I woke up wondering where unresolved dreams go. That was my first thought this morning … what happens to the early morning dreams that inevitably get interrupted when it’s time to wake up? Few of us have the luxury of starting a day when we’re ready. There’s usually a dog that needs walking, a baby that needs feeding, a kid that needs to be taken to school; an appointment, a job. Imagine a life in which you get to fall asleep and rise awake according to your own rhythms. Wouldn’t that be something?
Why do we live in such weird ways? Who decided a work day should be 9-5 or that school should start at 8?
Oh lordy. I’m headed down a rabbit hole I didn’t intend to enter this morning.
So yes, I went to the Architectural Digest Design Show in New York on Saturday. It was a terrific concentration of furniture and arts and lighting, decorative stuff, electronics, appliances. It was overwhelming, of course, to try to take it all in in a few hours, but it was hugely inspirational and fun. In part because of the stuff there, but mostly because of the people.
You know me; I’m mad for people.
I wanted to know everyone’s story: what inspires you? How did you get started doing this? How do you make this thing? Is the show going well for you? What I found was that people were more than happy to answer my questions. Which is why I know so much now about the field bed that Riley, the brains behind Hinterland, is making. Also, I very much want one, not because it makes any sense in my life or I need one, but because I met the person who makes the thing and he told me about what inspired him and who he is and how long he’s been making things and what he loves the most about all of it.
The thing has a story; the story is meaningful.
It wasn’t … well, it’s my job and so usually I sit at a computer and futz around, stealing ideas from other people, and then someone else in the back of the building makes the thing and … voila! We really want you to buy it because we’re hoping to make a lot of money!
The guy standing there had come to New York from British Columbia and when I asked him what inspired him to create the field bed he told me a story about army camp beds and his relationship to the woods where he lives and how those things manifested in his idea for this beautiful little bed. Suddenly the bed sitting there in the middle of a huge warehouse in the middle of a huge city meant something.
I think that’s the way it’s supposed to work. I really believe that things we make aren’t all that meaningful unless they matter to us in some important way that has nothing to do with making a living. When the heart is in the object, the object matters. Otherwise it’s just taking up space in an already-overcrowded, filled-with-crap world.
If you’re going to make something, make it timeless. Make it because you can’t not make it. Make it because it looks like all your dreams.
The woman who makes the very cool jewelry told me that she is inspired by the night sky. She was wearing all-black with one of her gorgeous necklaces around her neck and could easily have been a constellation herself. Karen Konzuk told me she’s been making jewelry for almost her entire life … thirty years? The pieces she’s making now, from concrete and diamond dust, are about simplicity and architectural elegance. I cannot stop thinking about them, in large part because I was so enchanted by Karen, so impressed by her commitment to her art and her continual growth and development in that realm, over a long period of time.
Of all the things I saw, it was the furniture of Campagna that went straight to the marrow for me. I saw the both from a short distance and it took my breath away; I had one of those moments I’ve described here before, when something resonates with me on a level where words don’t make sense or even matter.
The young man whose work it is was humble, almost invisible, really. I stood with him, mouth agape, I didn’t take any pictures because I wanted to touch everything; I wanted to know as much as I could about the person and the work. The lines of his chairs and tables are clean and elegant and reminded me of the work of architect John Pawson. Nothing fussy. Nothing to detract from the purpose of the piece: this is most obviously a chair meant to be sat upon: this is most obviously a table, meant to be used for work or eating. Nothing frivolous. I loved it so and I told the maker as much: “Your work touches the heart.” To which he responded with gratitude, “That means everything, thank you.”
“You’re welcome; you have earned it.”
It was a lovely encounter and it sits with me still and when my dream of creating a small chapel in the woods comes to fruition, I’ll be contacting him.
Where do unfinished dreams go? Maybe they become chairs and tables and beds. Maybe they stay nestled in our subconscious and when we encounter a part of them in the world, in the day, something in us wakes up and we feel that strange sense of déjà vu, of belonging somewhere or meeting someone that we have known before. Who knows?
I went to a really snazzy design show. I even met the dude who organized the whole thing, the AD person and his two sons, who are into skiing and head north out of the city all winter, to the mountains. You never know who you’re going to encounter when you put your hand out and say, “Hi, my name is Melissa.” Almost everyone has a story and it’s almost always a good one.
What surprised me about the people I met at that fancy show, the ones I found myself talking with, was how modest and grounded they were. How important their work was to them and how elegantly the pieces of themselves were reflected in the things they were making; how they faded into the background and the work, the objects, told the story.
The same thing had played out the night before at the restaurant called Gem. The owner, Flynn McGarry, has every reason to think himself something important. Because he is; he has been cooking for the public since he was about 12 and today he runs a successful restaurant in New York at 20.
One might expect Flynn to be … a little obnoxious, a young man with a large ego. One would have thought he would be hidden away in a kitchen, too busy or important to speak with diners at his restaurant … you know, that chef thing.
He was anything but. Flynn was humble and kind and completely present. He brought food to our table and cleared our plates. He took the time to answer our questions, he told Coco to keep cooking and his old friend and member of the staff, Nora, invited her back to work in the kitchen with him. Flynn was lovely in every way and already knows how life works: it’s not about him, it’s about the food. He is a magician, a scientist, an artist. Flynn himself is small, quiet and unassuming; his food playful, gorgeous, astonishing. In my 53 years here I have never experienced the fruits of this world done like that. In the hands of Flynn McGarry food becomes a vehicle, transporting the eater to another realm. The dishes were visually enchanting, colorful. The tastes … words fail.
It was funny. We went to some very fancy places in New York this past weekend. And discovered there some of the most talented, sparkling, humble, kind and respectful humans you can imagine.
There is hope, friends, there is. Amen.