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.

12 Comments

  1. Paul … Congratulations, good exploring, and thanks for sharing your journey.

  2. I LOVE this! Good luck. I will be checking in frequently.

  3. Buono viaggio! All of us close to you will be enriched by your explorations and discoveries – and creations! Honored to be along for the ride – even if from afar.

  4. inspired by your message and your mission. so excited to see your explorations unfold !

  5. Paul,
    I learn so much from you!
    Kalo taxidi….me agapi kai filia, MOM

  6. Paul,

    congratulations and best of luck in your new endeavors. Is is very seldom that one gets a change to ‘start’ over to find oneself. Looking forwards to see where this journey takes you and what comes out of it.

    Best regards,

    The Cuya family

  7. Paul i am so proud of you,take your time to enjoy this life time expireance and remember that we are goin to support you in any way we have to in your tripp.

    Love Dad.

  8. Paul – what a beautiful way to express this next step. Wishing all the best in your journey!

    -Alexis

  9. Sounds wonderful! I look forward to seeing what you create. Cheers!

  10. I wish you only the best in this very meaningful adventure. It sounds like an amazing opportunity that I have no doubt you will make the most of. Be well, travel safe and may only the best come of this incredible chance of a lifetime.

  11. Better late than never. What an excellent challenge you’ve given yourself. May I say how proud I am for you? (Too late: just did.)

  12. brilliant!!!!!
    you have a fan in Roma!

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