Charles Eames on being an amateur

From the December 1961 issue of the Irregular Bulletin, Charles Eames on maintaining a non-specialist approach to art and design:

“Struggle to maintain an amateur standing. When you become too much of a professional in one area there is a tendency to reduce the problem to a formula. You’ve been over the road before and you know that a certain type of solution is apt to come up. But more dangerous than that, you know how difficult it is to do many things in that field and therefore as you become familiar with the field, you’ll avoid the things you were fool enough to do earlier. By cutting off the things you once were fool enough to do, you really cut down the scope and development of the whole approach. You lop off the indefinable outposts of your experiences Then the amount of creative initiative, love, unselfconscious devotion and application you give to a problem begins to be limited. The amateur has the advantage. He is uninhibited, unselfconscious. He doesn’t know enough to know that things can’t be done — and he does them. He can, of course, get himself into a spot — nervously, financially — and must fight it out. It is this kind of fight that produces something positive.

Art is part of the measure the degree to which a job has been done well. We must try to create a climate in which any job has a potential of being a work of art. Just doing the job well isn’t a measure of the artistry. To function at any job as a really competent specialist is not necessarily functioning as an artist. A specialist does any job according to the book, taking into consideration all the measurable factors. To the degree to which a man functions as a specialist, he is functioning in terms of problems that have been solved. Now the artistry normally comes when he carries this concern beyond measurable factors. The relationships that are made in such cases are never the result of chance but the attitude of the artist. To the degree to which he is functioning as an amateur (an inspired, concerned, and competent amateur) he can often put himself in a position of treating a problem conceptually where a specialist can’t. Any problem that hasn’t been solved before is solved by the amateur for there is no professional. And this is a point of high creativity, a traveling without rules because there are none.”

— (via)