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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One Response to Inspiration: Three Things Ben learned in Barcelona

  1. […] since com­ing back from our Barcelona break, I’ve wanted to make some sort of pic­ture as a souven­ir of the trip. Rather than my nor­mal […]

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