Words according to Dakota, SHE II, and Raven Vanguard’s third member, also known as Sloth
The Interconnectivity Between Art, Music, Design, and Sense of Self
It is my turn to write the Weekly Once-over. I have been thinking about how I want to reflect, and what I want to say now that it’s a new year, and for what reason I don’t know, we’re all supposed to say “a new me.”
My thought process while writing this is coming from a singular moment while I was struggling with a glue stick, and suddenly Tom started playing the track Orenda from Cosey Fanni Tutti’s upcoming solo album, Tutti. I thought, “well this is weird. But it’s cool, and I like it.” That’s the vibe here. SO WEIRD AND CRAZY AND ODD but cool. And, well, I like it — a lot. Personally, I’ve had short but thorough experiences in a few different cities and towns with different jobs. But here, I fit. It works. I’m home. That feeling derives from so many different things; I’ll get into those in a bit.
So, what does that have to do with the bigger picture? Feeling comfortable in the workplace is a seemingly revolutionary feeling. So many people I know are discontent in their places of work, simply because of how the organization is run, and how the hierarchy is relatively oppressive. No one I know likes to feel oppressed. So why is oppression so commonly accepted in a place of business?
This past weekend I went to see a spiritual medium, a woman that derives a lot of her energy from the natural world and often refers to heightening her vibrations to encounter the spirit realm. I have had sessions with other mediums in the past, but no one even remotely as intuitive or enlightening. Now, I’m assuming that if you’re here, reading this, you’re already a creative, open-minded individual, which is good. You’ll need to be somewhat sponge-like when it comes to weirdness and eccentricity while reading what I have to say about acceptance and confidence.
To give you a little background, I’m 22 years old. I graduated just ten months ago and immediately started my professional career. Somewhere along the way, I found myself buying a house with my significant other, only to become really rather heartbroken a few months later. With my newly gained independence, opportunities began to flow my way like a river full of rapids. Artistic commissions, mural work, a tattoo apprenticeship, clothing, and apparel design, and of course, all while working here at Raven. I took it all on, excited, but was always questioning whether I could maintain myself through it all, questioning my ability, which brought me to my medium. I needed advice from my ancestors.
Throughout this rather beautiful conversation, my medium was receiving visual imagery featuring a pool of opportunity, something I have stepped into, willingly. The pool was deep, and I was hesitant to immerse myself in everything it had to offer. But I controlled my pool, I caused the ripples, the opportunities coming my way. It was not luck; it was the result of everything I have worked for, everything I have exposed about myself to the world. I needed to move forward with a greater sense of confidence, belonging, and be willing to take the help along the way when it presented itself. She discussed my path, winding “through the trees, through the water with a strong boat, through rapids and back through the woods, over mountains and plateaus,” progressing all according to plan. I was meant to experience loss in 2018. I was meant to grow into myself and meditate to connect with my higher self and the vibrations of the universe. I was meant to struggle and thrive, get angry and experience sadness, feel pain and immense joy. It was all a part of a deeper lesson to trust my intuition. I reconnected with my spirit guides, who were mainly my native ancestors. They told me to stay the course because I was exactly where I was meant to be, reassuring that every challenge in my way was just a mountain that I needed to climb, to grow as a creative and a spiritual being.
So why did this matter? And what the hell does it have to do with all of the weirdness here at Raven Vanguard? Well, being young in the digital age doesn’t come without mental challenges. On social media, there is constant pressure to fit in and get as many “likes and follows” as mainstream designers. Apparently, you need this to become a better artist. There is always going to be that sort of comparison. My session, as well as later meditation on this struggle, provided me with a lot of clarity regarding my passions, my work, my style, my taste in music, and further sharing those qualities with those around me. Those who support me.
First came the realization that mainstream popularity and trending content truly does not matter when you have a sense of self and authenticity. There is something to be said about standing out in the crowd when so many of those around you are trying to fit within the box defined by HGTV and what is commonly blasted out all over Instagram. That is not to say that I can not find the beauty within the white walls, and white marble kitchens, and modern minimalism. It’s just not our vibe. The idea that our style is different from what a lot of people are putting out on popular pages just reassures me that we are doing the right thing.
