Trust the creative process, find the art and magic

[Update: AS OF SEPTEMBER 2017, DK is making Atelier S P A C E. But before we began roving the world gathering people in real life for conversations about the creative process (and hands-on programmes designed to get us doing instead of just thinking about doing), we used to have these conversations in virtual spaces. The Q&A series that we made for our online magazine, S P A C E, continues to be a place where we return for inspiration. A past life in journalism led to the style of asking questions and diving deeper to explore what it is a person cares about most, what she wants to say about her work and how we can contextualize it to make what we learn relevant to a broader audience. Everything we do in S P A C E has to do with the connections between people, with interstitial spaces. That is why we are starting to share more openly some of the early Q&A’s that were originally exclusives for our online community, S P A C E, which subscribes each week to our ongoing conversations, learnings, resources, links, and musings about how we make, who makes, where we are, and why we do this work. For more information about S P A C E, go here.]


A CONVERSATION TODAY with North Carolina ceramics artist and a personal friend, Ronan Kyle Peterson.

Here is what he had to say about our theme this month, IMAGINE. We are discovering some shared interests in, amongst a few other things: work, cycles, and practice.

DK: I’ve seen your work evolve quite a bit in the last decade. What is it you are up to?

RKP: Essentially, I am dealing with effects of agents of growth and decay and how these agents shape and embellish the surfaces of stones and the skins of trees. Employing an earthy background palette stretched across textured but quieter surfaces, I wanted to upset that quiet earthiness with intense splashes of vibrant color, patterns, and glossy surfaces not commonly associated with tree bark or the rough surfaces of rocks amidst fallen leaves.

DK: Tell us your thoughts on ‘work’—what is it, who is it for, and why does it matter?

RKP: ‘Work’ noun-wise, would be the pots that I make to sell. Which references my ‘job’ or the verb ‘work’ that I do to make a living. The work for me is learning about color, how colors work together, how color and pattern changes perception of form, and how color pattern and texture can affect a person’s mood or perception of a pot.

The work that interests me, or the energizing part, is figuring out forms for functional purposes—cups and mugs for drinking, bowls for eating or serving from—and decorations or surface treatments that complement and complete the form.

DK: Why do you do what you do?

RKP: I make… because it makes me happy, fulfills a need, keeps me searching. I’m just infinitely blessed that others, customers, want to buy my pots and are interested for the most part in what, the work, that I am doing. It doesn’t matter in a larger context, but it does matter to me, because in the doing I am happy.

DK: Is that where the magic is? In the doing?

RKP: For me, the magic is in the making or the doing. Talking, wishing, and hoping do not get the job done. The magic is in the doing.

DK: A lot of people say they wish they had more time be an artist, make music, travel, write a book, and so on. What you would say to them?

RKP: I guess I would say, you just have to make it happen. And it will not just happen. A lot of times there has to be a sacrifice of something else: sleep, long meals, vegging out, tv, income, family time, socializing… Making time or sacrificing something else to make time seems to be hard for some people, because they are energized and content through socializing, etc. For me, working, making new work, exploring new forms, colors, combinations, that is what energizes me.

DK: What does rhythm mean to you?

RKP: Rhythm recently is not contained in one working cycle. Work is started, but not finished until later, spilling into the next cycle, and the next. It used to be frustrating, but I have found that through continued experimentation with form, color, and pattern, that ideas tend to belong aside one another: they are a continuation of thoughts I build on. I guess this speaks to an overall rhythm? I’m making a healthy offering of cups and mugs each cycle, but I have more larger pieces waiting to be finished. Now it is kind of nice to think more about the larger pieces, figure out different decorations and surface approaches that fit better, better than my original plan. I’ve started reglazing older pieces, [and] making different lids for jars. Revisiting sometimes resolves some deficiencies of the pieces. I have a general set of forms, but I’m trying out new things, mostly decoration-wise, every cycle.

PROTOTYPING. RKP’s instagram feed (and this image, in particular) caught DK’s eye for our sequence RHYTHM. ‘The image is from a kiln loading with a friend,’ he tells us. ‘Just showing how potters test glazes, not actual product or work, more process to figure out what glazes to use and how they will look in the firing.’

