I love how all the great adventures and collaborations always start with one person saying “Why don’t we <insert a ridiculous idea here> ? and the other one going “Why Not?”
So when Howard Gossage (a nonconformist advertising genius famously known as The Socrates of San Francisco) sat with the Publisher of Scientific American in a New York Restaurant to explore some new ways to expand the magazine’s reach, he suggested having a paper plane competition for the magazine. The publishers agreed. Details aside, the 1st International Paper Airplane contest was signed off. The contest received 12,000 entries within six weeks of placing ads in local newspapers asking people to join the competition.
The results from the contest were compiled into this book – The Great International Paper Airplane Book. It also featured the winning entries with DIY instructions.
The book explains how paper airplanes are quite different with paper darts. Darts do not have any personality – they fly straight and that’s it.
“The paper airplane is a very different affair. It is, more accurately, a paper glider. You do not throw it. You let it go or push it very slightly; and the weight head carries it forward, gracefully and gently, like a seagull coming to rest upon the deck of a ship. A little while ago it was a sheet of notepaper, but now it glides like the fairest of white birds. Yet a perfect flight requires very often an infinitude of patience, a folding and refolding, a shaping and reshaping with the scissors.”
Jerry Mander, George Dippel and Howard Gossage, authors of the book write, “In our experience, we have found that the biggest thinkers we have dealt with are the ones most willing to support such “frivolous”projects”
It’s important to explore our ability to go astray and come up with some really frivolous ideas.
St-Paul de Vence is such an amazing place with incredible art, antique shops, charming boutiques at every turn. I was really amazed by the sheer number of galleries in the city, and the fact that it was home to artists that I love – Chagall, Matisse, Picasso. While this too beautiful-to-true place left me so overwhelmed what stayed with me was a beautiful nest I saw floating in isolation, hidden away below the ramparts. Apart from the creative artistry behind the project, there was a kind of comforting aspect to it. If I was not in South of France I wonder if I would ever come across this beautiful project. I really want these wonderful sculptures and the artist behind it to be known.
Kim Cao uses weaved bamboos as the only material to make his floating nests. The manner they support and intersect to form natural shapes inspired him to create this artistic vision of the perfect society. “The bamboos are men, relying on each other to shelter something bigger, something more beautiful, some unspeakable, and invisible mystery, floating on the winds. A testimony to the grace and solidarity that we humans can show.” The beautiful thing about such art is that it does not always answer the problems faced by the society but makes us ask the right questions.
I have always been fascinated with writers and illustrators’ creations on blank paper. What intrigues me is the inner conflict and the dialogue they have with the blank page before their creations come to life. So when I stumbled upon Gianluca’s project, where he rendered 50 of the bicycle sketches he collected over the past 6 years into prototype designs, I was fascinated.
What I loved about this project is that its construct permitted us to observe a designer’s awareness of aesthetics and functionality of the product designs against a non-designer’s independent, non-biased, non-aligned thought process. Maybe this is one area we must all consider for product designs and innovations.
I interviewed Gianluca for Blank Paper Project and he had some interesting insights and stories to share about his project ‘Velocipedia’.
Gianluca: There is a quite funny story behind this project. It all started in 2009 in a bar in Bologna where I was chatting with a friend. We were talking about school time memories and I recalled this very embarrassing moment: a classmate was being questioned by our technical ed. teacher. He was doing pretty bad and was on the verge of tears at a certain point, so the teacher tried to help him out by asking him to describe his bicycle. The poor kid panicked and couldn’t even remember if the driving wheel was the front or the rear one. My friend laughed at this story and said that anyone who has ridden a bike must know how it’s made. Then he tried drawing one on a napkin and miserably failed. That’s the day I started collecting bike drawings.
What is the creative process behind your art?
Velocipedia began as a collection and I really did’t have a purpose for doing it. At some point I understood I was gathering some great material for what is called a crowd-sourced project. Many projects of this kind are aimed at making the exact average of the collected materials, but I thought each and every one of the bikes I was receiving had unique features that needed to be brought to attention rather than merged together into a single design.
