Confessions of a Creationist

Years of experimentation and collaboration have led to Marcus Piper exhibiting with photographer, Shannon McGrath, at The Australian Design Centre in a show titled FRACTURE : DIFFERENCES. Photograph by Shannon McGrath

It can keep you awake at night, consume your weekends and ultimately drive you mad but there is no off switch to the creative mind. It is an obsession, a mission and more than anything – a passion to create, or to solve a problem in a different way.

I confess – I am a creationist, though not by the theological definition. I don’t know where it came from, neither of my parents are creative. My education was more science than sculpture but here I am, going from one pixel to the next as I moonlight on my clients, and myself, in the pursuit of who knows what.

I first realised I had a problem on the bus home from work when I would compulsively begin identifying the typefaces on every piece of signage along Oxford Street. I have to know how things work and as a kid I would pull things apart to see what made them tick. Not something to try at home. Ultimately, I went to university to figure out how to put them back together again.

My friends and colleagues look at me differently and I avoid the question “What are you working on?” because the answer freaks people out. My Instagram feed is a schizophrenic melting pot of creative admissions that I can’t resist, and when I cook things get even weirder. I once tried to replicate the Italian dish, Canederli, and gave all my friends nightmares. But it is through experimentation – successful or otherwise – that we generate ideas and that is why it is so important.

It is comforting to know that I am not alone in this personal pursuit of possibilities – there are many others who live life more 5-to-9 than 9-to-5. They have day jobs, families and friends, and then their other lives as creatives.  And it’s brilliant that their creative energy is being harnessed and rewarded by programs, employers and awards that encourage the exploration of ideas.

The AFDA award, initiated by Adelaide’s Jam Factory in 2015 are a perfect example, drawing over 100 designers this year (myself included), with the top-gong deservedly going to Alice Springs based Elliat Rich. Another is the product design industry’s VIVID award, now in its 14th year, revealing the shining lights emerging in the Australian design scene.

Last year my fellow creationist, Dan Treacy took home two awards through Vivid and in 2015 Richard Greenacre was awarded Best Furniture Concept. This year Tom Hewitt and James Walsh both received a double dose of recognition.  Amazingly they all have more than Vivid awards in common. Each of these designers have been recognised for work created in their own time, outside of their day jobs at Rakumba.

Rakumba VIVID Award winners Dan Treacy, Richard Greenacre, James Walsh, Tom Hewitt.

My hat goes off to them, not only for receiving recognition for their achievements, but also for their tireless commitment to creativity.  Striving for perfection comes at significant personal cost. It is clearly something Rakumba celebrate and so they should. Encouraging personal exploration is part of their culture and contributes to the way they build their team. This concept of creative problem solving obviously stems from the top down – with the captain of the ship, Michael Murray, confessing to me that at the age of three or four he decided to creatively solve a problem, proceeding to fill the family car’s petrol tank from the garden hose. Yes, add that to the list of Not to try at home.

Michael, a creationist himself, acknowledges he is blessed in having such an amazing team, seeing this approach as a differentiator for Rakumba. Many are the days that begin with exchanges like “I couldn’t sleep last night, what we’re doing is so exciting – and stressful”.

We creationists don’t clock-on and clock-off. The things we discover in our own time influence what we do for ourselves, our friends, clients and employers and that is how we extend ourselves. It is a symbiotic way of life, with inspiration apt to arrive at any moment.

So, while my father was furious when I found a pin and pushed that tiny button on the car stereo as a kid (yeah the one that requires a pin-code to reset it while the cricket is on!) – I’ve come to realise those moments of exploration should be celebrated, because discovery creates potential and that is something we should all embrace.

Reflections contributed for Rakumba by Marcus Piper, self-confessed creationist.

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