DK: Imagine two young people, maybe teens, who are thinking about artistic pursuits having a conversation, perhaps at a museum somewhere, and they know virtually nothing of the real experiences of people like you who have reached some sort of acceptance, it appears, in the methods you are using to make and do and share. What would you tell them?

RKP: I would say be patient. It takes a lot of time, and failing and observing, to figure things out. One thing that I try to keep in the forefront of my mind is how much help and support I have: I’ve worked for many potters with different styles and aesthetics, I have in-laws who let me use some of their space for a studio, I have galleries who work with me and for the most part allow me to bring them work that I choose to make. Growing that network, that support system, I think, is pretty crucial. And being patient, humble, and open to comment, advice and opportunities.

Discover more about RKP at his website.

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A hundred baby posts

IT’S PROBABLY NOT A COINCIDENCE that people into meditation and mindfulness and peacemaking and conflict resolution and organizational development and yoga and innovation and jazz and architecture and software developing are our usual circuit of people who we ‘get’, and who ‘get’ us. The quality of space invites room for play, for discovery and co-discovery. There is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right,’ at the start of these things. You begin as you are, where you are, and how you are. It’s about making the room for it. Space. Time.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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WRITING TODAY. Mostly in pencil.

A new journal. The right-side pages are blank. So I’m going to be drawing more. I’m going to get back to pencil, more of that, and less of the overassured line. Back to the sort of line that has pressed places and soft places, HB and 5B and stuff like that. There were some products that tried to simulate this on a tablet, but I much prefer the sensation of hand to paper, paper to words, words to thoughts that link and connect and hopefully, one day, make some degree of conversation that is quality, and nothing less.

I wanted to tell you a little bit about what we are up to here, and what DK is about. (I usually stay away from posts like this because it gets long and I start to go on about the ‘past and what we used to be about’ and that’s really much more interesting, I think, to me and the people who used to know me, than it is to you.) You are probably new to DK. I am hoping so. That’s part of why I deleted the old blog. Hitting reset was real good.

A blog for 10 years! And just, poof. Over.

Something about that was freeing. We could reinvent DK for you. For the new person who is coming here, is looking, is curious, is open and I hope, feels invited. Design Kompany is nothing if it’s not making space for the new, the near, the now and the next. All of that, yeah. At once. Can’t even tell you how important it is to us to open this place up a bit more, much more, wider and unblocked. DK’s looking for conversations, for space, for rooms to design scope for the uncertain. There is a lot of loftiness and airiness to that idea, but I want to make a list today of why.

