A case for the one-off: Improvisation, innovation and the rise of the specialist?

Sheila Kohring (University of Cambridge)

Humans are continually creative – we adapt and change our habituated practices to cater to all sorts of physical, environmental and social contexts. There is a line, however, between innovation and improvisation within the confines of creativity (see Hallam and Ingold 2007). This paper explores the gradation between innovation and improvisation in regards to pottery production and what it might suggest about the emergence of specialised producers within communities. As skill and the time devoted to production increases, improvisation may creatively expand technological repertoires, but this does not necessarily lead to or imply innovation. Innovation, must be socially embedded and the impetus may be exterior to production systems. As an example, this paper will focus on 3rd/2nd millennia BC pottery practices in western Iberia with a special interest in one-off styles, forms and technical practices and what this might tell us about changes in productive relationships at this time.