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Inspire Me - Design is a Living, Breathing Organism

  • Date & time

    5 December 2012 12PM
  • Location

    Old School New School

Last week, Anita Ryley from SeeSaw Design, Emma Telfer from O-F-G-D, and Eugenia Lim from Assemble Papers worked with students Bianca van Meeuwen, Brooke Thorn and Megan Davis to create a concept that communicated directly to their passions.


We believe that all good design follows a physiological path. It starts with the head, stimulating the mind it winds its way down the body to the heart and connects with you on an emotional level and then comes to rest in your hands where it in turn inspires the viewer to create themselves.

This was the premise behind ‘Inspire Me’ - an evening hosted at Old School last Wednesday night. Veronica Grow opened the school to a handful of selected guests for an evening of innovative process led design. It was simply our task as students to use what inspires us, to inspire our Mentors. This may sound simple, but to do it effectively was an involved process. Being forced to step outside of our comfort zone and design for a complete stranger was challenging. Especially creative professionals who had already lived particularly inspiring lives having and already experienced so much that is inspiring. The open nature of the brief was also challenging. The objective of the task was to help us understand the true role of inspiration to the creative process, and how essential inspiration is to to make design solutions that are truly dazzling. 

Anita Ryley from SeeSaw Design, Emma Telfer from O-F-G-D, and Eugenia Lim from Assemble Papers worked with students Bianca van Meeuwen , Brooke Thorn and Megan Davis to create a concept that communicated directly to their passions.

The first 'Inspire Me' activity of the evening was hosted by Brooke. Her inspiration was 'hands' and everything we do and make with our hands. Brooke explained that, a little while ago, she quit her job and began the journey of re-inventing herself and rediscovering the potential of creating directly with her hands. 

To begin, Brooke's inspire me mentor Emma Telfer and the rest of us gathered around as Brooke told her story. Then she divided us into two groups by asking the question 'Have you made something for someone else with your own hands in the last week?' All of us who answered 'yes' were given a paper bag with a yellow dot and those who answered 'no' were given a blue dot. We were paired up – blue with yellow. 

The theme of dividing us into two groups was 'Use it or Lose it' and those with a blue dot on their bag were asked to open their bag first to find a ‘Pocket Guide - How to Make Someone Happy by Just Using Your Hands’. This was a set of instructions on how to give your partner a hand massage. It was slightly awkward because we had to do this with people we'd never met before, but it certainly broke the ice quickly! 

The unveiling of the bag contents continued and next the yellow group got to open their paper bag and in it they found a beautiful handmade bib that read 'Feeder'. The blue group followed by also pulling out a bib but this time it read 'Feed me'. The 'Feed me' group also had their hands tied with a scarf. 

You might have an inkling of what's coming...

Brooke had created an amazing Mexican feast with taco's, pulled pork, prawn salad, fruit salad, empanadas and the most amazing Mexican spice cake. With our 'Feeder' and 'Feed me' bibs we went to have some food, but the twist was that only those with a ‘Feeder’ bib could use their hands to eat. The others had to be fed by someone else. 

It was quite a unique experience not being able to use your hands doing something that is so natural to us. Brooke's 'Use it or Lose it' inspire me activity made me realise that our hands are something special, doing things with our hands is liberating, fun and natural. It's something that shouldn't be taken for granted, it should be cherished. It's time to do something we love... it's time to use our hands to make something!

The second part of the evening was hosted by Megan, and her mentor was Eugenia Lim.

Megan organised the lounge room with cushions and blankets and had the group sit on the floor to listen to a mystical and moving piece of music by Arvo Part. Before the music played, Megan spoke about Arvo Part, his life and the approach he takes in creating his music compositions. She accompanied this description by giving us all a handout which described in further detail Arvo Part’s background and the incredible fact that he experiences long periods of self-imposed seclusion where he lives in contemplative silence. During his first seven years of seclusion his deep study of French and Franco-Flemish choral music of the 14th to 16th centuries and Georgian Chants led him to develop his own contemporary technique which he calls Tintinnabulation.

Megan asked us all to think of a triangle when listening to the piece – this was a reference to Tintinnabulation and three notes of a triad. So we all sat quietly and peacefully and listened. We listened gently, with our eyes closed and our hearts open. It was a remarkable piece of music, both contemporary and evocative, and we all settled into our inner experience of the music.

After approximately ten minutes the piece concluded and we all surfaced from our personal meditation on the music. Megan spoke further about the idea of Tintinnabulation and the triangle in the music and encouraged us to talk about our personal experiences. Music is an ephemeral experience, and each person experiences it differently, through the filter of their own mind and body. And this was the point. We all found it moving – some felt meditative and peaceful, others felt uplifted and elated. But overall it was immersive and inspiring and a truly unique experience to sit, listen and really feel the music.

The evening ended with Bianca hosting the last stage of the ‘InspireMe’ evening. Bianca focused on the many interested stories we all have stored away in our heads and encouraged everyone to share them.

Bianca invited her mentor Anita Ryley and the rest of the evening’s guests to join her in the back garden to sit around a fireside and tell stories. Each participant received a paperbag full of questions on a small piece of paper printed and rolled up to look like a tiny log.

Everyone sat in a circle cosy and warm under blankets and jumpers. The fire flickered gently and the atmosphere became very personal and intimate. As each log was unrolled a question was revealed such as, “What makes you angry” or “What do you miss about your childhood”.

As each question was answered the space around the campfire felt smaller and more intimate and we all got to know each other. By the last question a sense of community and connection brought everyone together, the warm emotions flowing around the space left no doubt everyone there was truly inspired. 

The last act of the evening was to gather around the flames and place the small paper question logs on the fire. This ceremonious act felt almost holy as the flames consumed the paper and brought the evening to a proper end.

As the evening concluded, we all realised that we had experienced something special. The evening had been organised to inspire the three mentors – Emma, Eugenia and Anita. But the result was that the whole group had been brought together and in a short amount of time we got to know each other rather well. We all had moments of conversation, laughter and inspiration. Can’t wait to do it again next year on projects that are larger and more involved!