A Conversation with Lorne M. Buchman

The ArtCenter College of Design president’s newly released book, Make to Know: From Spaces of Uncertainty to Creative Discovery, focuses on the transformative nature of the creative process while guiding readers through stories of artists, entrepreneurs, innovators, and designers. Here, the international art and design education leader explores the link between creativity and mental health.
Book: Make to Know

What inspired your book, Make to Know?

Throughout my life I have been aware that I come to know things through the act of making them—a process of discovery that is the premise of the book. Many artists and designers will tell you that their creative practice has less to do with manifesting a great vision and more to do with building the conditions for invention. When I got to ArtCenter, I recognized how critical the relationship of making and knowing is to the fundamental pedagogy of the college. It’s an applied learning that is profoundly effective [and] inspired me to study the make-to-know idea further.

Some people think they aren’t creative because they can’t draw or paint. How would you define what it is to be creative?

I would define being creative as having the courage to enter uncertainty and to begin a process of making that will lead to discovery. Anyone can be creative, but people need to be willing to experiment, iterate, and engage in the making. There is also an everyday creativity that is pertinent to us all. In the book, I explore how we are engaged in make-to-know processes all the time. We create everything from daily speech to our social and spiritual lives.

What is the link between mental health and creativity

Creativity can be a source of great joy and gratification; it is essential to our well-being. The relationship of creativity to mental health has everything to do with having the courage to brave new territory. Too often we are paralyzed by the undetermined. Growth in one’s job, relationships, intellectual life, and in the painting studio itself are one and the same—we need to be creatively engaged in a making process to reach any meaningful progress. We need to embrace the unknown. And as we do, we might experience the great thrill of invention and that will hopefully contribute to our mental health.

Lorne M. Buchman

How does having a creative outlet help with dealing with life’s emotional uncertainties?

Uncertainty is a stressful space, but it is also a deeply creative one. It’s not so much needing a creative outlet as it is learning how the making/knowing relationship operates in all facets of our lives. Artists teach us that to become unstuck we need to keep making, writing, painting, even if the work is lacking along the way. We need to take on our uncertain emotional lives similarly and open ourselves to a process of what making itself might bring. Can you write that book? Can you enter into that relationship? Can you take on that job? Do it and you will know.

Is it ever too late for someone to pursue a creative activity? Any advice?

It’s never too late. In fact, I would say that without creative work our lives will simply wither. Take a class through ArtCenter Extension. Build skill. Hone talent. But do so in a way that will give you greater courage to improvise, experiment, and iterate your way to something that will surprise you.