By Jeff Yourison
Creating and making, while apparently similar, nevertheless remain distinct. The interplay between the two, however, proves fascinating. One might think of creating as the larger, envisioning concept, and making as a means toward the realization of that creative idea.
God is the original Creator. Being the great “I AM,” God’s big idea of our universe was spoken into material and spiritual reality, a God-directed making of all that we see around us — the grand context of our experience in life and in community. In God’s role as Creator, we see in the Bible that he also forms, makes, sets, and places—all making verbs.
As people made in God’s image, who reflect—or perhaps refract?—God’s creativity in ways unique to each of us, we get to create as well.
We create when we envision something new, something needed for the moment, something beautiful, something deriving from how God has made us. We also create when we heed the call to respond to the world around us. This response can be in the presence of beauty, in the midst of cultural clashes which highlight our fallen condition, in having fun or playing with a curious “imponderable,” or in wondrous awe and celebration of our hope in Jesus Christ. Artists create for any number of reasons.
We make in order to bring these creative responses into being. Making is the practical movement toward fulfilling the creative impulse. And so our making also creates culture, not merely stand-alone projects. As Andy Crouch notes in Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, “Culture is what we make of the world. . . . God, of course, begins with nothing, whereas we begin with something. But the difference is not as great as you think. For every act of creation involves bringing something in being that was not there before . . .”
Examples of creating might include composing a symphony, imagining an interactive installation which explores the pain of racial tension, working out a painting that responds to a health or social issue, joining artists in partnerships interconnecting various media to explore a theme together, or imagining the perfect picture frame to support and promote the components contained within the image.
Examples of making for the above creative ideas might include developing the score for the symphony (and even constructing a violin for the musician who will play it), or building the interactive installation using wood, photographs, electronics, and light. For the picture frame, making could include selecting the wood, determining the design and layout, then milling the wood and carving flourishes or setting an inlay.
Just as fascinating as the interplay between creating and making is the relationship between creators and makers themselves. Think, for example, of the one who builds the violin for the musician, or the one who turns and properly weights the baton for the conductor. The musician, the conductor, and the luthier all must master their materials and motor skills, engaging the artistic message of the composer to produce the desired effect. All must work their best skills in their making. All possess their own creative visions to assert, flex, and yield to the composer’s creation in order to inspire the audience.
Yet one more layer of interplay occurs between creating and making—on the level of materials and tools. Each artist uses tools and materials which have resulted from others’ creating and making. The luthier employs techniques and tools created over the years by craftsmen who loved music as well, and who loved their own art of creating and designing woodworking tools. The conductor’s baton base is turned on a lathe created and built for that precise job, using wood that was milled, seasoned and selected by a person who loves that precise sort of work and its result, carefully weighting the baton to fit each conductor. Even the tools and materials for making our art are created and made by those who love a particular part of the artistic process. And so on down the line.
So we’re all engaged in creating and making in a fantastic interplay with one another, benefiting from the many artists and artisans who have gone before us, in hopes that those who follow us may find our creations beneficial. None is superior, and none is dispensable. We create and make according to our unique reflection of God’s image, using our minds, hearts and skills to bring about a creative end.
Jeff Yourison lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife, Judy. He serves university students and faculty with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship through creative outreach in digital spaces, and he enjoys working with wood. Photographs for this post are courtesy of Scott Wilson.