As you know, it’s Inspiration Month here at UnArt. But it’s also ‘last chance to get away’ month, which Misha and I celebrated with a short budget break to the city of Barcelona. There’s nothing like getting away from one’s normal environs to get creativity flowing, so I’d like to talk about three things I learned in Barcelona.
Thing the First: Art and Oddness can be Popular
Barcelona is a city that lives and breathes art; artists like Picasso, Miro and –of course– Gaudi have lived and worked there, and the city is rightly proud of its artistic heritage. This means that art and architecture have become kind of mainstream here – not something distant and appreciated only by elites. This despite some of the art being quite odd; it’s hard to imagine many cities embracing Roy Lichtenstein’s Cara de Barcelona (right) for example.
One of the things about doing one’s hobbies as a business, however small, is that you need to at least bear in mind the question “will anyone else like it?”
It’s easy to design or make things that appeal to ourselves, and that’s great, but if you want other people to buy it, well, they kind of have to like it. This isn’t always easy to judge, but what I’m beginning to realise is that people have quite an appetite for oddness. For example, at our recent craft faire, the best-sellers were cephalopod-based Christmas cards. If you’d asked me to predict the market for cephalopod-based Christmas cards I would have said ‘just me’ but it looks like I was wrong.
Thing the Second: Getting Lost Can Be Fun
We got lost quite a lot. Barcelona is a city of narrow streets, especially in the Gothic Quarter where we were staying. Unlike the UK, these tiny back streets hold shops and communities rather than rubbish bins and criminals, but come 9 o’clock most of the shops disappear behind steel shutters, and the streets, while still very safe and busy, look completely different.
So yeah, a fair amount of not being entirely sure where we where took place. And it didn’t really matter, because every so often you’d just find stuff – a cool cafe, a beautiful square, the back of a medieval church, a hidden statue.
Some of our fondest memories of Barcelona are of wandering at random, and seeing what adventure lay around the corner. It’s something –the willingness not to have a specific destination– that I want to incorporate into my art.
Thing the Third: Sometimes it’s OK to think Big
We visited the most famous building in the city; Antoni Gaudi’s magnificent Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (right). This building was started in 1883 and will be finished, with luck, in 2026 – one hundred years after the death of its architect.
That, dear readers, is serious thinking big.
Gaudi knew he wouldn’t see it finished, knew that construction would be troublesome, and knew that his design would be controversial. (In fact, construction was meant to take hundreds of years – the advance of technology has brought the completion date forward). He didn’t let any of that stuff put him off. He worked on it until he died in a tram accident, and then was buried in its crypt.
It’s always tempting to focus on ‘quick wins’ and practical and sensible ideas. Now, I’m not going to go and build a massive cathedral in our back garden – that would play havoc with our vegetable patch, and besides, I’m no Gaudi. But the lesson I take from him is not to dismiss the impractical, time consuming and difficult too quickly.
Also, be very careful around trams.
(You can see more of our holiday snaps – including the blurry and under-exposed ones – on our Flickr feed.)
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