Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Creativity Challenge #2: The Hunt & The Perfect Find

A box of Victorian monogram stencils at Brimfield
Inside the tent it is dim and still.  The canvas walls are hung with shallow shadow boxes in tight and tidy rows.  Inside each is a small storm of objects from arrow heads to lady’s pistols to campaign buttons with hairstyles that date the people in them to my great-great-grandparent’s era.  In a corner there is a tall shelf which is the current home of a handmade Eskimo doll who leans languidly against a bottle of Frigid Fluid Co.’s branded embalming fluid circa 1900.  The bottle is still full.

Across the tent, a man standing behind a table marks him as the booth’s owner.  He looks like he simultaneously stepped off his Harley and stepped away from conferring with J.E.B. Stuart over the Confederate’s next move in order to talk to customers.  He has recognized a previous patron, decked out in a stylish straw hat with a brim which would make the British proud.  He is telling her of his latest finds, the point of his salt-and-pepper beard moving up and down over his solar plexus as he speaks.  He has a voice full of gravel and as flavored with the West as his framed memorabilia.  Concluding business with the wide-brimmed hat, he wishes her the felicitous salutation of the day, “Happy hunting.”

The main street of the town of Brimfield during the show
I am at Brimfield, one of the largest antique shows in the country.  And I am hunting too.  Happily.  So is my boyfriend and our friend Cassy, who has taught us the ropes, being a long-time Brimfield veteran.  Tents filled with everything from fine antiques to collectibles and hidden treasures stretch the length of several (approximately ten) football fields.  Some booths are cluttered with odds and ends--old photos, books, random pieces of china, vintage toys--and as you explore your hands come away dusty.  Others are as pristine as a china shop, with linen covered tables displaying polished silver serving pieces, claw-footed curio cabinets, and full sets of Depression Era glass all vying for new owners while their prices break the hearts of many admirers.  If shopping is now a form of entertainment, then Brimfield is the Comi-Con of antique shows. 
A Brimfield booth filled with industrial items and index card cabinets
Brimfield is a feast for the eyes and a playground for the memory and imagination.  When I browse—stepping from tent to tent, my eyes adjusting from sunlight to shadow; hot, still air to warm, fan-blown breezes, to browse the wares—I enter a state of flow, quickly loosing track of time (and also often of my companions.)  The three of us have what we call in Creative Problem Solving “fuzzy goals” which means that we have an idea (and ideal) of what we are looking for, but are willing to be lead in new directions.  

At Brimfield, we return to an early form of shopping where exploration, perseverance, and even negotiating evoke the thrill of The Hunt.  It is a place where The Perfect Find—a combination of serendipity, memory/imagination, desire, and price—often feels like it finds you. What I like most about Brimfield and the variety of vendors and items is that The Perfect Find is often not a wallet-breaker, but something that speaks to you in that moment.  One of the items that Cassy scored yesterday was a team image of the 1982 Celtics that reminded her of the ones that use to hang on her family’s refrigerator door when she was younger.  It was a steal at $1.

A Brimfield booth specializing in film and photography
More than antiquing, this is a post about the places that we go to “hunt”—to shop, to browse, and to acquire.  We all have them.  For some, it is the local music store where you browse records and CDs.  For others it is the bookstore, where you disappear for hours, cappuccino in hand.  It is also the gift shop, the home décor store, or that sale rack in the back of the department store that you know just when to visit.  

These places are about more than just shopping, they contain several aspects that create the perfect frame of mind for creativity and embody the Creative Problem Solving Process:
·         You go on a whim or because you have a hunch
·         You are excited and open minded in your approach to the task
·         You have a “fuzzy goal” in mind, which leaves you room to explore alternative solutions  
·         You have to observe and try out all the options in the environment
·         You evaluate the items that have stood out
·         You make a decision and take action (purchase or not purchase)                       
We have these stores, shops or events like Brimfield in our lives because we need environments that we can explore in and mingle with others that share our passions.  Most importantly being on The Hunt consciously (or unconsciously) for The Perfect Find is about being open to unexpected solutions and serendipity (and a touch of happenstance, which I wrote about last week).

All of this is inspiration for the second Summer Creativity Challenge: The Hunt & The Perfect Find.  This week, plan an artist date (or at least an hour) to browse one of your favorite stores or shops.  This is a great time to revisit an old favorite shopping haunt or head into a store that is new to you.  Most importantly, there is no pressure or need to purchase anything for this challenge.  Browsing is a great way to enter a state of flow, which is refreshing for the creative process.  If you have something in mind that you do need to make a purchase for, this is a great time to be aware of the Creative Problem Solving steps and explore how being in an environment where you are comfortable exploring options (divergent thinking) makes you feel, verses an environment where you are focused on getting to a single solution (convergent thinking).  In this challenge, take the time to be aware of how the environment engages your senses. If you don’t have a current haunt in which to Hunt for The Perfect Find, you can use this challenge to remember a favorite place or find a new one.
With this as your touchpoint for this interpretive challenge, record your impressions, memories, explorations, or even the merchandise that you found most interesting in your sketchbook or notebook.  Please also share your thoughts, experiences and ideas here on The Paper Compass. 
Creepy Brimfield Baby Doll

Where else can you find a vintage polygraph machine?

Even the dummies at Brimfield are having a good time

Brimfield railroad glass pieces
All this exploring with the scent of fresh made donuts in the air

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