Exploring Craft to Teach Creativity

By Karen Cordes-Spence and David Beach.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Crafted artifacts contain remarkable lessons: embedded within them is a rich knowledge about materials, process and an inventiveness that occurs in the play between these two. To tap into this knowledge makes possible an introduction and exploration of creativity, which is often considered to be difficult to access, make explicit and learn. Yet this activity is the heart of the studio and critical to the work of the designer as it moves beyond what is known to develop fresh and innovative ideas and things.

In this project, beginning architecture students investigated the crafts of weaving, knitting, quilting, broom making and paper making. First-hand experiences with unfamiliar supplies and procedures brought about an attentiveness and interpretation that allowed them to see and explore these crafts in a new light. Creative actions were easily identified and engaged, with the inventiveness between the materials and process especially playful when the crafts were foreign to the artisans. These same creative understandings were then applied to the design of a building, employing the knowledge in a different situation. Transferring the comprehension from one condition to another required yet another layer of innovative interpretation, aiding the students’ ability to introduce imagination and originality. Ultimately, what is learned is a way of working in studio that is guided by creativity.

Keywords: Creativity, Craft, Studio Teaching

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.181-190. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 7.462MB).

Dr. Karen Cordes-Spence

Assistant Professor of Architecture, Hammons School of Architecture, Drury University, Springfield, MO, USA

Dr. Spence is an assistant professor at the Hammons School of Architecture at Drury University. She has practiced in Washington DC, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri and is registered in Maryland and Missouri. She is also LEED accredited. Prior to teaching at Drury, Dr. Spence has taught at the University of Arkansas, the University of Cincinnati and Texas A&M University. Her area of interests are theory in architecture and beginning design studio.

David Beach

Assistant Professor of Architecture, Hammons School of Architecture, Drury University, Springfield, MO, USA


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