Remembering DesignInquiry

On the way to Vinalhaven Island, Maine, to participate in my first DesignInquiry residency, the
fog was so thick, I could hardly see beyond the ferry window. Work that I needed to finish up
distracted me from the eerie haze as we steadily crossed the bay. On the other side, life’s
inevitable routine gave way to unexpected discovery.

When we disembarked, I scanned the small parking lot for my unidentified ride. Archie, the
white standard poodle I’d been told to expect, jumped from the back of an SUV into the midst of
a small crowd gathered near the car. These were the folks with whom I’d undertake creative
pursuits over the course of the next week and engage in design dialogue while prepping meals,
cooking, washing dishes, and during excursions into town.

We each arrived with an individual interpretation of this year’s DesignInquiry theme,
OTHER/WISE, and a project proposed to explore it. My focus built on a personal interest in
archival materials as a form of memory. I sought to discover a sense of place through graphic
ephemera in the Vinalhaven Historical Society as well as symbology and typography on
tombstones in the town’s cemetery. My research on memory quickly expanded to include the
quarters where we were staying, which started out as a family farm, evolved into a community
poor house to care for those in need, and eventually became an artist’s residency.

The unique project that arrived with me on the ferry only jump-started the adventure. Group
activities like creative writing, a workshop on bookbinding, and generating photograms by
sunlight re-awakened creative interests that I had long ignored. I hadn’t fully anticipated the
camaraderie, inspiration, and enthusiasm that would emerge from working in such a
collaborative environment.

DesignInquiry promotes self-reflection and interaction. The residency provides for fresh starts, rerouting, and finishing up projects underway. It’s a time to cultivate new ideas, gather feedback
from others, work out hypotheses, experiment without expectation, to succeed, to fail, to learn,
and to flourish. There’s no better place to tend one’s creative garden.