How do our creative pioneers find their spark?

Guinness Creative Summit Inspire The Guinness Creative Summit panel on... INSPIRE (audio)
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Without inspiration there can be no creativity – an initial idea is at the birth of every great achievement that pushes boundaries. But what do creative pioneers do to find that spark – and just as importantly, how do they make their work inspiring to others?

The answers from our panel of experts at the Guinness Creative Summit suggest that pushing boundaries isn’t something that happens as the result of work, but is present at the first seed of thought. It already lives in the gut feeling you might get while learning to ride a skateboard, studying the neurons in a cat’s stomach or watching one of the poorest areas in the UK take ownership of a giant jellyfish installation.

When conceiving art duo Walter and Zoniel’s The Physical Possibility of Inspiring Imagination in the Mind of Somebody Living, Walter Hugo was “obsessed with the idea of creating work for everybody, for the normal people, just to take people out of their moment for 30 seconds, and just wow them, give them that inspiration”.

Walter and his work and life partner Zoniel – “we work together, live together seven days a week, we’re very much the yin and the yang” – spoke of the satisfaction of secretly building the enormous night-time jellyfish installation in Toxteth, Liverpool.

Their aim was to create the antithesis of the famous “dead shark in a tank in the wealthiest neighbourhood” by putting something so awe-inspiring in a place otherwise devoid of art. Then the two observed the chain reaction of inspiration spread throughout the local community, “the first person takes a selfie, calls their cousin, their friend and all of a sudden 150 people are there every night and the local area have adopted this installation.”

Leafcutter John, the innovative musician, said: “The way that I work is that I work all the time. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like work – I’m 40 this year and I’ve decided to learn how to skateboard. For me that might turn into work, or it might just be a hobby. The way I do it is I do stuff that I’m fascinated by.”

For Helen Storey, much of the inspiration for the designer and artist’s ground-breaking ventures in the fashion world – such as Second Life, which rejuvenated used garments, and the air-purifying Catalytic Clothing – came from the “fuel of frustration” when working in the higher echelons of the industry.

“You were constantly being told that you had to have another idea, as if the last one wasn’t good enough. I would look at Japanese designers, like Issey Miyake, who can work on pleats for fifteen years and it’s almost like science. I realised I was interested in the stuff that was below fashion and not the effect.”

In order to respect inspiration, it seems our panel of experts all valued the time it took for the seeds of ideas to grow. Instinctively they recognised the possibility for inspiration when it arose, and nurtured it to fruition. Tania Harrison, founder and arts curator of Latitude festival explained: “Intuition is all you have. Then you have things that stimulate you all around you.”

Sam Bompas, of architectural foodsmiths Bompas & Parr, added that hard graft and good old-fashioned research are also crucial in furthering inspiration. “We invest loads and loads on having a really good library of books at the studio and insist that if the team are going to start off on a project, they’ve got to start off by reading something. So you need some raw material for creativity – for it actually to happen.”

The overriding theme of the Inspire topic was that intuition is key. As Bompas so brilliantly put it: “Your gut feeling is important. Your stomach has got 100 million neurons in it. That’s more neurons in your stomach than the brain of a cat has. So trust your gut instincts!”

To hear more about this fascinating subject, plug in your headphones and listen.