Functional Fantasy

Like the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, Wendell Castle creates functional objects imbued with elements of fantasy in a way that so few artists have been successful. He has combined these elements into a practice that isn’t purely theatrical or cliché. He belongs to the legion of artists like Salvador Dali who have pushed these ideas into the dialogue about art and culture. At the base of this project is a real world experience that transcends the mundane and teaches us how the impractical can move us forward.

In 1996, Castle published “10 Adopted Rules of Thumb,” a guide to creativity that he has adapted and made his own, stemming from years of art making experience. Number 7 of his original Adopted Rules of Thumb states “If it’s offbeat or surprising it’s probably useful.”

The rules hang in Wendell Castle’s studio.

Since my studio visit with Wendell in October, the Dec/Jan issue of American Craft published Wendell Castle’s New Rules for Creativity.

Wendell Castle’s New Adopted Rules of Thumb

  1. Distrust what comes easily.
  2. You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.
  3. Bring conflicting attitudes to bear on the same problem.
  4. We should never know for whom you’re designing.
  5. Always listen to the voice of eccentricity.
  6. The whole secret to designing a chair is applying the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair.
  7. The problem with taking life in your own hands is you have no one else to blame.
  8. If your mind is not baffled, your mind is not fully employed.
  9. Imagination, not reason, creates what is novel.
  10. Jumping to conclusions is not exercise.
  11. Keep knocking- eventually someone will look down to see who’s there.


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