Leaving the office to get to work.
Earlier this year I went to Italy and produced these four little books — creative work that was a natural extension of who I am but different from anything I had ever done at Soulellis Studio. I had set an intuitive design process in motion as a way to explore a place (Venice), and used that process to generate poetic, meaningful work. The result was something completely self-directed and valuable and genuine (to the place, to myself). The intensity was a surprise and a return to something I hadn’t felt in a very long time.
Back home in NYC, I ran into Louise Fili on the street. “Louise, I miss Italy. I want to do more work like that” was all I said, and she immediately urged me to go back (which sounded crazy at the time). She suggested I take a look at the American Academy in Rome, and within a few days I was applying for a residency. Two months later I heard that I had been accepted into their Visiting Artists and Scholars program — a luxurious opportunity to sweep aside some time and space and marinate in an ancient place, with an incredible community of creative thinkers.
So on December 31, 2010 I’m closing Soulellis Studio and, with few exceptions, saying goodbye to a good number of clients and many active, successful projects.
Have I mentioned fear yet?
So here’s the manifesto part: I’m leaving the office to get to work. My goal is to return to NYC next summer with a body of new, non-client work. I don’t know what the work is yet and I won’t know what it means until I return. It’s kind of important that I don’t try to figure that out now, but let it unfold in real time. Call it a sabbatical. My only plan is to be present in the world by looking and listening and being open to new situations and people. And to myself. I need to be more comfortable with uncertainty. I need to get back to curiosity. I need to get back to slow design. I need to ask questions like: who am I as a designer, without clients? What do I believe in? Do I have a design philosophy? Do I need one?
These are scary questions for me, but I’m giving them a try. Trying to acknowledge fear and replace it with openness.
And with openness comes my instinct to share the journey. I no longer have a physical office (we moved out of 17th Street in early November) but you can still find my words here and images here. More than ever I want to use Soulellis.com as a home for new ideas and discourse. I’ll document as much as possible and encourage you to use the newly implemented comments for feedback. I very much want the conversation, so please stay in touch in the coming months.