Exploring Creative Development with the Muse of Constantin Brancusi





“Simplicity is not a goal in art, but one arrives at simplicity in spite of oneself by approaching the real sense of things.” 


Constantin Brancusi


     I was never discouraged or encouraged in art.  On rainy days or long summer vacations my sister and I always took to coloring or making paintings using art kits.  I can remember feeling that nothing I ever did produced great satisfaction for me or made me think I was particularly “gifted” in the area of art.  My local school had no formal art program.  What they did have were some wonderfully talented artists that were assigned to all elementary schools and stretched to their limits by visiting every elementary classroom in the 10,000-student district once a year.  They were meant to be “inspirational” to all those students.  What they really turned into was a traveling sideshow.

   Since preparation in my childhood was non-existent I felt a little apprehensive at the onset of this course.  Although I haven’t personally taken part in the artistic endeavors, I have always surrounded myself with artistic, creative people.  A guitar player/guitar maker, choreographer/ballet company owner, ceramic artist, theatre professor, poet, and sculptor:  these are the people I see and enjoy being with during my non-teaching time.  As I started this course I looked to them for inspiration and to understand the practical aspects of creating.  They were my muses, my guides and my counselors.  They taught me the “how to’s” of the creative process.


“Brancusi’s parents, Nicolas and Maria Brancusi, were poor country folk, and, like other village children of that time, Constantin did not go to school.”


In education today, there are always those buzz phrases such as, “Every child can learn.” and “We need to create success for every student.”  These are great slogans, but they ignore the fact that every child comes to school with a different situation and life.  The students in my school frequently don’t get to eat breakfast. They are so concerned with what will happen after school that they are unable to focus on school when they are present.  Yet, I have found that art is the great equalizer.  All of my students have been able to be successful and fully appreciate their creations.  I give them an idea and then they take it and make it into their reality.  I give them some elements and they create their own image and piece from within their experiences and feelings.  It reaches them in ways no other subject is able to touch them.  Art has been what joins the subjects together in an evocative way.  They beg to get into my classroom early when their current project isn’t finished. 

    I have realized that many great artists have come from impoverished backgrounds and that children’s resiliency shines when they are given work that is meaningful to them and bonds their feelings and interests in a way that makes the lofty goals of education accessible to them.



“And he himself maintained his tastes, his carriage, and his way of life the mark of his country origins: simplicity, good sense, love of nature, and a side to his character that was at once both childlike and crafty.”


     As I left the first weekend, I had some thoughts in my head for upcoming assignments.  I knew to call my resource people right away and start asking questions.  Everyone in our group is so creative and talented that I always think that I’ll try my best to also use them as a source of inspiration and guidance.  I felt drawn to three-dimensional art. The molding, shaping and process of creating pieces that I could physically shape was exciting to me.  The sketches came quickly as I explored the shapes of the world around me.  My students were also an inspiration.  Their work made me think that I needed to return to the roots of childhood and forget about the “end product” and enjoy the process of making and creating.


“Above all, Brancusi loved carving itself, which required, he said, “a confrontation without mercy between artist and his materials.’”


      I called Garret three times for guidance on the molding process.  To realize that Saran wrap and other mundane products went into his art pieces make me re-think the process of making my clay and plaster creations.  I started to experiment with different tools in the process and finally decided to use a baseball bat to create my ceramic pots.  The process was turning out to be FUN as well as insightful.




“First he went to Munich, were he stayed until spring of 1904, and then he decided to go to Paris, a costly trip for one of modest means. He made the greater part of the trip on food, with his on his back, and still had to sell his watch to pay for a boat crossing on Lake Constance. He arrived in Paris in July.”


     Everyone wants to be good at what they do.  Great artists are revered for their talent and authentic creativity.  In our society, children are encouraged to think of everything as a contest:  to see who is best, to be compared to others for talent, skill, and ability.  We

emphasize product so much that people who don’t “win” don’t feel talented and creative. They give up and say, “Since I don’t have the natural ability, why bother?”  To a certain degree, this is the path I’d taken with the visual arts.  I didn’t try because I’d received an honorable mention in an art contest in second grade. Once I let go of these inhibitions, I really started to enjoy the act of creating.  I enjoyed it in and of itself.




“With spirit that was still quite classical but showing great energy, his first works were influenced by the sinewy work of Rodin. In order to get away from that influence, Brancusi refused to enter Rodin’s workshop, for he said, ‘one can do nothing beneath great trees.’”


Encyclopedia article from Britannica.com


     After my third call to Garret to clarify the procedures in casting, he said to me, “Heather, just start experimenting with it.”  In my classroom, I was allowing the first graders to start, re-start, scrap, and change their projects, but I wasn’t allowing myself the same freedom.  After I took this advice I was able to get down to the creating at hand.  It freed me to explore and throw away as needed.  It brought the child-like experimentation and exuberance to my work.



“His shipments from France involved him in a two-year court case with U.S. Customs officials, because a work in copper, “Bird in Space,” was so abstract that officials refused to believe it was sculpture: Brancusi was accused of clandestinely introducing an industrial part into the United States.”


Encyclopedia article from Britannica.com


Verification, Evaluation


“At the end of the 1910’s he would place groups of sculptures in close spatial relationship, creating within his studio integral ensembles that he called ’mobile groups’, this indicating the importance of the empty space between them. It was the 1920’s, through the many photographs that he took of his sculptures, that Brancusi came to realize the importance of this relationship, to the point that he came to see the studio as a place of essential importance for the presentation and comprehension of his work.”


Taken from http://cpug.org/user/stefan/brancus.html


     After going home to change due to plaster being on every surface of my dress, making and destroying moulds, finding final “keeper” projects, I found a true love of the process.   People walked through my classroom everyday and often looked to see how my work was going.  Two people said they loved the pieces and wanted to take them home. 

For me, this was an amazing event.  People actually wanted and were interested in the pieces I was making!  What a wonderful way to end the experience.  I hope to take this trust throughout the Lesley program and enjoy the moment and trust it will coalesce into full meaning later.  I want to use the lessons about experimenting to make sure my students have time during their activities to utilize creative processes without feeling rushed.

     Constantly evolving, changing and experimenting.  Drawing on the expertise of those around you.  Feeling comfortable in your own creative skin and design freely.  Sharing yourself as an example of the processes with your students. Sharing and taking from creative people in the Lesley program.  Incorporating, visualizing and discovering that teaching are more than the sum of the varied curricula.  Understanding that teaching means giving your visions and inspirations to others to let them create their own.


“I give you pure joy.”

Constantin Brancusi




By Heather Craggs