In general it would not be easy to say what’s the thinking behind my projects. I like them to be meaningful, that’s for sure. I know I tend to work by association of ideas and that my love for puns always comes up. My coin box for BVR and Ciro Minimo for Helios Automazioni would be two good examples of how play on words influences my designs.
How do you dismiss all the conflicting thoughts in your head and focus on the singular process of creation?
I teach product design in University. I think the best exercise for me is doing this together with my students on their projects. It makes the process much more natural when it comes to my own because I do it so many times together with them.
Give us a sneak-peek into your typical day. How does a ‘A Day In Life of Gianluca’ look like?
There is no rule and that is probably the best part. During the academic year I go to university twice a week and have lessons to prepare, exercises to mark and so on. I also started teaching in high school this year. When school is off I might find myself for a month in a row inside a big studio working as a consultant on some big project. In between these occupations I carry on other client work and personal projects. Probably what is common to my days is that I don’t spare a lot of time.
What do you feel when you stare at a blank page, before your art take shape on the whiteness of the sheet?
I feel the horror of vacuity. That’s why I need to feel my concept is strong and why I use puns to find an appropriate shape. For many designers styling is more like a final phase of the so called creative process and it can have nothing to do with the function or the meaning of the object. I feel I’m not able to do that.
If someone issues a search warrant through your tools and sketchbooks, what are they likely to stumble into?
A PC first of all, then a smart phone full of pictures I take at things that somehow inspire me (I spent some time publishing some of these pictures last year); and then objects I gather in flea markets and at times use to develop prototypes (this is a different kind of process I use, in which I overcome the horror of the white sheet letting that the shape or part of the shape be determined by something that I can’t control such as a found object). Other tools are linked to prototyping “the old fashioned way”: cutters, balsa wood, glue, plaster and so on.
Tell us more about projects. The one you mentioned are based between crossing the borders between product design, graphics and illustrations.
I think it has to do with the fact I wasn’t trained as a product or graphic designer. I studied as architect and that influences my mentality. I am at the opposite of a purist in any discipline. Also the fact of speaking more or less fluently two languages (Italian and English) and knowing a bit both of Italian and U.S. culture pushes me to look at things from more than one point of view…I guess.
This is a very minor project but I think it’s eloquent. I was asked to develop a cover design for a yearbook and ended up putting together a mock-up for a fictional product, just to make the cover design. The whole thing took me just 4 hours.
This other one, called Instalegs, went viral in 2013. It’s a physical object that I actually produced as a series, but it’s rather a satire that could have been made as comic. I thought that actually making it would have been even funnier. It certainly would not have gotten all the attention if it had remained just a sketch.What are your can’t-live-without stationery essentials?
I love the Pilot V5 because it’s dirty. It always messes up the drawing a bit. Purists of sketching tend to dislike it for the same reason. I also like very soft pencils: B6 is one of my most frequent choices. And I like drawing on scrap paper though it tends to get lost very easily on my messy desk.
Some stats: Total number of collected bicycle sketches: 376
Youngest participant: 3 years old
Oldest participant: 88 years old
Different nationalities of participants: 11
Bicycles facing left: 85 %
Bicycles facing right: 15 %
Fun facts collected during the making of this project:
Some diversities are gender driven. Nearly 90% of drawings in which the chain is attached to the front wheel (or both to the front and the rear) were made by females. On the other hand, while men generally tend to place the chain correctly, they are more keen to over-complicate the frame when they realize they are not drawing it correctly.
One of the most frequent issues for participants was not knowing exactly how to describe their job in short.
The most unintelligible drawing has also the most unintelligible handwriting. It was made by a doctor.
Gianluca Gimini is an Italian/American designer. As a professional he carries out projects of different nature often crossing the borders between product design, graphics, and illustration. He loves the communicational aspects of design and adds a humorous twist to whatever he does. He teaches product design at the University of Ferrara and occasionally writes in design magazines. He also helps big architecture firms convey their design projects to their clients.
