Does creative genius always require a painful creative process?
By WGSN Insider

Materials specialist – and designer of the WGSN Global Fashion Awards trophy – Sarah Angold believes artistic greatness needn’t always be the harrowing result of personal cost…

Jul 22, 2015
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Amy Winehouse
Heartbreaking: The latest documentary on Amy Winehouse's life reinforces how brutal the creative process can be / Amy Winehouse documentary
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I’ve just got in from the seeing Amy at the Electric Cinema in East London. I’m feeling a little vexed that my sofa (unlike my armchair at the Electric) isn’t strewn with cashmere blankets, and despite my hints, my boyfriend hasn’t leaped up to serve me martinis with a side of honey mustard chipolatas (the Electric is so accommodating in this way).

So I’m making do with a Marks & Spencer ‘dine in for two’ bottle of wine while I reflect upon the question that’s nagged me throughout the film. Does the creative process really have to be this painful?

Amy Winehouse

Heartbreaking: The latest documentary on Amy Winehouse’s life reinforces how brutal the creative process can be

For Amy, the right balance of depression, love, fear and substances opened the floodgates to musical and lyrical genius. With these components precariously aligned, she had the ability to connect with people. Her process was painful, ultimately fatal in fact, and I’m left wondering whether the exhaustion and emotional turmoil required, somehow make her work more credible, more important, more worthy. Indeed many of the worlds exceptional creatives are tortured souls – Lee McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, even Bach – who had fun making 20 children, created some of his best symphonies during the years in which he watched 10 of them die.

And here’s the problem. I’m wondering if I’m doomed to be a good but not great designer. Because how will I ever be revolutionary without the grit that misery affords? You see, whilst being driven and focused, my process reflects my rather optimistic nature. Let me tell you about it…

I begin with a carpet picnic of ideas. There are photos, strips of neoprene and metal, magazine cuttings, some cinema sketches from Blade Runner and a lot of bits of shiny tat.

A few hours later I can still be found pairing shapes with textures and structures with processes; for me the magic is in the process of unexpected collision. Once I’ve perfected these little 3D mood boards, I begin to draw, trace, cut, colour and fold, until my paper maquettes contain all the information needed to bring together the elements of the mood board and produce a real prototype. This was exactly the process I used when I designed the WGSN Global Fashion Award trophies this summer, and as you can see, it’s all rather fun. No suffering.

So do I need to find a way to suffer more?

Here’s what I think. Happy or sad, what all brilliant creatives have in common is bravery. When was the last time that real innovation didn’t demand terrifying risk taking? Exactly. And maybe feeling like shit is conducive to bravery, because you’ve got nothing to lose? If your creations are an outlet that you need to survive, then there isn’t space for anything other then gutsy and brutal honesty, which is what we all loved about Amy.

So I’m hoping that I can be ballsy and honest without being miserable and that that will be enough. And I don’t think I’m alone. Turning back to the movies, I’m looking to exuberant fashion maven Iris Apfel (whose eponymous documentary is released at the end of the month) to back me up, that it is possible to be joyous as well as inspirationally creative. At 93, Iris charms us with her light-hearted wit, and her zest for life seems boundless. I’ve always wanted to be a fashion maven myself, perhaps given my upbeat demeanour, that’ll be my next step.

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