Some time before Christmas I was invited to attend a creative workshop by Philippa Stanton to coincide with the release of her book, Conscious Creativity. I am sure you will have seen it mentioned over on Instagram - and with good reason! I have been curious to see Philippa's book since she was writing it and of course was keen to join the workshop.
Philippa is an artist who lives in Brighton, I first met her in 2014 at a workshop and have met her many times since, in fact I have written about her annual artists open house before here.
Obviously there is a festive tone to the photographs, but I'm not apologising for the delay in writing this post. I wanted time to unpack the day, to think about creativity and to read at least some of Philippa's book before sharing it here.
The workshop itself took place at the Master Shipwright's House in Deptford. Situated on the river Thames, the building is over 400 years old and is absolutely full of character as you might expect. Every room is interesting and the stripped back walls are a textural delight to behold.
Having been to one of Philippa's first workshops back in 2014, I had some idea of what to expect. This creative workshop was just as inspiring as the first I attended, Philippa encourages creativity for the sake of it. This is something I think many of us find hard to do. Or to justify. When daily life is so busy, taking time to explore our senses and reactions to the environment around us can feel self indulgent.
But what if it is not self indulgent? What if it means we pay attention to the world a little more? Connect a little more with our surroundings? In an time when mindfulness and slow living are the buzzwords of the moment, why can't creativity be the way in which we approach connection...?
Philippa walked us through some creative techniques, abstracting our senses by asking us to be silent and observe, or to close our eyes and listen for a few minutes. Then to describe our experience and to abstract even further into whether a sound was moving, could we visualise it...? What colour was it?
We were treated to the most delicious meal and given an afternoon to create freely. Imagine! We had impromptu portrait photoshoots, the joy of so many photographers in one place, wreath making with Kate Langdale (who also created all the floral installations at the workshop - the clouds in the windows were my favourite!) and a chance to explore a little of the house and garden.
One phrase Philippa used at the workshop when talking about creativity has stayed with me since.
It’s not about looking it’s about responding to what’s there...
It doesn't matter what your medium is, I think this phrase perfectly describes the process of creativity. Think about photography, a great photograph is often created by the response of the photographer to the subject they are photographing. Or for an artist who paints, what is recorded on paper or canvas is a very personal response to the subject being painted.
I am over simplifying here, but our response to our subject is so unique. Surely channeling this uniqueness is vital to creative work, and Philippa really does encourage our individuality.
There is always something to be observed and by using Philippa's suggestions for abstracting the senses, a whole new world opens up. She is encouraging us to pay attention and feel a little more in response to our surroundings.
Conscious Creativity is a book filled with inspiring ways to connect. I have read around half of it as I write and am finding it thoroughly enjoyable - especially through a cold dark January.
Philippas positivity and encouragement spill through the books pages. She gives countless suggestions for creative exercises so even if you have only a few minutes to spare, there is something to be enjoyed. Philippa suggests the reader should observe, be curious, explore and to document.
What I have realised since the workshop and reading the book is that, in my mind at least, being creative means creating something. Having a physical something to show for my creativity. This is not how I have always been but somewhere in the busyness of life right now, I have forgotten how to explore...
What Philippa's book has done is made me question myself and remember that it is really useful to simply engage with my surroundings. And I am so happy to rediscover some creativity without worrying about deadlines or approval (something that working with clients inevitably involves - which is absolutely right - but can stifle free creativity somewhat).
It has been just the tonic my creative soul needed.
Philippa's book is filled with ways to explore the world around us with a creative mindset. I am thoroughly enjoying picking it up when I have a moment and not feeling the pressure to have an end result to my creativity. It has reminded me how much I enjoy the process - perhaps even more than the product.