William Gaddis’ book, “The Recognitions” is to reading as driving to Buffalo in a snowstorm from New York City is to motoring. It is a long and difficult ride, but it is quite extraordinary and the gist of it is about what is or more likely, what is not original. It is a subject that has to concern every kind of artist as the source for inspiration doesn’t reside solely in the creative side of our cerebellum. We have all been imprinted with a way of seeing and doing that has bearing on what has gone on before. Hence, is anything truly original?
The furniture world, particularly today, is very far from being original in my opinion. It might well be creative and, at times pleasingly unusual, but never original. Eileen Gray’s chair that sold at the Yves St. Laurent-Pierre Berge sale for twenty-eight million dollars was not original. It was different and extremely striking and I would have loved to have owned it, but that is all I can say about it. I think the predicament for all furniture designers is to design in a way that emphasizes one aspect of a piece over another, but that has been going on since furniture design began. In other words, the gradual development of furniture makes Ms. Gray’s chair just another layer to the rather vast cake of chair design not unlike the way trees add layers year in and year out and grow bigger and seemingly more complex.
I think the word creative is far more important to understand than the word original, at least when it comes to design. Original denotes to me a transcendant uniqueness and that, in my opinion, belies the modus operandi of all design. Of course, I am linking in with the Theory of Evolution here, not on purpose but through logic. If there is a God, he had to have had the sense to try and fail, try and fail and then try and succeed. Design is a gradual process that even a supreme being would have had to use to create what has been created in this world and hence His designs, like the ones in the furniture world, evolved. It has hard to call anything original when you realize all that has gone before. Mitigate that with the joy of being creative, different and unusual and the thrill in design is still to be had.