For ourselves (our egos)? Or for the client?
OK, so imagine you come up with a wonderful idea for your client, and now you also worked it up into a gorgeous full-sized – maybe even full-colour – design …
And the last thing you (you, a designer, an artist, a maker, a glass painter, a student – or however you see yourself) will want to do with this wonderful design is … muck it up and kick the !>@?! out of it, right?
Yes, right. But also wrong. Because of course it all depends.
Goodness me, yes, it’s hard to “wreck” a design. But sometimes that’s what you just must do to show you understand what’s needed.
Of course it’s difficult – because you’ve spent so long on it. And we often want people to see how clever and talented we are with paints and brushes. (It’s only human. Goodness me, how human I am.)
But – mostly – that’s not the point.
Mostly the point is, to show we understand.
Especially when we’re being paid, yes paid to make a window our clients will live with, or worship in front of, or work beside for many, many years to come.
Our own egos don’t matter here – because we’ll be designing and painting other windows (and getting our joy from that) when our clients, their friends or colleagues or fellow-worshippers are still enjoying that window we designed and painted oh! so many years ago.
So sometimes you have to do this with designs: you have to use all your energy to make them “perfect”, then – trash them / pull them back / let them go their own way / muck them up and kick the !>@?! out of them.
Whatever: whatever it takes to show you understand what the building needs – what the people who use the building need.
Just so the other day …
David had finished the most lovely, clean, bright and readable painting for one of our clients:
We were about to send it off and get the contract sealed with that most pleasing sign of commercial trust, a 50% deposit, when we remembered this client doesn’t like things to look new. In fact he loathes it: he hates “new”. Sure, things must be newly made, but they mustn’t look like that. They must appear authenticated by time. It doesn’t matter if his “new” things are falling apart with age – if they’re well made, and after 500 years they’d be falling apart, then that’s exactly what he wants. Even though you painted them last week.
Now maybe you already know it’s David who designs and paints, and I – I copy. I don’t mind that at all. I have full and majestic admiration for anyone and everyone who has devoted their life to art. But I have not done that. I am not ashamed, nor am I proud. It is just how things are. Anyway, so David had prepared this most gorgeous painting.
And suddenly we both thought, to seal the contract, well, actually, we’d need to muck it up and kick the !>@?! out of it.
You’re maybe thinking, that’s not hard at all. “Just spill some paint … Easy!”
All I’d say: it’s very easy doing this to someone else’s work! (Imagine doing it to your own!)
By the same token it was easy for me to encourage David, to whisper in his ear, to strengthen his conviction that, when he “destroyed” his painting, we were actually showing our client … we understood!
If we are cruel, and I know we often are, it is always to improve our understanding of what it is our clients want: it’s like gladiators vs. slaves in Ancient Rome. We really do attack ourselves. And always because what matters most is – to get the right window in this particular building, with a sense of what this client wants, plus a wise guess as to what later generations might wish to see.
The point is, not to let self-satisfaction get the better of us. It’s the window which matters, and the eyes and soul of everyone who gazes at her.
Is such violence justified?
Extract from this morning’s letter from the client’s architect:
Dear David, I am delighted to confirm our acceptance of your quote as listed below …
Result to David – which it would not have been if he hadn’t “wrecked” (a copy of!) his original design.
P.S. Of course the “new” design will not be wasted because it’s exactly what we need to do our work.
P.P.S. Next time, more about design because last Monday we fitted some fine windows which the client loves but – goodness me! – it took a huge amount of work to agree what it was we should make. What did we learn from this? Yes, we’ll tell you everything (especially our mistakes). And if you’re interested in design or how to handle clients, it will definitely help and “strike a chord” with you. Until next time when we begin the tale of “The Literary Agent’s Sitting Room Window”. Yes, many mistakes – because people are wonderfully complex.
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