Look, I’ll be the first to admit that my job title has more slashes than an episode of Vikings. And over my time I’ve had plenty-a-comment that I should work on that. Pick one. Narrow my focus. Be someone. The old jack-of-all-trades syndrome beware.
And then I go and have a little think about people like Alexander Girard. My official most favourite designer. All encompassing of the titles architect, furniture; textile; and interior designer, childrens book author et al. Basically a getting shit done(erer). The international symbol that sometimes you CAN be everything to everyone.
Last weeks' theme seemed to represent Who Am I for a lot of people in my life. Everyone I spoke to was assessing their current position and/or self and where they should go next in their career.
I love this.
The most poignant commonality was that everyone seemed slightly (if not extremely) disappointed; fearful; regretful; with their changes or choices in career direction.
I hate this.
Every new class or workshop I’ve ever taught I start with the sentiment that there is a place for everyone in the design industry, and even more importantly that the place you make for yourself and what you have to offer is a combination of all the years of skills and experiences you have that help make you unique. Design is best approached from many angles.
Now I’m no Tony Robbins, but I am really pumped about making sure people realise their potential. And by realise I mean actualise, not just know.
So let’s all get pumped like Tony about Girard and be inspired. And by inspired I mean feel motivated to be yourselves.
The dolls that kicked off my post he originally designed and made for his own home in Sante Fe in 1963. Inspired from travelling and collecting, they are parts of motifs, patterns and shapes from Latin American folk art. He travelled, he used his inspirations, he made crafts for his own personal use and had fun at home. You can do that. Keywords: he didn't invent dolls, he made dolls that he wanted for display in his own home.
And now Vitra have the reproduction rights and they are a hot-ticket item at Space and Living Edge and the basis for most of the exhibitions about him. They are what comes up second after his name when you google him. I bet he didn’t plan that. I pretty much bet everything he didn’t think about his insta following before he did anything. He just did it. And well before Nike told him to, too.
From 1907-1993: He was an architect. He was a colour consultant for General Motors. His mate Charles Eames hired him as the Director of Fabric Division for Herman Miller. He designed tableware for Georg Jensen. He designed interiors for hotels and restaurants and houses and showrooms. He was a graphic designer. He made films. He curated art and design exhibitions. He designed furniture and made toys. He worked for big and small companies, collaborated with other designers, had his own studio.
He was born in NYC, raised in Florence, studied in London, then lived most of his adulthood in America, so without doubt is a citizen of the world.
He was inspired by folk art, predominantly Latin American, and travelled everywhere to amass his huge collection of “toys” (which we boringly call artefacts). He amply used high-chroma colour, lots of patterns and humour. He is so obviously a human in his designs.
“Infinite are man’s expressions of beauty and love; open your eyes your ears and your heart to them and you will unite the peoples of the world.” Said Alexander Girard himself (apparently, although I wasn't there).
So if anyone tells you you can only be one thing, when you know (and you are able) to do many, tell them to be a doll and shush.
Now don’t go changing, unless you want to go changing.
For more info on Alexander Girard and exhibitions follow along with the site his family has created in his legacy https://girardstudio.com