Check out his projects here: http://www.gianlucagimini.it/
Few artists and musicians have been able to straddle the world of theatrics and musical nexus as powerful as David Bowie. David showed us how fearlessness and theatrics work together in creating the most powerful and potent art form. Hinged on role-subversions, alter-ego hopping and artistic exhibitionism, his style continues to inspire stage art, costumes, magazine covers and so many other spaces of artistic creations. Everywhere you look today, there are a million memories, infinite experiences, and about dozens of inspired reincarnations of Bowie.
But to be inspired by David Bowie’s work is to find ways to break away from the patterns that get cemented into the fabric of our lifestyle (and sometimes our artist expression). To be inspired by David Bowie’s work is to remember his restless curiosity that sought change from the time and again. Change that did not fear transgression into the boundaries of race, sex and class. Change that is the death of all things known. ‘Artistic suicide’ as they famously call it. And last but not the least, to remember that the theatrics that empowers our art must be fueled by emotions and not by virility of the medium. Ironically, the art that shakes the foundation of the very construct of norms and patterns often gives birth to a concrete concept that gets regurgitated over and over in different ways. That is exactly what David Bowie was not. Restless change, nonconformity and artistic courage is what remains truly under the layers of his art. Rest is great packaging and mastering reinvention.
Artistic suicide is an interesting study. It is a process where an artist sheds his mould to be reborn as something completely different. David Bowie shed his alter egos – Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Alladin Sane, Thin White Duke to become a new movement. This way, an artist gets beyond the carnival of rusting fan nostalgia and repetitive glory to create a blank space for a new style to emerge.
If an artist is more than a sum of his parts, the parts that inspired him never truly make him what he/she is. You can never put together these parts to resurrect the artist. But to drown in those million parts can help us get a little closer to the artist that became. And in a way hope to resurface back with him.
So after shuffling through our favourite David Bowie songs here is something more to absorb. David Bowie’s official Facebook fan page has a compilation of his Top 100 Books to read (listed below). His favourite books are as fascinatingly diverse as his alter-egos. I am starting with ‘Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley’.
David Bowie’s Top 100 Books
Interviews With Francis Bacon by David Sylvester
Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
Room At The Top by John Braine
On Having No Head by Douglass Harding
Kafka Was The Rage by Anatole Broyard
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
City Of Night by John Rechy
The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Iliad by Homer
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin
Inside The Whale And Other Essays by George Orwell
Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
Halls Dictionary Of Subjects And Symbols In Art by James A. Hall
David Bomberg by Richard Cork
Blast by Wyndham Lewis
Passing by Nella Larson
Beyond The Brillo Box by Arthur C. Danto
The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
In Bluebeard’s Castle by George Steiner
Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
The Divided Self by R. D. Laing
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Infants Of The Spring by Wallace Thurman
The Quest For Christa T by Christa Wolf
The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter
The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodieby Muriel Spark
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Herzog by Saul Bellow
Puckoon by Spike Milligan
Black Boy by Richard Wright
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima
Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler
The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot
McTeague by Frank Norris
Money by Martin Amis
The Outsider by Colin Wilson
Strange People by Frank Edwards
English Journey by J.B. Priestley
A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West
1984 by George Orwell
The Life And Times Of Little Richard by Charles White
Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn
Mystery Train by Greil Marcus
Beano (comic, ’50s)
Raw (comic, ’80s)
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom by Peter Guralnick
Silence: Lectures And Writing by John Cage
Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley
The Sound Of The City: The Rise Of Rock And Roll by Charlie Gillete
Octobriana And The Russian Underground by Peter Sadecky
The Street by Ann Petry
Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
Last Exit To Brooklyn By Hubert Selby, Jr.
