I have just been watching the tail end of an interesting TV documentary about creativity and advertising and it focused on stand-up comedians (Gags to Riches) and how doing TV commercials is considered stooping amongst many of their peers. Some would also reasonably say that earning vast fortunes by doing an advert pays for the more creative work as even well known actors can fall on hard times and this is true across the creative spectrum in Britain.
Certainly as a furniture designer I have been too fuelled by a desire to innovate new ideas to fall into the trap of letting clients dominate my output but have relied on building wardrobes, fitted kitchens and even site carpentry for bread and butter survival (which I've also enjoyed doing).
In the programme John Cleese said about creativity 'Wherever you look now money spoiled it'. Ironically one of his well known creative achievements was in his series of business training videos (late 70's I think) using humour as a potent learning tool - to improve a business which generally means to make more money! However, I find his statement does ring true in my own observation of the field of bespoke designer maker furniture that I have seen develop from its infancy.
There has undoubtedly been a Golden Age of British Craftsmanship and design (that I have enjoyed documenting) but it may have passed its zenith, not because there is a recession to potentially stop it in its tracks and furniture really is a luxury, but because increasingly high prices and associated exclusivity have dominated the field which translated means the client has more of a say in what is created and that can lead to creative compromise. Well, thats my view and also my observation in my own field that a high degree of clever persuasion is involved in getting your own way and possibly the people at the top of their field have more swing to do just that!
Many would argue that designing, as a problem solving activity, includes the client brief and this does challenge definitions such as the old well worn question 'is it art, is it craft, is it design?' So in wearing my hat as fundamentally a furniture 'artist' the buzz for me in searching for exciting new ways to make things is essentially a selfish quest where the hope is someone will like it enough to buy it and put bread on the table. For most of my working life it has been more a case of the butter on the bread as I had the good fortune (and interest) to be able to teach also as a supplement to my income.
The true creativity I believe connects with a curious breed of people called early adopters and in the world of mass-produced items they will pay a little over the odds (e.g. in the days of Hi-Fi) and I do believe some other mysterious forces are at work in bringing the creative individual in touch with the early adopter just before the former is about to go bankrupt! That is not to say early adopters are rich but that they recognise the uniqueness of an idea well before possibly it (or the creator) has become a brand. Not all early adopters are looking for an investment as I believe many are simply connecting on this other level with the creator!
These are just rambled thoughts in response to the statement John Cleese made that stuck in my mind and the point I believe he (and others) was making was that if you want creativity, don't interfere with it and see what comes out of process as even the creator will not know. It cannot be prescribed.