An autoethnographic exploration of creative design practice: towards pedagogic implications.
De Beer, Christiaan Thomas Johannes.
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I have lectured Jewellery Design at a University of Technology in South Africa for nearly 30 years now. My teaching practice has gradually adjusted over the years to suit the changing needs of the industry, the university and the students. I have become aware of the need to make deliberate adjustments, because the changes happening around me are more complex than I realized, and I feel out of touch with my students. To gain a better understanding of my own creative practice and the intersection with my pedagogic practice, I have undertaken an autoethnographic exploration of my identity as creative artist and designer, and as university educator. I produce numerous objects during the creative design process and my office/studio is filled with these artefacts. It occurred to me that there might be meanings contained within these objects that could influence my creative and pedagogic practice. So I set out to analyse the things that line my office walls. The research questions that guided my research were: a) Which are my significant creative outputs/artefacts, and why do I consider them to be important? b) How does my self manifest in these significant creative outputs/artefacts? and c) What are the pedagogic implications of an enhanced awareness of self in creative practice? As an artist and creative designer, I often stage and participate in exhibitions. So I decided to analyse the objects that I produced for these exhibitions to see what I could find. I developed an autoethnographic self-interview method using denotative prompts and connotative responses, which enabled me to reveal an underlying network of connections that culminated and intersected within the objects. On analysing the significances, I was able to recognise aspects of my creative process and arrive at an understanding of creativity that allowed me to engage fruitfully with factors that could influence the development of creative ability. The elements I identified within my own creative practice, using the self-interview, related to the meandering nature of creativity, the role serendipity plays, and the extent to which I draw on personal experience as a source of inspiration. The primary original contribution of this thesis lies in the development, refinement and use of the autoethnographic self-interview. When I considered these insights in terms of my pedagogic practice I realised that I could pay more attention to the diversity of my students, to the heterogeneity that manifested in the classroom . I recognised that this approach could help me acknowledge the emergent nature of v creativity, particularly if I wanted to encourage my students to use their own personal experiences as a foundation for creative design. By inviting this personalised approach I would, of necessity, have to make them aware of the nature of serendipity, of the ‘happy accidents’ in daily life (and creative design), and the usefulness of this phenomenon when aiming for innovation, or in a better word, creativity.