It’s too easy, as a designer, to find yourself delivering design solutions within a certain habitual or predictable range. In fact, I can’t help but think that it’s inevitable. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
But one of the best antidotes is to visit something totally different from anything you’d do yourself.
In my experience this is most likely to happen by accident, as we also fall into the parallel habit of visiting stuff that tends to back up or validate our own design preferences or prejudices. That’s part of why we’re attracted to the visit.
So there’s nothing like being severely levered out of all this habit-forming and habit-validating behaviour by finding yourself leading a tour that visits gardens outside your normal style-range.
And into this category I put my visit to The Giant’s House in Akaroa, New Zealand. The pics I’d seen online made it look fun, and a bit goofy. And it’s both of those things, but it’s so, so much more.
Josie Martin, its creator – the one who has made every sculpture and laid every piece of tile in every mosaic – is an inspiration. Every single design opportunity or challenge was addressed in a way that undermined my presumptions, but did so with real coherence. It was like a language that initially baffled, but within which you started to recognise patterns, and syntax, and genuine articulation.
I came away feeling like an underachiever, and an underexplorer of creative opportunity – somewhat unglued, unstuck, and undone. That always hurts, but it’s the pain of an exercised muscle. Bring it on.