"It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law."
I first encountered this quote in my History of Architecture class at Williams College. Though a physics major, my art and architecture history courses had a profound affect on me. Fast forward to spinning 30 years later: one day this quote popped back into my brain.
The biggest impediment to creativity is the impression that you must "do something" with your creation. This attitude reflects the unfair dismissal of fiber and yarn as art. To be sure, Fiber Art is a bona fide major in prestigious art colleges, but to the general population, it is still...just...yarn.
Why should this be? Other basic materials are widely accepted as art: marble can be a both a countertop and a sculpture; glass a pane and a lampwork bead or a Tiffany window. Yet a spinner creates a textured, colorful, original yarn and the first question is, "But what can you DO with it?" Just as a beautiful handblown glass bead can be part of a bracelet, almost any "art yarn", or as I prefer, "creative spinning", can be incorporated into a wearable piece. But like that glass bead, it also stands on its own as art. It can be beautifully displayed on a wall, in a bowl, around a neck. It can be admired for its beauty, studied for its clever technique.
Now back to Louis Sullivan and his quote. "Form (ever) follows function" seems to mean that the "construct" of something will be, by definition, the embodiment of its function. Before referring to the ideal architecture of a tall office building, Sullivan writes, "the heart is ever gladdened by the beauty, the exquisite spontaneity, with which life seeks and takes on its forms in an accord perfectly responsive to its needs. It seems ever as though the life and the form were absolutely one and inseparable, so adequate is the sense of fulfillment."
Though written in late 19th century prose, Sullivan's ideas on form and function resonate today with regard to creative spinning. I used to say of my spinning, "the yarn will find the project", and I would wait until the right pattern came along. This could embody the idea of "form follows function" in that the lofty yarn fits the shawl pattern, the tight plied yarn fits the sock pattern, the big chunky yarn will function in the hat pattern. However as my creative spinning, knowledge of technique, and artistic exploration have grown I now interpret it quite differently; that the yarn is indeed the final "project", that its function is to be art and beauty. And thus is its form.