This summer I was invited by my dear friend Alberta (of ASKLabs and FaceTopo) to hear artist Lee Mingwei speak to a small group at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. He reviewed several of his past projects, some of which moved me to tears, and invited the members of the group to be ‘hosts’ at future sessions of The Living Room Project, bringing in personal objects or collections in order to spark conversation and social interaction amongst visitors of the musuem.
As a minimalist and someone who appreciates beautifully designed objects that exist primarily to serve a function, ahem furniture, I had no idea what I would bring. This Vitra sofa or this Knoll credenza certainly wouldn’t fit! I decided to bring four small collections that have meaning to me.
Wool Felt (in the form of coasters). I talked to museum-goers about the past 12 years that this material has been in my life, how it’s shaped my career, and why it’s still the most amazing material in the world.
Rocks. I’ve always been a sucker for a perfectly round pebble on a beach or glittery river stone. I started collecting these a long time ago, and don’t know where all of them are from, but do recall the extra smooth ones from the coast of Portugal, the rough river stones from Vermont and the topographical beauties from a beach in Connecticut.
Thread Spools. I learned to sew in the second grade and have been amassing quite the collection of threads since then. Some of the threads are from my mom’s former sewing supply kit, some are from a place that was in the local mall growing up, the Piece Goods Shop, that no longer exists. Some are from recent projects where I sew with paper.
Photos. Before I could figure out what I would bring, I ordered small prints of my Instagram photos from the last two years through Persnickety Prints. It is incredible to see things in print versus on a tiny iPhone screen. Also, seeing all of the photos together rather than 9 to 12 at a time really told me a lot about myself as a designer, constantly seeking inspiration, often very close up to the point of abstraction, and often traveling to art museums and documenting fragments of those visits.
The event took place on a Friday afternoon in the library at the Gardner Museum. The best part of the experience was the interaction with local college students, who were there for “College De-Stress Day” which included art-making, tea drinking, listening to harp players, and even cuddling with therapy dogs. The students stacked and arranged the rocks and coasters and eager for artwork for their dorm rooms, went through the pile of prints, asked me where this one was from, what’s that, etc. Other museum visitors were drawn to the thread spools and told me about their favorite brands (Güterman a big favorite!).
Like Mingwei ultimately planned, I was forced out of my comfort zone and spoke with complete strangers about my life and the things that motivate and inspire me. And, it was fun!