Creative thinking workshop helps people with intellectual disabilities to express their creativity. Through the process of developing ideas and turning them into products that will be reproduced in a sheltered workshop and sold to customers the participants learn to generate ideas, transform them into objects, reflect on the results, ask questions and develop solutions to problems. It is more important to teach them the principle than to give direct references for fulfilling a single task. Understanding the principles is having flexible tools that work for varied problems and situations. This is the key to sustainable development.
In Germany there are places for people with intellectual disabilities that offer opportunities of work, education and social connection. The main goal of the sheltered workshop is to give participants capabilities for working life. However, they have to generate a minimal amount of profit because they are obliged by law to pay the participants according to their performance. They provide person-centered services such as customer service (e.g. catering or laundry), handiwork (e.g. packaging or dismantling) and producing and selling a huge variety of products.* The jobs are mostly completed by repeating actions, such as folding paper products or stamping a logo on a wooden surface. Those tasks have their place, of course. However, there is a gap that can be well filled - people who do those tasks may have fewer opportunities to express creativity.
Creativity does not go hand in hand with social or educational background. If an idea is good, it is good. In other words, creativity has a lower threshold. We don’t have to have the title of a doctor or be rich to be creative. Therefore creativity is the key that makes their work different and more competitive. So here comes the question: is it possible to let them take over the design job?
Material comes from immaterial. Teaching thinking would be more sustainable than only teaching technique. For example, if I teach my workshop participants throwing (pottery), then the result will probably be vessel of different sizes; if I teach them thinking, the result will be unpredictable. It will include new and endless possibilities, because every person thinks differently.
Design should not be a luxury enjoyed by a small group of people who are in rge financial, technological and cultural elite of each nation. As a tool to improve our development for better future design must include people who might have fewer ways to spread their voices and even have difficulty helping themselves.
I conceptualize the creative thinking workshop based on the concepts mentioned above. The workshop consists of two phases – development of ideas and implementing them. This workshop was first implemented in a sheltered workshop in Germany from 2016 to 2018.
In the first phase the main focus is creating and expressing ideas. There are methods provided that guide the following challenge step by step: to overcome fear by starting from zero (for example a blank paper), to strengthen the ability to associate and fantasize, to express ideas by choosing the right colors and forms, to connect the forms and function.
In the second phase the goal is to turn the product idea into reality. I choose ceramic as the main material. Why ceramic? Because working with clay requires lower threshold. For example, there is no cutting machine that could be dangerous for beginners. Due to its flexibility everyone can shape clay just with the hands. Therefore we learn to work with ceramic, express ideas through ceramic (there are defiantly differences between drawing patterns on paper and making patterns on ceramic surfaces) and develop a fluid worthwhile method of production.
Once the first prototype is done, we reflect on the result and pick up the points which need improvement. A well designed object means carefully dealing with every detail. The first prototype might look crude. But after improving the details the whole piece will look better. To every point to be improved we set up an experiment to find the best solutions. For example, the edge of a flower candle holder is not clean. Two workshop participants team up and list possible solutions. They come up with the idea of using a metal template to cut ceramic plates perfectly and easily.
The functional objects developed from the workshop must include reproducibility. So everyone working in the sheltered workshop can take part and produce the items. This ensures a source. By making the source stable the products will reach more people and more people will get to know about the issue of intellectual disability.
Based on the give-and-take principle the workshop participants give back to society. They can make the future better by sharing their creativity.