I wrote Show Your Work! in 2013, I’ve been interested in how artists share their process, how social media allows you to share when there’s nothing, really, to share, and how sometimes the scraps and ephemera from our process can turn into their own attractions. (Above: Amanda Palmer’s sticky notes posted while working on The Art of Asking: “[I] was trying to find a way to share their colorful beauty without also revealing their content.”)
Oh, and while I’m riffing: “Butt Pattern,” from the #MTAMuseum (more here) is this idea of process-residue-as-art taken to its most extreme and funny conclusion.