My project will never be over. There will be no big single unveiling of successful completion, nor an admission of defeat. There will only be the occasional thrill of incremental progress mixed with a general lack of progress. At least that is how it seems. I have been remodeling my home for as long as I can remember so why should I be able to imagine it any other way?
This is where I live right now – in a semblance of what my home used to be, and a hint of what it promises to be. My space is covered in cardboard and draped in plastic, but the plumbing and some fixtures work so I am able to convince myself it is livable. This is exactly what I have warned countless clients against – living in your remodel, even for a little while. But the hope of improving things and the reality of not being able to move out have proven unavoidable. And, as it turns out, there are no secret deals for Architects; we exceed budget and go over schedule just like our clients.
It’s not so bad really. I take my victories where I can get them. I actually enjoy the process. I like making things and seeing things get made. I like learning how things are done. I am comfortable with potential. But I could get used to moving on as well.
Sleep is the best medicine for just about everything. Not only do I love sleeping, but I also use it to help me solve design problems, from simply thinking smarter after a good night’s rest to power napping through a creative block and sometimes, literally dreaming about solutions. Sometimes, I dream in Rhino (no kidding!) and am proud to say that I have never pulled an all-nighter, even throughout college. Sleep is just too precious and a lack of it has been shown to negatively impact creative thinking.
But just like everyone else in the city, I tend to forgo sleep too often for social gatherings, events, or work. After three years of constant sleep deprivation (aka grad school), I also developed a terrible habit of hitting snooze – not once, not twice, but up to five times every morning no matter how many hours of sleep I get. It’s gotten so bad that I often set my alarm to sound half an hour before I need to get out of bed. Despite the overwhelming knowledge that this behavior is, in fact, bad for you, I still can’t kick the habit. That is, until I sleep outside.
Having grown up in Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, spending time outdoors unplugged and far away from the city is a regular necessity. But I find something particularly magical about sleeping outside, whether in a tent, on a hammock, or out on the deck or roof. I tend to sleep better for a shorter duration and wake up naturally without feeling groggy. (I haven’t found research on the therapeutic wonders of outdoor sleeping just yet, but there are definitely benefits to spending time outdoors.) Whenever I have the opportunity to snooze outside, I do it.
Ever since we moved into our home on Larkin Street, I’ve been talking about getting a hammock to pitch on our roof deck. Not just for lounging outside, but also for power naps, occasional post-lunch siestas, and a comfortable place to find some quiet in our open office space. And after going on about it for over a year, I was finally tasked to buy one! Naps for everyone! (Have I mentioned the benefits of napping?)
In the spirit of “the lived experience”, I’ve opted to test two hammocks: first, a Byer of Maine Barbados Brazilian hammock for its style and material heft and second, the Kammok Roo for its durability and easy set up. Two different takes on the traditional hammock, but I’m excited to try them both out! I hope the rest of the gang here is, too. The next time I’m stuck on a design problem, instead of waiting for a creative spark or mood to hit me, I’ll curl up in the hammock for a little outdoor respite. It’ll be like hitting “refresh” instead of “snooze”.
A year ago, I was painting on an easel in a dark corner of my bedroom, in front of my dresser, with old sheets on the ground to protect my landlord’s carpet… tiptoeing between drying canvases on my way in and out. Art requires space. Our office learned that when we moved from the Mission, and I learned it when I gained some space and fitted out my art studio, filled with natural north light. I’m lucky to have this space in a city so dense, but it didn’t come without its sacrifices. In order to justify said sacrifices, I created my Art Night.
I just picked up Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work and it is reaffirming that many creative types throughout history are like me, creatures of habit. A brief glance at my iPhone calendar would unveil the plethora of mundane tasks and appointments I create in order to keep things moving smoothly. In between the important things, I schedule the little things – laundry, exercise, one-week reminders for birthdays that require gifts or cards (seriously try that, it’ll make you seem so prepared and thoughtful). They all have equal weight in there, and that is the only reason I’m wearing clean clothes to work today. And, for the past year, my calendar has included a weekly reoccurring appointment called “Art Night.”
Art Night is where I can work through some minor obsessions; results include some dreadful pieces that belong nowhere, and some better stuff that finds its place in my apartment, the apartments of my friends (I’ve resolved to make all of my gifts this year… and I’m successful about 90% of the time) and the chance, habit-supporting commissioned piece. The Night is allowing me the time to problem-solve and strategize without deadlines or consequence. It’s never been the way I work; I’m challenging myself to find opportunities within incompleteness, and striving to “finish” work that is just awful, and hopeless. It’s good for me, I guess.
Being the way I am, the calendar appointment was necessary to allot time for the self-serving and anti-social undertaking. I make up for it by occasionally inviting friends to join me, and by blasting my Instagram followers with my progress. Sharing my art virtually provides the social factor I crave after a long evening to myself. Plus, I get to connect with other artists and makers I’ve met through school or along the way, gain the instant-gratification every #millennial obviously needs (I’m not even going to fight that point), and create an accessible chronicle of my recent work.
As design professionals, we spend most of our time striving to make art that matters (thanks, CCA!). But for one night a week, I get unfocussed, and gladly make art that doesn’t matter. It’s still too early to tell if this is working to make me a better designer, thinker, person. But for now, it’s simply a ritual; a challenging escape that I’ve grown to appreciate.
Special thanks to the geniuses behind syncing calendars, my old roommate for moving out, and Flax Art Store for being on my way home and always carrying that random supply I just learned I need (I’ll miss you guys).
Lydia Lee, “In San Francisco, Boor Bridges Architecture creates a cozy world for programmers”
Article about Stripe HQ.