...for design inspiration.
"Where did you get _________?!"
This is, hands down, the most asked question on our Instagram feed. I'd dare to say it's the most asked question on Instagram. I myself have asked in the past about a pillow or pair of shoes...until I realized why a lot of people wouldn't respond: they'd put in the work to find the unique item they were wearing or placing in their home, were proud to share it, but didn't want to give the source. For just a moment...they wanted that hard-sought after item to be theirs before it inevitably was copied and took off on the trend train.
We recently hired our first intern here at The Modern Caravan, and it was really interesting to hear what her professors at Savannah College of Art and Design, where she is majoring in interior design, say and teach about designing a space. The students are required to give images used for their research to the professors, like citing sources in a bibliography, keeping the aspiring designers accountable, which will in turn lead them to designing with integrity. Students are taught that entire spaces cannot be copied, even with subtle changes to tone or material: true designers come up with entirely unique, honest spaces. Perhaps a table from this image, or a rug similar to one in another image, but the spaces have to be true.
The program is tough and fair and students who can't be original are undoubtedly going to struggle to stay in the highly competitive world of design, just as it was when I attended school for interior design all those years ago (but didn't finish - I was terrified and changed my major at the end of my freshman year to English because it felt safer - ha!). The standout students were always those who came up with fresh, original ideas. Lauded and praised for true creativity and artistry, they were the ones to succeed and in my program, get through the round of cuts that took place after sophomore year.
We hear these stories all the time - it's one of the reasons I don't buy decor at big box stores or even places such as Urban Outfitters. On a regular basis, the work is a rip off of a rip off of a rip off. There's nothing real about it, and someone, somewhere - worked hard, was a true artist, put their work out into the world to share it (because that's a reason to make art), and was met with a bunch of assholes who said..."but I can do that just as good as him! I'll do it, and I'll be just as successful/famous/well-known/lauded and praised for my design/art/craft!"
But Kate! you say. It is your own fault for sharing your work. Keep it to yourself and no one will rip you off. OR, it's petty to worry about such things. It'll continue happening, especially when you're good. These have been said, amongst others, until I sit with other artists, those of us who do the true work, those of us who reflect inward to create outwardly. There is a difference between an artist and someone who imitates, and that is simple: there is creativity and honesty or there is a lack of faith in one's own ability to create and a shallow value (ex. fame).
Recently, I went through and unfollowed many Airstream renovation accounts as a measure to keep me in check. I don't even want to inadvertently copy someone else's design and work, because that's possible too...something we once saw can represent itself in our subconscious, manifesting itself in such a way that we truly believe we are the creator of a work of art. This is why we hear similar chord progressions in songs, so similar you can't tell which song you're listening to at first, at least not until the lyrics begin.
Instead, when I prepare to create, I draw from many places of inspiration. Most are vague, some are tactile, some concrete. I think about places I've been - perhaps the way the sun dips below a line of gently etched mountains and the sky and desert ground becomes ethereal and creamy. What can I pull from this? A feeling, certainly. How did the wind make me feel, how did it touch my skin? Where was I in my life? What can be taken of that and wrapped gently into a set of tones for a space?
I think on touch: how will the floor feel under bare and naked feet? What will the sound of it be? Will it have that subtle and soft tcttchh, tchttchh I love so much? Will it be smooth, or will it be subtle in variation, tiny raises that create that sort of sound and provide subtle dimension visually? What will the countertop feel like under my hand, and what will the lambswool be like against my cheek as I nap on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon?
And then I think about how people will behave in the space, whether it be me and my family or our clients. I observe the motions I can, such as how they move and walk. What is their kitchen dance? What do they do for work? I ask questions: where do you spend the most of your time? Do you enjoy readying for the day in the bathroom or the bedroom? I think about things that I cannot observe but are the things of life many people would rather not voice: what's a comfortable roominess when sick on a toilet? Will you hit your head during sex? When a couple is fighting, is there a place to go? For those of us with children, privacy to keep our most important relationship nurtured, both physically and emotionally?
It is surprisingly, to most, less about the elements. They are largely shaped by nature, strongly influenced by the persons the design is for. What do they wear? How do they speak? Are they soft, or do they have an edge? What are they drawn to? What are their favorite places, books, or films? Where are they from, and where are they going?