"It may not be necessary to recognize the architectural underpinnings of why things make us feel the way they do" ~ Rick Rubin
Have you seen the old movie “Throw Momma From the Train”? It’s great for many reasons. One scene I love is when Owen (Danny Devito), a grown man who lives with his not-so-kind Mom, shows his writing teacher (Billy Crystal) his coin collection. He pops out a floorboard and reaches inside the floor to pull out a bag of coins. My expectation was rare and precious coins. Nope. He says (paraphrasing), “This is the dime I got back in change when I got a hotdog at the Circus with my Dad. My Dad always let me keep the change. This quarter is from the time I…. “ If you found Owen’s coin collection, you might think, “Oh, $1.89” or whatever it was. But to Owen, it was memories and stories, and each one made him light up. It was just as valuable or more valuable than rare coins.
Things have the power to make us feel a certain way. There are no two ways about it. As a maker of "things," I find this concept intriguing. It may not be necessary to understand why, but it is essential to acknowledge and honor these feelings.
Even people who know me pretty well don’t know that I’ve got a collection of random things that I love. Some of them are coins, but all of them are things that evoke memories and me light up, like Owen does when he talks about his coin collection. When we moved, I marked the box with all of my favorite things with special stars and my name. I transported it in my car and not the moving van. You get the idea. Each one of these things, whether a ring, a coin, a book, or a handkerchief, are the things I respond to viscerally. Value has nothing to do with it. Whether they hold a deeper meaning or simply make me happy, they are important.
Whenever I purchase artwork, I make sure I feel that visceral response. The painting above, by my husband Clint Bova, makes my heart sing. It's called Wetland Lavender (oil on canvas, 16x20) The colors, the scene, that it was created by Clint... everything about it makes me happy.
In fact, anything I will live with for a chunk of my life needs to move me. In my interior design work, I show fabrics to my clients frequently. When I start working with a client, and it's time to show them textiles, I bring a wide variety. Not a lot, but things that are very different from each other. I can see their response in a second. The ones they pick up and touch are the ones that they respond to. I always include prints (of course I do!) because the style, colors, and overall feel of what a client responds to tells me a lot about how to direct the rest of the design. In most cases, they will say, "Find me things that go with this fabric (the one they most respond to), and I'll be happy."
In my work as a print designer, I'm going for the same response. I want my customers and clients to have a response to my designs that moves them to action, whether buying an art print, or inquiring about licensing for their product line. As Rick Rubin says, "It may not be necessary to understand the architectural underpinnings of why things make us feel the way they do", but it is important to recognize when you respond to something. Honoring that feeling and surrounding yourself with things that make you feel happy makes for a creative and joy-filled life.