The Brooklyn Public Library is amazing. For those of you in the area or those of you planning a trip to New York City, if you’ve never been to the Central Library – GO! It’s a beautiful space and they do a lot to engage and involve the community. I recently read about an event that they were having around their current summer exhibition, Created in Brooklyn, in which the photographer, Randy Duchaine, has documented “ordinary people who do extraordinary things” in Brooklyn. As he pointed out, “My photographs represent a diversity of people in Brooklyn who make or create unique experiences. People come here to live their dreams, express themselves, start a business and contribute to society through their talents.”
On June 26th Duchaine chatted with some of the individuals who are featured in his exhibit and focus their lives around design crafts. I walked over to the library for the conversation, eager to see both the exhibit and listen to what these talented individuals had to say. The evening featured Avi Abel of Watermark Design, Eric Bunge of nARCHITECTS, and Tina Roth Eisenberg of swissmiss. All three of these designers are interesting in their own right, and they had many sweet nuggets of advice and reflection. Some of the highlights that stuck out for me:
You can’t be an expert if you are doing something for the first time. – Eric Bunge
I loved Eric’s point that experts are not made, but created through time. You can’t expect to be good at something automatically and to make it to the category of “expert” you have to be willing to work really hard, be patient and try things out.
Don’t complain about things. Make them better…People in cities need to start small communities of clusters again. – Tina Roth Eisenberg
Tina talked about the fact that her life rule is that if you find that you are continually complaining about something then you need to either do something about it or let it go. In my old job I found that I spent way too much of my daily life complaining and being upset about my work –as well as too many happy hours commiserating with co-workers. It became clear to me at one point that my complaining was doing no one any good – especially myself. Making the decision to leave my job wasn’t an easy one, but it needed to happen in order for my life to move forward in a productive and healthy way.
Likewise, I find that so many people in our country will complain about the state of things. We will go to the extent of posting videos on our Facebook pages or talking about how disgusted we are at a dinner party, but what are we doing to organize within our communities in order to try and make a change or a difference? There is extraordinary power in people who work together to create a change within their community – even in the smallest ways. These clusters don’t have to be around existing structures, either. I actually think creating community clusters around innovative and new ideas – like small business groups or creative lunches – can have an even greater impact because you are thinking outside of the framework that isn’t workimg and instead creating something new and positive. It can be daunting and overwhelming – especially when you feel as though no one is listening, but it is the small incremental steps that get a movement started. Which, one hopes, will ultimately shift our society to being more inclusive, community-based and open-minded.
I fell in love with making something tangible. – Avi Abel
If you deem yourself a creative person – and I would argue that every human is creative in some sense – then the building and making of something tangible should be an activity that we include in our lives on a regular basis. This could be as simple as baking a loaf of bread or as complicated as building a cabinet. The process of conceptualizing something and then creating it with your own two hands is very cathartic and calming. Even if you aren’t able to have a job that allows you to make something tangible, then try to include this in your non-work life. The practice of creating will bring out other wonderful things and you never know what it could lead to or help you discover about yourself.
I see my six year-old son’s drawings, and I have to un-learn a lot. – Eric Bunge
Eric’s comment made me think about the damage that too much schooling and time within a profession can do to a person. How do we return to the simple beauty of loving to draw, for example, without letting things like theory, money, success, and prosperity get in the way? I really appreciated hearing a successful architect state that he was inspired by his young son’s drawings. The fact that he was humble and self-reflective enough to see that he had become clouded in other things made me think about how we all are guilty of that. How do we know when to get out of our own way and return to the simplicity of what we love?
I consider my life my biggest design project. – Tina Roth Eisenberg
Amen. We should put into our lives as much as we do our projects at work. Whether or not you are a designer by trade, most people are familiar with a process that is used to tackle projects within their work environment. [One example of a process is highlighted in the image below]. If you are in a position of trying to figure out what it is that you want to be doing in your career, it is worth taking the time to stop and examine, understand, ideate, experiment and distill. I personally believe that the phases of ideate and experiment are most important and where we tend to fall short as adults within a working world. How do you ensure that you are taking time to brainstorm ALL the possible options in which you are interested and then test them out without letting fear and logic get in the way?
Anyone who is interested – there is one more event in the Created in Brooklyn: A Series of Conversations series, which features some of the individuals in Duchaine’s project. I highly recommend checking it out on July 17th, as it will feature creators within the art and music industries.
Created in Brooklyn by Randy Duchaine is showing in the Grand Lobby of the Central Brooklyn Public Library from June 13 – August 31, 2013. 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY.