The Problem Solving of Art (and making)

Makers are problem solvers. Many folks who call themselves makers enjoy the process of learning something new, they enjoy figuring things out. Some makers even invent challenges or problems to keep their work interesting.

The Problem Solving of Art (and making)

Makers are problem solvers. Many folks who call themselves makers enjoy the process of learning something new, they enjoy figuring things out. Some makers even invent challenges or problems to keep their work interesting.

When we think of an capital A artist, it’s often in the context of a gallery or museum. We may think that the goal of the artist is the end product, a work to be shared to hopefully cause a feeling or reaction in the audience.

I’d like to explore this contrast. Obviously no creative person is all one thing or another. We may all have days or projects where we feel more like a maker or an artist. And of course, there are makers who love creating beautiful and interesting things that can even evoke emotions, and there are artists who love the challenge of figuring out just how to put materials together to bring their concept to reality. I am using these terms as shorthand to describe something that I think is present in the online maker community. That is, people who create things and share them online, and identify as a maker.

Imagine a woodworker building a cabinet. The cabinet serves a purpose. We use it to keep our stuff in. Along the way the woodworker must design the piece, choose wood species, decide the type of joinery, and the best tools to build the best cabinet within budget, time, and space constraints. In the end the cabinet becomes furniture, possibly even Fine Furniture. The craftsperson may not consider their work art. In 100 years, the work may end up in a museum as an example of the best of it’s style. Once the work is in a museum, many people would call the furniture art, and you probably wouldn’t be allowed to sit on it, or put your drink on it. Once it is in a gallery, and has a little plaque, it’s art.

Even if we decide that makers and artists have different goals, we may find out that the maker and the artist are the same person. Quite a few people I follow, find inspiring, and interact with in an online community such as Instagram even identify as maker/artist. It might say that in my profile, right now.

Many people in the online maker community are artists and makers. Maybe it depends on how they feel that day, or maybe one day they are creating a painting, and the next day building a robot or a chair.

So the basic idea, using these simplified terms, makers are more interested in the process, the problem solving, and the journey, the learning along the way. And perhaps those that identify more as artists are focusing more strongly on the end product, the message, and the feeling a work can produce. Generally makers are those who share the process, the learning, the mistakes, and the experiments along the way. Artists may choose to share a work when it is complete, and it has been said that many artists are protective of their techniques and processes that they believe make their work special and important.

Now that I have described the basic ideas, I am not sure it is important if you call yourself an artist or a maker. I am interested in exploring how everyone in some way enjoys problem solving, putting together a solution to a puzzle, using what they have learned, and the tools and resources they have available. These challenges excite the problem solving part of all human brains, and they are one of the things that makes life interesting. It’s why so many people embrace lifelong learning and growing their skills.

We’re all makers, and problem solvers, artists and puzzle masters.