Thursday, January 15, 2009

Creativity Sparks - Ideas to inspire: The Elements

In the ancient world, Philosphers used a set of classical elements to explain patterns in nature. The Greeks elements were Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Aether/Void. These same elements were also used in ancient India and Japan where they formed a basis of analysis in Hinduism and Buddhism. The Chinese used a slightly different series of elements, namely Fire, Earth, Water, Metal and Wood which they understood to be different types of energy in a state of constant interaction and flux. The Elements have also served as powerful symbols and metaphors.

The Earth alludes to the land of the world - its soil, dirt, clay, caves, mountains and also to the animals, vegetables and minerals that is sustains.

Air is all that is about the Earth, space and atmosphere, as well as breezes, swirling winds, hurricanes, and tornadoes.

Fire is the sun itself, giving warmth and light, helping plants to grow but also fire causing damage.

Water is essential to life and also the dew, dampness, fog, rain, ice, snow, oceans, lakes, rivers and streams.

Aether or often referred to as Void or Quintessence, meaning fifth was added to relate to 'heavenly' things. It was reasoned that whereas fire, earth, air and water were changeable and corruptible, no such changes had been seen in the heavenly regions and thus the stars and heavens had to be made from a different, unchangeable, heavenly substance.

Earth, Air, Fire and Water can have both positive and negative forces: water can be refreshing moisture to the dry parched ground or it can be a torrent of destructive floodwaters; fire can burn out of control or purify; air can be stagnant or a refreshing breeze, earth can be barren or fertile.

As subject matter, the elements can provide an endless source of inspiration for artists... from the jagged mountains and canyons created by years of erosion, to monsoon rains or gentle drizzle, reflections in a pond, a fiery sunset, lightening and wildfires.

From what I've learnt recently, it seems that each individual seems to have one element that inspires them more than other. Dale Chihuly, the glass artist says that he is inspired by water. He says he lives in the North East because it rains so often there and thus is a constant source of inspiration. He loves to take walks in the rain and come up with new ideas or else sit by the window watching the rain come down. When he travels and the weather is dry, he says he takes lots of showers and baths each day, as he feels he needs the water! And in fact, every DVD I've seen of Dale Chihuly and his work has shown him lying in a bath. I hadn't quite figured out why until I learnt of his "water" inspiration!!

I think personally, the Earth is my main element for inspiration. While mountains and caves don't really do it for me - the life that the earth sustains does - the animals and the birds and plants. If I look out of my window now as I'm typing, I see a little gopher sticking his head out of the ground (don't tell my husband - he gets very annoyed with them!)....He's busy uprooting our plants (grrrr....) and running around......and he makes me think of making a little animal something with a whole big plant in his mouth - roots and all.....

Or else there is the moss growing between the slabs - it has found it's own little place, it clings on in there, has no real nourishment, but it hangs in there.....the moss could inspire a "hang in there" piece of jewelry or something nestled into a tiny crack - just peaking out.

So what element inspires you the most? Do you get your best ideas when you are by a pond or the ocean or in the bath tub like Dale - or do you gaze into a sunset or cycle fast to feel the wind in your hair? Consider the different elements and see what comes up in your mind.....


Easterya said...

Definitely Fire does it for me, I need light, warmth and colours... But Fire does not do it on its own, it needs to mix with the other elements, particularly Water. I love days when it rains and when the sun shines at the same time, and rain becomes glitter.

Ruth said...

I can believe you and the Fire connection! Always blazing away,with little sparks of humour!