When I was in Coolidge Elementary in San Gabriel, Calif., the mother of my fellow student David came to our class to teach art. I’m pretty sure I never called her “Mrs.” anything, just “David’s mom,” and I have no idea what his last name is, it being first grade or so at the time. (I’ve never been particularly good at names.) David’s mom taught us the color wheel for the very first time, and how to draw a horse. I remember loving the way colors turned into other colors—and eventually brown, because patience in learning the next step rather than just mixing everything together was never my virtue. I also recall being frustrated because I couldn’t draw an acceptable horse. She always said art was art, and it didn’t matter that my horse came out looking more like a puddle with legs. Nevertheless, I was upset because mine didn’t come out as well as my classmates’, nor did it resemble what a perfect drawing of a horse looked like in my head. (You now know pretty much all there is to know about my personality just from this paragraph.)
Interviewing artist Shantell Martin for this month’s Profile (page 60) brought me back to first grade, particularly when she stated that during conferences she asks adults if they can draw. Typically, she said, only 10 or 20 people raise their hands. “And I’ll say, ‘For those of you who did not put your hands up, how can you not do something as an adult that you could do as a two year old, as a three year old, as a four year old, as a five year old, maybe even as a six, seven, eight, nine year old? Of course you can draw, but somewhere along the way you learned that you can’t and someone else can.’”
I have had the honor of interviewing many wonderfully talented people over the last two years, and something about every conversation sticks with me, but I think my 20-minute chat with Martin lodged itself in me a bit more. Why is it that I haven’t attempted to draw a horse since I was seven? When I work with kids, I tell them there’s no wrong way to create art, and I’ve been known to frame and hang artwork by the children in my life. When I receive these pieces, they often come with notes from the artists’ parents that say things like, “She says it’s a cowboy bunny riding a cow. Maybe you can see it.” However, when it comes to myself, I hide most of my artwork. Probably because I compare my work with what came before and can’t bring myself to see the lines as an entity of themselves—not a comparison.
I love our Art + Fashion issue. Not just because it’s a vibrant mix of aesthetically pleasing designs, but because it reminds us that, as designers, everything starts with a line—those same lines you probably had to fill pages with to demonstrate an understanding of pencil
weights in college. What designers do is art in 3D that will be used, worked in, maybe switched around from time to time, and, ultimately, destroyed. We can see a mess of lines and colors and visualize what can be. (Although, if anyone can point out to me where the bunny is in the drawing on my wall, I’d be most appreciative.)
Not to make light of the devastation that was left behind in the wake of Harvey and Irma, but the response we here at i+s have seen from members of this community speaks to this ability to turn straw into gold. Immediately following Harvey’s landfall, we reached out to those we know in the design field who are in the affected areas to find out how they are doing and what we can do to help. Rebecca and Rachel Boenigk of Neutral Posture and Lindsey Nisbet of EarthWerks wrote back describing the ways in which their local communities were left reeling, but both companies have stepped up to ensure that those affected can move forward. (For more information, please see our website, interiorsandsources.com.) Local chapters of ASID, IIDA, and AIA have noted specific ways in which architects and designers can help rebuild (Noteworthy, page 14). There is a lot of work to be done, and many are still stranded, but my hope is that rather than seeing ruin, we will see means of creating.