You come to a point in your life when you transition from being a furniture maker to becoming a man or woman or child who actually designs something from scratch to create an image you formed in your mind. When I was 25 years old, 40 years ago, I started my own business working for myself as a furniture maker building custom built pieces I built in to the homes of my customers. It was successful because I found I could draw my designs in ways customers could see concepts they could really consider and relate to as options. I bridged the gap and became the designer-maker (before the term was used) realising my designs mattered, were often sparked by the work of others and that I would never stop designing and considering the design work of others. That was localised, non international and really quite limited.
Today I was reflecting on a spark. A spark that flashes across empty nothingness and a fire starts flickering in an otherwise dark place. Yellows and blues, greens, ambers and golds develop in tongues that rise in spires and suddenly a fire blazes and cannot be stopped. I remember designing two pieces for the Permanent Collection of the White House began like that. One requirement influenced my design that came from the White House. The designs were intended for the Cabinet Room, therefore they needed to be “formal”. That Autumn of 2008, when I submitted the designs, I thought that they wanted the designs only and never thought I would go on to make them in the wintertime the same year and on into 2009. A few weeks later I was standing in the Cabinet Room of the White House wondering how it was possible that my designs were now standing in front of me in one of the most prestigious furniture collections in the USA. Today I think I have an answer.
Every time I design something new I feel conscious that my mind is racing as if flicking the pages of a massive book of furniture images flashing one after another in fractions of a second though my mind. My thumb suddenly stops and I return a page or two and ope up the book to see what it was that piqued my interest and soon I find myself fleshing out an idea from what my eyes now rested on. The point is of course that we have all seen a design that actually belongs to another who was inspired by the design of another and so on ad infinitum. Am I saying all designs are copied. Well, the saying goes that “there is nothing new under the sun”, and to some degree I think that to be relatively true, but, no, I am not saying that we consciously copy the design work of another but that we are almost always inspired by the work of another. The work might come from nature itself or a physically made design a creative artist sketched and designed that started with one line that led to another and another and another on a blank sheet of white paper or a paper napkin in a noisy New Delhi cafe.
I wanted to share a distant relationship I so enjoy with an online magazine you might want to subscribe to if you like seeing some of the most diverse designs taking place from around the world. Dezeen is a world leader in showcasing the work of some of the most influential designers and architects from every corner around the world and at the same recognising those unknowns designing the unusual that inspires us to go back to the drawing board and start something totally brand new. Having followed the work of this industry provider I recognise just how much they’ve worked to become winners of numerous awards for journalism and publishing. I like the fact new designs in woodworking often feature in most of their daily posts and this is the element I want to get to. Design impacts every area of life and everyone needs inspiring to spark the genesis of any design. I often look at the designs of another and then feel driven to sketch a few lines at my bench and though I would never copy the work of another, the spark of another can ignite the fire in me and a new design is born.