Thursday, October 23, 2014

My ride on the shit slide ... or ... When I get to the bottom I really need to find a new playground

For four thousand two hundred and seventy nine reasons ... approximately, I have been thinking about craft and what makes design compelling.  Some of you are going to jump immediately to the conclusion that this is about art.  Fine.  Have it your way.  It can be about art too, but for me it's really about transcending the banal.  So I guess it doesn't really matter if you believe Art is a window washer in Milwaukee, or so very important that there should be no applause because it interrupts the concentration of the ARTIST.  Feel free to clap for me any time the urge strikes.  I truly need all the applause I can get.  Not that that's ever happened.  I mean, that would just be weird.  Yeah.  I seem to have strayed from my point....again.

Anyway, I believe there can be no art or compelling craft without technique.  So for the purposes of this conversation, I am going to assume a certain degree of technical mastery.  ( I kill myself.  "conversation".  That's a good one.  It's a monologue at best and probably will go essentially unread.) 

There is something that separates ordinary ideas from ideas that make us see a thing in a new way. This is what I have been thinking about.  What is it besides elusive.  How do I grasp it?   Can I define it for myself so that my work gets better?  Unfortunately using the advantage of the critic, I can see where others have missed opportunities to rise above the ordinary.   It is, however, not so easy to critique my own work especially as I am doing it.   In case you were wondering, this is a gigantic bummer. 

There are designers that I admire.  Phillip Stark has the ability to manipulate the elements of design in a magical way.  So in spite of the fact that he is so incredibly French, I really enjoy looking at his designs.  Not all of them though, because clearly there is pressure to produce and inspiration can't always keep up. 

As usual I am going to digress here.  I could give you multiple links to explain to various degrees the elements of design.  There are some number of them.  Ya know, ten, seven, six.  I don't know.   So I will give you my short explanation of what I remember and then we can count how many I come up with.  
LINE - that just seems straight forward enough.  Straight or squiggly, clean or dirty.  That sort of thing. 
SHAPE - again that doesn't seem to complicated.  Round or square, skinny or rotund. 
COLOR - I mostly use black, but sometimes white or yellow. 
TEXTURE - smooth or lumpy.  I don't know.  Hammer marks or no hammer marks. 
SCALE - size.  This can create some good comedy. 

Those are the ones that come to mind for me.  The Getty has this which makes it all complicated and painful, but they are experts so maybe you should look there. 

Back to Phillip Stark.  When I first became aware of his work what struck me was how he manipulated line, shape and scale to make an ordinary object visible in an altogether new way.  I saw the objects for the first time and experienced them as a child would. 
So this
Became this

And this

Became this

Simple.  No?


If I haven't lost you yet, and I suspect I have which means I can say anything I want here because I am talking to myself.  Like this ... sometimes I don't wear underwear when I go to the gym.

Anyway, what I was about to say is that this is not simple.  I have been watching Project Runway.  Which is mostly goofy, but seeing the designers struggle with the artificial  constraints of the show is enlightening. I can see how easily they retreat to their comfort zone when stumped.  The judge's critiques are .... uh .... not really helpful from a design perspective but perhaps useful for understanding how people see and react to what they see.  Yeah,  I don't know what that means either.  What I'm saying is "I don't like it" is not a useful critique.  I think in order for a designer to grow they need to know why it didn't work.  Not just that it didn't.  Also it's important to find a way to step beyond the comfort zone. This applies to everything.  I don't like FOX News or MSNBC because they never stray from their comfort zones.  I no longer care if they are right or wrong because they spend all their time telling me what I think rather than telling me what they think and making me think about their ideas in a new way.  In case you were wondering, that wasn't really another digression.  But I'm going to let you figure out why not. 

So I guess what I am trying to say is,  my challenge is to find a way not to retreat to my comfort zone.  I need to find a way to bring out a childlike sense of wonder in others while still making things that function properly.    

This is a recent attempt.  If you have gotten this far, please tell me what you think.

A typical brass candlestick
Forged iron candle holder -- i11451
My candlestick
See how I did that.  I made mine big.
Now, back to work

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