  • TIME. There comes a moment when you realize, ‘This is what I am born to do.’ For me, it’s making space for people to explore ideas, deeply and stuff, and not just the boring usual conversation. When I say ‘deeply’ that could mean a couple of things. For company people, it’s about what matters and why. For individuals, it’s about who we really are, and not just in terms of big picture overdone philosophy, but who we really are in this moment, in this time. This is a weird time to be a human being. We have digital presences. We have real life presences. And the lines between both are getting more and more obscure. Time is short. Attention is light. Ennui is blunting. What can we do to make the most of our time? That’s one reason we make rooms for conversations: salons, installations, sometimes workshops, sometimes online stuff. It’s all very much in process and behind the scenes there’s more in the way of N:N.
  • FILTERING. I can’t believe how much time we are wasting these days in the name of productivity. I have been offline this morning and writing in pencil, like I said, and today after I don’t know how many years I busted out the colored pencils. That felt great. I have missed moving color on the page and thankfully, this new book has blank ones, so it’s invited me to pick up the drawing in colorspace, once again. But filters are huge. Filters on who is allowed closer to you, into your inner space, are really necessary now more than ever. Part of why DK was on a boat in Sweden in the fall. Cocooning. It takes one irritating comment to undo a day’s worth of building yourself up to get to the right mindspace for real insight-making. And insight-making is what, ultimately, making space is all for.
  • INSIGHT-MAKING. I could tell you now about the previous 10 years, but I’ll spare you. If you are the kind of person I am most resonant with, none of that will matter. You won’t be the sort who cares about credentials and degrees and client lists and testimonials, but you will, I’m sure of it, believe me if I say I can produce some of that in five point eight seconds if you want to read it. But you and I will both know that if you have to ask, we aren’t a fit. We’re not a match, and that’s a fast filter. Who has time? I want to get to insight-making. For the people I work with, of course, but also for me.
  • FOR ME. ‘Why are you making spaces for people to meet and talk with strangers? What’s in it for you? Why are you traveling the world and hosting salons? What about these workshops, why should I join you? What’s in it for us, what’s in it for you? I need to know what your agenda is. I need to know if you’re cool enough to connect with. I need to know, I really need to know, why you are doing this, DK? What the hell? What’s in it for you?’ This is probably the #1 burning question in the hearts of those who get talking to me enough that we are like, ‘Yeah. So what about what you’re up to? What’s in it for you?‘ How to explain. I remember saying these words to a kindhearted locksmith in Sweden: ‘It’s awesome for me. I’m learning. I’m here, I’m seeing you, we’re having this conversation, it’s real life. Real time. Nothing I read about dead philosophers and what they think equals this. I’m actually saving myself a hell of a lot of time, if you want to know the truth. I’m able to move about now, physically and mentally I’m prepared to go into the unknown. I know that might sound bizarre to you, but I’ve been playing in the mucky space of not-knowing for about ten years. Do you think I had a plan, when I started? Of course I did. But of course, I was totally wrong about what my projected stats would be, one year out, five years out, and now, here, look at this, ten years out. The Design Kompany of back then is a whole different thing and you know what? The Design Kompany of back then was pretty darn boring. Young. Unsophisticated. Naturally, that’s how everything begins. Baby steps. Today people call us ‘DK.’ I don’t know why but it just stuck. I read somewhere in a naming thing that if your name is more than four syllables that is just going to happen to you, shortening, so be prepared. I also remember reading in a branding book that it’s not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is. And so whatever DK is it’s DK, and it’s doing the things that DK of today, 10 years on, is doing. Which is still a work in progress, of course. We are getting some pretty cool insights. But it’s not random.
  • OPEN SPACE. I have been really frustrated lately finding out that the online personas of some people (in Denmark, Cambodia, and America) were pretty much bullshit when I met those people in real life. Bullshit is irritating stuff. It subtracts from time. It hacks at quality spacemaking. I know, I know. I just posted programmer and writer Paul Graham‘s thing on our facebook about how Life is Short. The problem, though, with just knowing that is that knowing isn’t enough. We need spaces to go into and discover ourselves, or remember ourselves. That doesn’t have to mean flying to India and sitting on a mountain. It can be just making time and room in your day to day life through reflection. It’s probably not a coincidence that people into meditation and mindfulness and peacemaking and conflict resolution and organizational development and yoga and innovation and jazz and architecture and software developing are our usual circuit of people who we ‘get’, and who ‘get’ us. The quality of space invites room for play, for discovery and co-discovery. There is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right,’ at the start of these things. You begin as you are, where you are, and how you are. It’s about making the room for it. Space. Time. That sort of thing.

IT’S BEEN A LONG 10 years of learning, looking, changing and growing. Failing, yeah, but I don’t want to jump on that bandwagon. I don’t want to go onto the ‘design thinking’ one, either. It’s obvious that design isn’t an intellectual thing that you can just go into a classroom and fill out the right things in the right boxes and voila, you’re schooled. Don’t get me started on school, I have some terrible new insights that will rock the status quo. (But you can DM me on twitter if you want to hear them.)

These things in the list above are why we are at it, making space. For DK and the people we are collaborating with this year (open call for co-designing, just contact us),
2016 is the year we open things up. Looking for others to talk with, connect with, co-design space for quality conversation, dialogue, and insight-making. Breaking walls starts with knowing how to put walls there, to begin to talk, together, in ways that invite dialogue—the kind with a center, and not sides.

So this is my 100th post. A baby steps blog for trying out the new thing, the space and making of it. DK is here, we’re here because you’re there. It’s relativity, like Einstein talked about. It’s observer changing the thing being observed, like Plank and Bohr and Heisenberg brought up. More if you’re interested. There’s always more. 🙂

DK is making space.

Making space for quality. Making space for us, and you.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Get personal and connect with DK in S. P. A. C .E.