Creative crafting

Ann Brysbaert (University of Leicester)

Our contemporary thinking about creativity is often immediately connected to the arts. One could argue that arts for arts’ sake is a big part of the process when creativity plays a major role in producing an end result which has no immediate utilitarian function in our day-to-day lives: a painting, a digital installation, a modern dance performance.

While opinions differ about the meaning and definition of ‘utilitarian’ in such specific contexts, this paper places creativity in the context of past technologies by discussing a series of materials that were the outcome, final or not, of several ‘creative acts’. In investigating materials and items from a range of different craft activities and practices, placed in the Late Bronze Age Aegean, I argue that artisans were not just executing upon elite’s demand, but that they were creative at every step of their production line and that, in some cases, they were also able to conceal it.

However, 21st century thinking about creativity influences clearly what we see and what we want to see in the material culture we study. A self-critical evaluation of the data presented aims to redress potential imbalances between past craft activities and present academic practices.