Monday, October 29, 2007

Pierced ears, Barbies & Marian Bantjes

Mornin' all -- I am cleaning my office today. Woohoo! For any of you who have seen my office, you realize what an amazing feat it will be to finally have it clean. I usually thrive in the chaos of my unclean (though remarkably organized) office, but recently people have been walking by and looking through my open door with terrified looks on their faces. So, I think it's time.... I thought today I would go through my notes, to-dos, and ideas from the last few conferences and events I have been to and somehow make sense of them all so they don't get lost in the clutter. In the last hour, I haven't gotten very far...

As a child, my room was always messy. The rule in my family was that we had to keep our rooms clean for six weeks before we could get our ears pierced (I have three sisters, so all of us went through this ordeal at some point during our 'tween years). Anyway, I would spend hours cleaning my room -- not because I was OCD or because I was a neat freak, but because I am easily distracted. I would start "cleaning" my Barbie dreamhouse, only to find that three hours later, I had made no progress on my room, but WOW! Barbie and Skipper sure had beautiful outfits and hair-dos!

In my adult life, I find the same thing happening during my everyday activities. I find things that distract me and pull me away from my main goal of a clean office, a clean house, a trip to the store, my morning workouts at the gym. I have realized that these "distractions" aren't always bad, and certainly my distraction today isn't: Marian Bantjes.

During her presentation during the AIGA: Next conference in Denver earlier this month, Marian spoke about "unexpected nextness" which she described as "unforseen events, chance encounters, unimagined, unarranged nextness." I took a million notes in my little notebook during that conference, but as Marian's story unfolded, I scribbled as fast as I ever have to get her amazing story down.

Marian talked about the artistic influences in her life, and about how along the way, she didn't even realize the impact of these influences. Had she selectively ignored certain influences? Was her past influencing her present or was her present influencing what she selected to remember from the past? Marian started her career in design as a typesetter for a publishing company after seeing an advertisement for "help needed" in a local coffeeshop. She was not classically trained as a designer, but interviewed for the job anyway, and got it. She worked in that job for several years, and then opened a design firm, and spent several years developing logos, identity systems, brochures, and direct mail collateral. She began to think about what she really loved to do, which was hand lettering and typography. Marian gave herself one year to do what she loved, and made no money. So, she took out a loan, kept working, and gave herself six months --

her design career took off.

Marian's story is as beautiful as her work. It's about risk and the unexpected nextness of life. She revealed to the audience that she is still worried about what's next for her as a designer. She is worried that her work will eventually lose it's uniqueness. She knows that she'll have to take another creative risk, not knowing how things will turn out. But, she also knows that her quest for "next" distracts her from the "now."

I have spent the last thirty minutes of my office-cleaning endeavor deciphering my scribbled handwriting to find a small bit of inspiration to get me back to work: at the end of her presentation (following some slides of her amazing work-see below), Marian advised, "We must find the balance between constructing our future and accepting that we cannot construct it." You never know what might be next for you, so live in the now and the next will follow.

Click images to enlarge -- amazing!


Ardean said...

Hi Erin,
Thanks for sharing great artwork/ideas. I love the "Release/Restraint" design/concept. It's something I struggle with constantly: to be released enough to be free-creative-receptive to anything, yet restrained enough to be able to communicate-capture-influence or otherwise engage other people who may not occupy the same mindspace I do.

Anonymous said...

Well said! In my creative experience, the magic happens where my creative freedom and personal expression match up with the consumer/client need. It doesn't always happen that way (in fact, in some places, it's rare), but when it does, I believe that's when a creative really feels satisfied.