Monday, May 23, 2011

Birthday Candles, Creative Thinking and Alexander McQueen


I was at a friend's birthday party recently.  Her teenage daughter had baked her a cake.  When it came time to put the candles on the cake and sing "Happy Birthday", the only candles the daughter could find in the house was a number 8 and two 1's.  Since my friend was in her 40's, this was not going to do.  I sat at the table, quietly sipping my drink.  Not saying a word as the family stumbled around the house visibility upset, trying to figure out a way through their candle dilemma.  I kept thinking to myself, "If this were my kids and our house, I would have issued some sort of creative challenge.  Something like...OK, well it's up to you to come up with something cool from what you have and what you can find".

We were always doing things like that with our kids when they were growing up.  Teaching them to think creatively during the most inopportune times.  To create something from what they had around them.  Encouraging them to pursue an idea even though the results may not turn out to be successful, or conducive with an adult sensibility.  To think "out of the box".  Figuring out interesting solutions to everyday problems.  How to choose and act upon the most viable of their ideas.  Our attention to developing their creative thought process was probably why one of our kids grew up the be an artist, the other a design coordinator.

At a used book sale the other day I smiled as I picked up and purchased a copy of "You Are Special.  Words of Wisdom from America's Most Beloved Neighbor" by Fred Rogers.  From the chapter on Creativity and Play, as only Mister Rogers could put it...

"One of the most important things a child can learn to do is to make something out of whatever he or she happens to have at the moment".

"One way to think about play is as the process of finding new combinations for known things - combinations that may yield new forms of expression, new inventions, new discoveries, and new solutions.  I like thinking about play in this way because it gives play some of the importance it deserves".

"What I have heard from creative people over the years is that their early urges towards unique self-expression were respected and supported by some loving adult in their young lives - someone who would even let them paint a tree blue of that's what they felt like doing".

This past weekend my daughter and I went into New York City to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This exhibit, and it's presentation, has exceeded just about everyone's expectations.  Each garment alone is a true visual feast and a definite creative joy for the imagination. As we began walking through the show the second garment that was presented was McQueen's razor-clam shell dress.  As I stood there, totally gaping at the dress, the only thing I could think was "Boy... I bet he never had an issue with birthday candles".


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