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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