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read, pray, observe

Finding Creativity: Mitch Bakker
Finding Creativity is a guest posting series where I invite people to explore how they find creativity in the world. In November 2008 we hear from creative professionals: industrial design, fashion design, writing and graphic design. Stay tuned.

I'm pleased to introduce Mitch Bakker who is the founder of IDa Design based in Zeeland, Michigan. Thank you for joining us this week Mitch. Please tell us, what is your design profession and the major focus of your work?

Thanks for inviting me. I’m an industrial designer with a strong focus on furniture within the contract/business, education and healthcare segment of the marketplace.

When you look for inspiration where do you go to find it?
I look for inspiration when I’m confronted with a problem, a challenge, when I’m bored or anxious. Where do I go to find it? I connect with friends, I read, pray, observe. I enjoy reading historical writings and quotes from those who have gone before me. They offer inspiration and direction. Here are some I recently came across that speak to how I desire to live.

A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.
Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1881, Scottish Philosopher and Author

There is little success where there is little laughter.

Andrew Carnegie, 1835-1919, American Industrialist and Philanthropist


Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

Mother Teresa, 1910-1997, Albanian-born Humanitarian and Missionary

I found these on www.selfgrowth.com. I also look for inspiration on early morning walks in the woods; nature is a wonderful source of inspiration for me. When I travel I always attempt to take in all that is man made in my surroundings…often my most inspirational ideas are derivatives from built surroundings – architecture, consumer products, transportation. We are all surrounded and influenced by innovation wherever we go; it’s the designer’s job to absorb all that is to form what isn’t. One can say that designers are creators, true but I see designers as re-arrangers of what is. The wise philosopher - Solomon wrote that there is nothing new under the sun.

I’ve recently discovered inspiration by doing something new and different – card tricks. I loved illusion as a child and have found that tapping into things that gave me joy as a child helps me to unlock creativity as an adult. Often design is illusion -- we cover an ugly mechanical engine with beautiful form, we dress to cover flaws. We cannot remove ugliness altogether from our world but we can create beauty within it.

When you think of venturing out to find creativity in the world where do you think of going?
Design school student work is very inspirational to me. Viewing their work on display or reviewing portfolios to understand how they got to where they are in an idea or concept.

A child at play is another; observing my daughter, now 5 years old, as she draws and plays, completely free and uninhibited is very inspirational to me. Not so much in what she is creating but in how she is creating, in a way that is void of self judgment…it matters not that a person's head is connected directly to their legs, literal doesn’t occur to children – I love that. What have you always wanted to redesign or recreate, and why?
Redesign Gravestones; each should be a sculpture or images of the person capturing them enjoying life with a recording of their voice that goes on when you get close…so when you visit you experience them more intimately.

Redesign Elevators; I’m claustrophobic so tight elevators with no way out can really get to me. I would design these things with an escape route that empowers the
inhabitants with the ability to get out e.g., drop down ladder, push here to open door manually, etc. This would really improve my quality of life, as I spend a lot of time riding in these closed metal boxes.

Name something we can do to expose ourselves to something outside of our worlds, outside of the bubbles and environments we inhabit?
I believe it’s really important to understand how it feels to let go of all that is materially important to you. Lose your job, or better yet go on a short term mission trip to a 3rd world county and expose yourself to another culture where none of our rules apply. A good friend of mine travels to China regularly to visit furniture plants where the people live at the plant in 10 x 10 rooms and have 1 or 2 days off per month to visit their family. After spending a good bit of time with the workers, he discovered that they were more content and happier than most of people he knew in the states that had far more affluence.
It’s not so much what we own, but what owns us.
You cannot understand the true meaning of life unless you can understand life from a minimalist perspective, that doesn’t require changing anything other than perspective and how we order our world. It’s an ongoing battle for me, one of my all time favorite quotes comes to mind:
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” – Jim Elliot