Guess what guys. It’s summer assignment time again! Can you tell how psyched I am? I know, my excitement is contagious. However, on a serious note, this assignment is helping me to change the way I see life in a small but effective way.
I recently had the great honour of spending some one-on- one time with a textile professor from England who teaches at the London College of Fashion. At the time I was thinking about changing fashion schools and desperately needed some sound advice in order to make an informed decision but what I got instead was way more valuable. I told her about my current assignment and she seemed surprised that I had not started it yet. I explained that I just came out of a very stressful first year and I was fully aware of the assignment at hand but I was returning to New York early to start it. I just wanted to relax and release the poison of stress that was boiling in my blood. She said, yes, that is understandable, but as a designer you never stop researching even if you do not have a specific project. I know that sounds obvious but it was an aha moment for me. Yes, I was engaging creatively through my jewelry. However, I was more so improving my skill set, rather than fully engaging my mind in a constant creative journey. She showed pictures of random things she photographed with her cell phone. They were quite eye opening and immediately felt a spark of inspiration. She joked about how her family and other people think she is mad because she is always taking pictures of the most banal things but when she shows them the pictures, they often do a double take and realise the beauty in it. She encouraged me to do the same, that way when I need inspiration it is already there and I do not have to search to the ends of the earth to find it.
I based my assignment on the New York subway. I have this weird fascination with the subway system. I see it as a micro terrestrial airplane…if that makes any sense. Ok, it does not but my point is that subways can tell you a lot about the culture and demographics of a city if you pay close attention. Driven by this fascination I took several subway trips across New York in the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan to photograph the subway lines, stations, surrounding neighbourhoods and infrastructure. I was armed and ready with my metro card and cell phone. Once I got started taking pictures, I could not stop. With each shot I continued to be amazed at the design intricacy of the rail ways, the suspension bridges, the textures created by rusting galvanize and barbed wire fences and I could go on. People thought I was crazy and I did feel very self conscious. I could just imagine how shady I looked. To be fair, if I saw some random person stalking the subway station, taking cell phone pictures with every step I would be little wary of them. For those times I wished I had a camera so I looked like a legit photographer and not some weird stalker. Apart from my inhibitions, I managed to gather tons of amazing shots which are a pain to edit now.
I finally understood what the professor was telling me about being a designer. It is about seeing the beauty in the banalities of life and helping others appreciate them through our work. So today I encourage you, rather than take a selfie, take some pictures of your surrounding and really look at them and appreciate them. You will be amazed at what you find and you never know, you might ignite the latent designer or photographer spark in you.