Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lessons from the Fountain Project

One of the fun things I did on my summer vacation was to work on creating a fountain.

A year ago, my spouse gave me a fountain for my birthday.  Actually, he gave me a project with a promise that we’d do it together.  Unlike some projects, I was happy to get this one.  I had a vision of our backyard transformed into a sanctuary:  trickling water noises to dull the neighborhood noises that make our backyard unpleasant at times, a beautiful object to look at, a reason to be outside appreciating our small patch of earth.  At the same time, we’d transform some of the accumulated stuff in the backyard into something beautiful and practical.

My husband and I suffer from the same disease, him more so than me.  We find a variety of objects, and we succumb to the idea that we can transform them—maybe back into usefulness, maybe into art.  A few years ago, my spouse came home with a concrete sink, and it sat in the back yard, waiting for someone’s energy to transform it.

This sink became the base of the fountain.  We filled it with rock.  We set some huge terra cotta pots inside over an old aquarium pump and hosing.  We supplied it with electricity.  Water sprayed everywhere instead of trickling down.

It’s a year later, and we’re only just beginning to finish our fountain.  We’ve had three issues.  One is getting the right attachment to the hosing to force water down instead of out.  We’ve tried all sorts of sprinkler heads, and finally found one that worked.  Our main issue has been time:  finding time to trouble shoot, to shop, to try things.

Our other issue has been a creative one.  We’ve had a vision of a fountain with mosaic work on all its surfaces.  We’ve been plagued with a familiar problem.

Many creative people will talk about being blocked when they have no ideas.  I rarely have this problem.  On the contrary, I have too many ideas, and it’s hard to commit to one.

That problem surfaced with our fountain.  We had so many cool ideas—how could we commit?

The fountain creation holds several important lessons for creative types:

--Sometimes you have to just commit to one idea and follow through.  Yes, you will be haunted by all the design decisions, all the creative works, all the options that you have to give up by choosing one and following through.  I wish I could tell you that there will be enough time in your life to bring every good idea to fruition.  There will not.  But if you let yourself linger too long over all the possibilities, you risk paralysis. 

--Even if the final product doesn’t match the vision you had in your head, you will likely end up with something interesting.  And bringing a project to creative fruition is better than all the not-done creations in your head.

--Sometimes creative problems can be solved with a shift in perspective.  For our fountain, it was turning a terra cotta bowl which helped solve the water flow/spray problem.  In your writing, it might be telling a story from the perspective of a different character or taking a free verse poem and revising it into a poem with form.

--It’s an interesting experiment/experience to switch mediums.  I tend to work primarily in words.  What fun to play with sparkly bits and paste them onto terra cotta.  What fun to transform an outdoor space.

We’re not done yet, but we’ve had fun along the way.  This might be the week-end we finish the fountain.  Or maybe we’ll stretch it out longer.  We've still got lots of mosaic work and tiling to do.  But more importantly, we're having fun.  Why rush a fun process?

1 comment:

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for the narrative of the fountain. Please post pictures soon.

I've found that when I collage, I have the problem of too many options, too many avenues for one image. I have to be open to an ending I can't predict. Thanks for drawing the connection to how that might play out in writing as well.