A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn
The Age Of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz
The Coast Of Utopia by Tom Stoppard
The Bridge by Hart Crane
All The Emperor’s Horses by David Kidd
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos
Tales Of Beatnik Glory by Ed Saunders
The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
Nowhere To Run The Story Of Soul Music by Gerri Hirshey
Before The Deluge by Otto Friedrich
Sexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia
The American Way Of Death by Jessica Mitford
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Teenage by Jon Savage
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Viz (comic, early ’80s)
Private Eye (satirical magazine, ’60s – ’80s)
Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara
The Trial Of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens
Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
Maldodor by Comte de Lautréamont
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders by Lawrence Weschler
Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Transcendental Magic, Its Doctine and Ritual by Eliphas Lévi
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Leopard by Giusseppe Di Lampedusa
Inferno by Dante Alighieri
A Grave For A Dolphin by Alberto Denti di Pirajno
The Insult by Rupert Thomson
In Between The Sheets by Ian McEwan
A People’s Tragedy by Orlando Figes
Journey Into The Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg
Goodbye Bowie. Goodbye Aladdin Sane. Goodbye Major Tom. Goodbye Ziggy Stardust. Goodbye Halloween Jack. Goodbye The Thin White Duke.
We will be dying to see the next avatar you will be turning into. Call it a futuristic nostalgia. We don’t know what it will be or where it will be. But as you promised, we know, it sure won’t be boring.
Many of us are at the intersection between leaving a safe, established order of life and starting something of our own. As artists and writers, we pursue a restless creative path that takes us from singing to theatre acting to painting to pottery – a kind of a supplementary lifestyle that holds us good, as long as we go on with our ‘reasonable’ lifestyle. But when it comes to putting all our metaphorical creative eggs in one entrepreneur venture we shrink and shudder at the thought.
While we may feel we are alone in this journey, there is an independent creative scene picking up steam and evolving in a way that is changing the economics of the world. Not that I understand the economics of the world or economics in general, what I understand is that many creative folks out there are choosing to leave behind their certain and safe lifestyles and starting their own cafes, shops and small businesses. In the process translating their aesthetics into business ventures that touch people’s lives.
This is where these photo essays on various creative communities of twelve American cities make you pay attention.
Brooklyn-based Writer and photographer Wesley Verhoeve has travelled the US capturing the creative folks from different walks of life – woodworkers, designers, to hairstylists, chefs, farmers, engineers, writers and coffee brewers. One of Many is a monthly series of photo essays about the creative communities of twelve American cities. Wesley’s desire behind the project was “to inspire and be inspired by the independent creative movement that is reshaping our economy and culture. To encourage and empower others to make the leap, and let those already there know they are not alone.”
I queried Wesley Verhoeve for more insight and to get a glimpse into his experience with meeting diverse mix of creative folks.
Your project is a sort of an examination of how creative folks live a fulfilling lifestyle outside the major cities and achieve the same self-driven, restless motivation for creation and commerce. What was the inspiration/reason for starting One of Many?
I was in a transitional phase and had a little time to observe the things happening around me. It seemed like an increasing amount of creatives were choosing to move to, or stay in, the smaller cities, rather than move to the increasingly expensive perceived creative centers NYC, LA and SF. At the same time, I also felt like the same group of people were increasingly choosing to start their own small businesses, or work for other small companies, or as a freelancer. I was curious what these creative communities looked like, so I picked twelve cities to explore where I could capture this new movement in portrait and writing and see it up close.
I love the excitement and passion that come from leaving the comfort zone and starting a new business. It is taking a leap into the unknown. What is that one driving factor that inspires creative communities to explore this route?
I think the answer is different for everyone. For some, it might be a necessity, like a stay-at-home parent who isn’t able to go to an office. For others, it might be about having more control over one’s schedule and creative output. Others even might be able to make more money as freelancers than as people on staff. There’s a myriad of reasons, and there are also plenty of people for whom the opposite is true.
Most of the creative folks out there spread themselves too thin. Somewhere they are stuck midway between leaving their current agency and starting a bakery, design studio or launching themselves independently. What is your advice to them?
I don’t know if I’m really qualified to answer that question. I’m still in the middle of figuring it out for myself, and again, I think every situation is different. I’m still learning every day, watching and being inspired by friends and examples. I do know that I have learned that following the “if it’s not hell yes, it should probably be no” rule works for me, and I also keep a running list of articles and talks that inspire me in practical ways on my website with lots of advice by people more experienced and qualified than I am.
If someone issues a search warrant through you workstation, what are they likely to stumble into?
Not much! Thank you cards, envelopes, stamps, pens, a computer display and some pretty books or prints.