I discovered a new 8 episode documentary series on Netflix called Abstract and of course breezed right through it. It profiles designers from a number of different fields: illustration, athletic shoe design, architecture, interior design, stage design, graphic design, and more. I admit I skipped the episodes on interior design and stage design but I might go back and watch them because the rest of the series was so great. Each episode is part biography, part design philosophy, and part exploration of process.
I find shows like this really inspiring and (this sounds cheesy and overly optimistic) they give me hope that I’m headed somewhere where I can talk about my own body of work. Shows like this make me think, and boy do I like thinking about the big issues – am I an artist or a craftperson? What does it take to do each of those things and is one (artist) better than the other (crafter)? And perhaps most of all, shows like this help me give myself permission to find inspiration wherever I can.
Another show in this same vein is Art 21, a great series from PBS that profiles 3-4 artists per episode. They just finished airing season 8 I think, so I caught up on the latest episodes of this show as well via the PBS app on my AppleTV, but episodes are available to watch online as well. I particularly enjoyed the Vancouver episode since each of the artists profiled have a deep connection with the natural world. Art 21 usually shows artist workspaces, too, and pieces in progress and/or the artists at work; I love how gloriously messy most of the working spaces get. The ones that aren’t messy are fascinating also – systems of organization are fun (to me, anyway).
Another great PBS series is Craft in America, also available from the PBS app and online. Craft in America has a slightly different feel from Art 21, which seems to focus more on high art, arty art. Craft in America focuses on craft, some outsider art, and I guess, generally more accessible art. The Threads episode “explores the needle arts, including storytelling through quilts and textiles that speak to the creativity of the human spirit.” I highly, highly recommend watching this episode if you’re into fiber arts or textiles. Each episode of Craft In America is themed, but not necessarily based on the type of craft, like the Threads episode; the very first episode looks at the history of craft in America, but they also tackle bigger questions, like the role of craft in community, using craft to effect social change, the impact of culture and technology on craft. I really really love this series.