The Art and Design of Kindness

Work from the House Industries archive! Promos for Go Go Dolls, The Foo Fighters, The Presidents of the United States of America and Rancid.
Work from the House Industries archive

When this past weekend started, I was emotionally drained.

My wife mentioned needing some unique Christmas gifts and we had the idea to visit the shop at House Industries in Yorklyn, Delaware. Earlier this year, through a miscommunication with Rich Roat, we had tried to visit the store on a Sunday with some friends, and we didn’t make it in. Rich had promised that he “owed us a favor” for this missed connection. I emailed him around 8:30am, I figured he’d be available on a Saturday and he could open the store door and we could poke around a quickly and let him get back to his weekend.

He emailed me back right away writing:

“The place is a real yard sale right now because we have all of our archive junk in the shop. We’re finishing up a book and it has been our photography staging area. I sure owe you a visit, so I will meet you there at your convenience.”

I considered that Rich’s idea of House Industries “junk” most likely means incredibly rare work with stories attached to them. I began a quiet mini freak out of excitement. I remained composed, and arranged a time and met Rich there. We walked into the store at the proper time and met Rich. He apologized again for “the mess”, but I was so fixated on all of it, I didn’t even comprehend his words of apology.

I was immediately transfixed and at home in the mounds of typography inspired objects, custom clothing, priceless print tests, and photos of vintage House Industries work. I’m not sure if I blinked in the hour we were there.

For instance: check out the band promo shots done for MTV back in the day shown above. Rich’s calm energy and sharp memory for design history and his company’s history was deep, humbling and inspiring. About four or five times, Brooke and I kept trying to buy things that were historical for House. We’d pick something extremely rare up, and Rich would smoothly glide over and intervene by quietly saying “I don’t think I can let you leave the store with that one.” He would then break into a explanation about the piece, and why it was so priceless. We would all laugh at the idea of selling it, and move on.

This was the first time in a week or more I completely forgot about what my wife and I were going through. We were both relaxed and invigorated from the design history and personal stories we were experiencing.

Somehow the tour wasn’t enough for Rich. After spending an hour with us, he handed us both goodie bags filled with a bunch of cool knick-knacks. I left hoping that one day Rich finds another reason to “owe me a favor”.

Thank you Rich Roat and House Industries for your Delaware location, vast skill, commitment to design, and of course, kindness.

“Design is a solution. If you do it well enough one day it may be considered art.” –Rich Roat

Let Go or Be Dragged

© Mike Kelly
© Mike Kelly

I’m tense to the point of nausea. I’m skating on the ice of what may be my first ever migraine. This week, my vision has been blurry, I’ve forgotten a coworker’s name, and I even opened my email and stared blankly at the words and characters wondering exactly what it all meant.

Waiting for our pregnancy results that I find so important, is honestly insulting to any sense of spirituality I claim to have.
Right now, I don’t feel spiritual, I just want what I want.

I’m starting to believe the lie that I’m unique and that I’m alone. I have to write publically about it to get it out of my system.  I don’t want to burden my wife with my own struggle, for fear that giving her more to stress about this would potentially ruin her chances of staying pregnant if she even is.

I’ve seen myself be the person who wants things so much, that I actually destroy any chance of getting it.

I need to want less. The best problem solving I can do is when I’m removed and relaxed ..when it’s fun. This isn’t fun it’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable.

Is this stress growth? Similar to the stress growth Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski suggests when discussing the lobster in the shell?

Can I use adversity properly to become stronger? Can I let go enough so that I don’t ruin what I am trying to protect?

“Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard
Some do it with a bitter look
Some with a flattering word
The coward does it with a kiss
The brave man with a sword”
Oscar Wilde, The Ballad Of Reading Gaol

Kill Your Darlings

"Sitting Woman" 1986 (misdated 1989)
“Sitting Woman” 1986 (misdated 1989)

I was twelve when someone first ripped up a drawing of mine in front of me.

I had been taking a life drawing class at Art Students League in NYC with live nude models. I produced an ink drawing that showed a strong improvement of my skills since the class first began and I was really proud.

I waited eagerly for the teacher to circle around to my drawing horse. I motioned happily at my drawing, certain he would confirm my skill.

He hunched down and peered at the work, and gave a half smile, then looked at me seriously. He began in his broken English:
“I was taught by a line of instructors which can be traced back to the master Raphael…”
I couldn’t breathe, I knew who Raphael was and I was stunned as well as immediately frightened at where he might be taking this. The two retired ladies, my classmates on either side of me stopped drawing, turned their heads and watched.

“…all of them, my best instructors, told me what I will demonstrate for you.”

I thought I was about to learn some secret technique, some mystical ability that few knew. I even began to reach for my drawing utensil to offer him. Instead, he swept my newsprint pad up in the air over my head, and in one motion separated the sheet of paper with the drawing on it from the pad with a clean SSSSHRIPP sound.

He held the 18X24 sheet outstretched in front of him and announced to me and the class: “If you did it good once, you can do it a second time ..great!”

He ripped the drawing into pieces while looking down at me.

Oddly enough, I was very comforted in that moment. This instructor believed what he told me and more importantly, he believed in me enough to confidently destroy something that I treasured a moment ago.

A pose later our model put on her clothes for a long seated pose. I made the drawing shown above. My instructor was right. The experience of producing, the practice, the muscle memory, was more important than the actual final piece, the final deliverable.

Today, in everything I do, it’s critical to remember that nothing I try to achieve is as precious as how I go about achieving it.

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”Stephen King
Excerpt From: Greg Mckeown. “Essentialism.” iBooks