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Mindful : August 2015
the beauty of ordinary things Mindful: What is it about your love of objects? Don’t objects clog up our lives? Maira Kalman: Yes, there are too many things. I say that to myself 50 times a day: too many things, too many things to do, I have too many things. And yet, we can’t live without things, so why not look at them and see what you can see. I like doing that for a dozen different reasons: for design, for histor y, for memory, for narrative, for beauty, for humor. The process of choosing what is beloved is an interesting one. What you love keeps changing. If you’re aimlessly wandering around, and observing whatever comes to your attention, does trying to find an object to make art with interfere with the acci- dental quality of just seeing? The aimlessness is very purposeful. I’m out there to document what I find lovely or interesting, or funny or beautiful or sad or crazy while I’m walking. I’m not trying to find it. I’m allowing it to appear before me and then I’m happy to either docu- ment it or not. There are surprises and they’re satisfying. I’m combin- ing pragmatic grounded work with dreamy wandering. What do you mean when you talk about having an “empty brain?” It means you’re really inhabiting the moment, in a very particular way, in a very immediate way. You’re not worried about what happened, about what will happen. It’s not my state all the time by any means. I spend a lot of time worrying, but when an empty brain happens, it’s really about taking pleasure in occupying the moment. A cliché yes, but isn’t that a good cliché? → Renowned illustrator and writer Maira Kalman has created many New Yorker covers and almost 30 books, including an illustrated ver- sion of The Elements of Style. She’s designed clocks, coats, coasters, and hats. Her latest book, My Favorite Things, is a catalog of what delights her. After a conversation about art in everyday life, she shares with us glimpses of ordinary things she finds extraordinary. Maira Kalman can fall in love at any time, with anything. Her secret? She sees a new world in each moment. In an age when we’re over-producing stuff and drowning in it, does it become harder to appreciate material culture, a well-designed thing, a fine thing? There will always be a tension between we need it and we don’t need it, we love it and we hate it. But we will never stop human beings from design- ing and making things. There’s always room for another umbrella or bucket. You didn’t know you needed another umbrella until you saw one that some- one gave thought to, and it informs your life, enhances your life, in a different way. How could we ever stop people’s creativity and design curios- ity? There’s room to design all kinds of things and that’s a great joy of liv- ing. It’s the continuation of humanity. You can’t have a Soviet State deciding “This is the only bucket there shall be!” even though the bucket might be fabulous actually. That’s not the world we live in. The world we live in is a creative world. How do you find subjects for your art? I’m ambicurious. I like to look, and I love to wander around, aimlessly. That’s my main job description. August 2015 mindful 35 creativity