Sunday, August 3, 2008

Enigmatic Inspiration

A guest visited my home for the first time last week and as she wandered around she suddenly stopped, turned to me and asked, “where on earth do you get your ideas?”. Her question brought me up rather short. Where DO I find ideas? Where exactly do ideas come from? This set me to pondering that most elusive of enigmas... inspiration.

Everyone knows the old chestnut about creativity being one part inspiration and nine parts perspiration, and I suppose that is somewhat true. I would certainly never negate the necessity of that ninety percent. But, how about the mysterious ten percent? Obviously, minus the idea, all the perspiration in the world will not create a work of art. For all that I do not know about inspiration, there is one thing I do know. One cannot demand its appearance. No scrunching up the face, stamping the foot, and commanding it to materialize. It wafts in the window when one is not waiting for it. Open eyes, open mind, and open heart seem to help, however. Over the years I’ve learned that the excitement of starting a new project for a client lies partly in the knowledge that, at the outset, I am completely oblivious to just what will be the inspiration for this new creation. Will it be a lovely piece of fabric, an evocative painting, the color of the setting sunlight as it slowly slides down the bedroom wall, the varied shades of garnet worn by a tree seen from the study window in autumn? I have often thought how lovely a room would be done all in the champagne colors of Edward’s glossy fur. Soft whites, taupes, warm browns... I can just see it. There will always be a jumping off point for each new project, but it will be a hidden secret awaiting my discovery. That’s what makes it fun.

There is currently a buzz in the air around the new movie Mamma Mia. Understandably, people seem to be besotted with the sun-drenched Grecian setting. The whitewashed walls, pure sea blues, and happy bright colors will no doubt all be catalysts for innovative rooms and fashions in the months to come. Art direction in film is often so gorgeously inventive and can be a wondrous addition to the bubbling cauldron of one’s ideas. I once designed a favorite dining room for a client only to discover when I finished that its concept had obviously been born when I saw the dining room in the film, Gosford Park, the colors were so similar. From the Griffindor common room at Hogwarts to the boreal ice palace in Dr. Zhivago, film feeds the artistic imagination. And for me, other exceptional wonder boxes of inspiration are the atmospheric old inns in which I love to stay when on holiday . I never know when a notion I’ve unconsciously tucked away while rambling around one of these magnificent places will suddenly swim to the forefront of my mind just when it needs to. And books, of course, offer a marvelous well from which to draw, providing technicolor mental pictures that are unique to each reader. Pure inspiration.

Considering my visitor’s question eventually led me to believe that I know of no firm answer. Inspiration, ideas, visions, are like fireflies. They are out there, in the night, one catches a glimpse every now and then. But they make themselves seen in their own good time. I just keep my eyes open, for like the astonished lady in the Arthur Rackham painting above, I never know when the next door I prise open may release true magic.