The power of observation

(Posted on January 3, 2011)

The English dictionary meaning for observation- an act or instance of noticing or perceiving.

I believe in the power of observation as I have seen results. This word started to make real sense while I was visiting Milou Ket, a trend forecaster based in Amsterdam. While taking us around the city to various stores, places of interest, design galleries, etc. I noticed how keenly she went through the items/products on display. She would look at each product and explain minute details about them. Observation is key to new development and growth. The mind needs constant churning to produce results.

scrapbookpage1One of the best examples that I can give you is of the picture on the left. This paper weave is inspired from the old chairs that were there at home while I was very young; a legacy of my grandfather. I was always intrigued with the patterns. The art is in being able to calculate how many strands to leave while you weave. Obviously now these chairs are history along with the artisans who did them. If you try and weave it with your hand, you will not be able to because there is a technique to do it…maybe I divulge it in one of my workshops! or should I keep it a trade secret? 

As I have no training in design, the only way for me to learn techniques is to observe from what is already there. Every Sunday I visit some mall in the vicinity looking for the latest trends and styles; with my hectic weekly schedule this seems to be the only time and way to do it.

For example: These days I see a lot of studs/rivets/brass fittings on products at stores like Diesel, The Collective, etc. I see it as a trend but the problem is that I have already been using these since the last 3-4 years, should I do more? I don’t  think so because this idea in particular is already done to death. I also notice Zippers being used in a variety of products, from bags to shirts, I don’t like the idea at the moment; lesson: think for yourself and do not always follow trends.

I have been toying with the idea of designing jewelry, I have invested in all the tools and relevant materials but I think the time is not right, so I will let the idea hibernate till I have a sure-shot saleable design in mind. You have to nurture an idea, water it like a plant and wait for it to bear fruit. Patience is the last thing I have, but I see myself changing; I spend an enormous amount of time and money in research and development, for example: while designing a new journal, I decided to test the strength of its binding, I opened and closed the journal more than a thousand times to test it – It did pass; many a times it does not. While speaking about jewelry, I try and observe the different kind of hooks that are being used in earrings, the different kinds of closures in necklaces, I need to get these right because the design can always come later, but the basics are far more important, if I get that wrong then I am starting on the wrong foot.

I wish I could travel more, there is so much to learn and absorb.

While travelling on a cycle rickshaw a few days back in chandni chowk, I noticed the wires overhead, they were unruly and haphazard, an idea struck me – everyone will see this idea take a shape and form very soon. The Journalmind needs to be trained to question the normal, if we don’t let our minds wander and explore, then we will have to be content with the normal and the mundane. One of the reasons why I have reached this far is because I had no formal training in design, therefore I learnt nothing and my mind was not trained to follow the norm. Every idea, material and technique that I see is always worth a try because you never know what may come of it. An example is a new material that I am using for my new range of journals. Nobody had used it therefore all were skeptical if it would work. I too could have let it go but I thought of giving it a try and the picture on the right is what’s coming soon.

A few unusual things that I have designed:


Time Piece

This piece of art epitomizes the experimental part of me. The inspiration for this “timepiece” runs back to the time when I was a young boy and the wooden scale with its rudimentary appeal was a constant source of fascination; it was a multipurpose tool and also a toy. This timepiece is sold by invitation.dinnerinvite


A very old design that still outsells newer ones- Spice card.

While watching an english movie I noticed the design and style of a photo frame, the idea struck me and I adapted it to my range of stationery.

While going through a book I keenly look at the cover, binding, stitching, pockets, etc. The structure intrigues me more than the subject. Have you noticed covers of fiction bestsellers? many a times we buy the book for its cover, imagining the picture as the real story. Many books sell well because of the technique used on the cover, like embossing, foil print, de-bossing, etc.

Lots of times when I discuss an observation that I have made about a place, a thing or a person, my friends and family find it rather amusing or even absurd! what would you call that?

While I speak so much about observation; I must also emphasize the power of listening to other people. Sometimes the best ideas come from people who are unrelated to your work – they offer you a fresh perspective and that my friends turns out to be a million-dollar idea. It is dangerous to tell or show me something; because you never know what I would do with it.

Nature has so much to give us, if we only had time to stare! this reminds me of an old poem from school by William Henry Davies:

What is this life if, full of care,We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight, streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, and watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can, enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.

So here’s wishing everyone a year of happy observation!

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