Every Sunday morning I try to spend a luxurious hour lost in the forest, that is the weekly Brain Pickings newsletter. The paths twist and turn, and it is easy to bet lost and not get home until dark, but whatever time I return, at the end of each journey I have a basket full of the very best and tastiest of fungi.
Today I was drawn towards an interview with Ben Schott, author of the original Schott’s Miscellany. and it’s many offspring. I recommend this interview to all designers out there. The original book which I was gifted about 10 years ago is totally unique. But only today did I discover that the design of the book is based on the golden ratio. Schott talks about design with a passion that I wish all designers had access to. The quote from the interview that really got to me today was this one:
I’m a fan Virginia Woolf — I’m a real fan of Mrs. Dalloway more than anything else she’s written. But what, I think, seduces her work is that sense that small things are significant. There’s another great quote [from To the Lighthouse] which sums up one of my theories of design, to the extent that I’m entitled to have any theories, which is: “light and evanescent but held together by bolts of iron.”
[Design] must be, on the surface, like a butterfly’s wing — but underneath it must be clamped together with bolts of iron…
This is what I think is the secret of so much craft — to make it look effortless and evanescent, like a butterfly’s wing, but it needs to have structure, rigidity, purpose.
I always try to apply strong design principles to my own work, it is almost second nature to me to ask why something has to be there. When I first began a degree in graphic design at the end of the 70’s, the teaching was somewhat different to now. there were no computers for a start. But the basics are as relevant today as they were then. A designer should be able to explain the reason for each line, each curve, each dot… it is not enough that they look good, or they work… not for me anyway, and certainly not for Mr Jessop, the demon tutor! I never finished that degree, the standards were tough and the work was tedious, hand drawing perfect Roman serifs, one after the other, printing and collating the stationary for the final year students, using big old hand rolled presses. Yeah, it was tough, and with no magic brushes to aid us on our way. Still I have not forgotten the lessons of that first year.
To this end I decided to look at my current project, and ask myself some questions, just as Mr Jessop would have done.
What is the theme of my work?
Individuation, the process of finding ones way in life, to a complete self. Driven by the works of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell.
How have I conceptualised this theme?
I have placed my work within the concept of fairy tales and the hero’s journey. In particular I have focused on the story of Little Red Riding Hood. I have used the tale to illustrate Jung’s concept of the shadow, and animus and anima.
Why a forest-like installation?
Fairy tales were often set in a forest setting,many that I was familiar with as a child are set in the dark forests of Northern Europe. The forest represents the shadow, the journey through the forest is the meeting and assimilation of the shadow side of one’s nature.
Why the antlers, the wolf critter?
Ruby’s wolf/wild thing head dress represents the male creature that she meets with in the forest and assimilates as part of her self. When Ruby meets her animus, she comes together with him, and realises that rather than be enemies the strength is in joining together.
Why a trophy like sculpture?
Achieving individuation is celebrated by this trophy. Ruby has come out of the forest more complete. The antlers and wolf like mask represent her achievement, of meeting with, and assimilating the shadow side, the animus. At the same time I didn’t want the cut off head trophy look, like those of the hunter, this trophy is more about creation or recreation. This is why the wolf head dress is a patchwork of women’s crafts, knitting, weaving. The things we gather throughout our lives become who we are, each thread gets woven into our being. By using creative fabrics rather than dead animal skin I am representing life and growth.
Why is she called Ruby?
Her true name is Ruby Tuesday, because I always wanted a child called Ruby Tuesday. But none of my children were born on a Tuesday so it didn’t seem right, (Thanks Mr Jessop…). I loved the song written by Keith Richards:
but I prefer the version by Melanie, I have been singing it for years, and years. I almost have it perfect… for me…
And that’s it really, it’s about love and desire. My mixed media painting, that may or may not be part of the installation is called Desire, because that is what it is about. Our journey’s through the shadows are generally led by desire.