This paper reports on aspects of the author’s current ethnographic study of creativity in art and design education. The study examines the transactions between students and their teachers as students make temporal and graphic works using digital and photographic media in their final year of schooling. These works are publicly assessed in the high stakes NSW Higher School Certificate matriculation examination. Following Pierre Bourdieu’s theories of the habitus, symbolic capital and misrecognition, the study mounts a challenge to more conventional theories of creativity as, for instance, the result of genius or creative process. It argues that the micro-history and peculiarities of the cultural context as well as the linguistic exchanges between teachers and students at moments of creative origination are highly significant to concepts of creativity. It asserts that in the exchanges of symbolic capital between teachers and their students, differing levels of social tact, expressed in open secretiveness, euphemisation and denial are a necessity in efficacious exchanges. The paper provides a brief account of the design and methods. Results are retrieved from observations and interviews, augmented by visual means, using a form of semantic analysis and triangulation. An interpretation of selected results is provided. The paper concludes by questioning the extent to which creativity can be ‘taught’ and learned’ as if it were reducible to the delivery of a set of axiomatic propositions. Rather it proposes that the subtle social reasoning transacted in the context with all of its trust and riskiness is the most likely guarantee of shoring up creative outcomes. The findings have an application beyond the case and should be of interest to tertiary art and design educators.