I can’t stand hearing nonsense like, “you’re limiting your client base!” All I can possibly think is, yeah, I suppose we are. But it really is not our style to be working on antiseptic-looking hospitals, emotionless corporate interiors, or cold dental waiting rooms. (Unless you know of a dentist who would like a high-end lounge with velvet and designer lighting - then sure what the hell.) My point is this - too many people are striving to please the masses. And that’s just not our prerogative. Being individuals drawn to music, we have an understanding that just because every single person is not infatuated with your work, stylistically, doesn’t mean it’s not art, or not valuable. Plus, there is such an immense amount of value when it comes to quality over quantity.
Sometimes, it can be intimidating when you see and hear about these other firms landing in Interior Design’s Top 100, firms grossing millions of dollars on huge hospitality projects, getting one hotel after the next. Again – I reflect. We are a three-person firm. We value the emphasis on unique objects, antiquity mixed in with the new, historic preservation, and taking the time to conceptualize each space, following through with every implemented aspect of every single room. This takes time, especially when you’re small. But our final product will be pleasing, distinctive, and tailored. I promise. Of course, we find inspiration from other designers, artists, creatives, and makers. Our design goals extend far beyond the regurgitation of what has already been done by others, or what happens to be on trend. We strive to stamp our individual perspective on everything we touch.
Today, there is far too much emphasis on commercialization and overproduction, that we can quickly lose sight of what we value. There are beautiful looking things, made with cheap materials that are not designed for longevity. There is trend and waste, and sticking to the mold that we learn in school and from the media. This is and always will be a toxic perspective in the creative world. We must strive to find the quality we wish to emulate. Too often, I am seeing designers losing touch with unique things of heirloom quality, and always using the same brands of average quality. Granted, those manufacturers who have an enduring sense of timelessness, quality, and longevity, will always be encouraged by Raven Vanguard, so I can see referring to them time and time again. My point being, try not to let yourself get stuck in the mundane, just because it is what you see plastered all over your feeds, magazines, and popular “inspirational” sites. Pinterest, I’m looking at your standard suggestions. Branching out from the things you are used to seeing and using can take a lot of time and constant effort, however, the results speak to the importance of taking the time to discover new routes, unique objects, different perspectives.
This brings me to my next point about standing out, beyond design, through the personality of the workplace. Censoring for “business” is well-intentioned but not without its consequences- alcohol, drugs, pornographic imagery, sensual art, revealing art, “edgy” statements. (We actually had to call our internet provider about the “business place” blocks that were controlling our internet searches. How can we host a good event if we can’t get onto Tommyrotter’s website? Ugh! Give us booze or give us death! Figuratively speaking, of course.) I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but here, we are not trying to limit what our eyes see, or our ears hear. We have discussions that challenge what is “appropriate” for work, and I personally think it makes us better individuals. We are in a creative industry. Limiting our content based on what would be typically repressed at a 9-5 would limit us as creatives. That would be like telling Pink Floyd that they can’t have weird shit in their videos or make music about ideas that challenge the education of the masses for the sake of being sensitive to most people in the hope of reaching a wider audience. That’s not to say that we strive to be offensive or crude, but we don’t just talk about the weather.
We are REAL and are not limiting who we are, because it takes away from the quality of our art. It limits what influences our ideas in design. It limits us from learning from each other and the world around us. The real world, not just what we are made to believe is the truth. And sometimes, to truly find your creative self, you have to go to a wedding, find yourself in a somewhat *cloudy* tent with a bunch of your best friends, grab some glow sticks, and get beamed up into a spaceship. (I’m not telling you the whole story – you get the point. Shit was weird.)
This is exactly why I have found my home here. I can talk about the experiences that have made me into the individual that I am, as crazy as it comes. I can talk about wanting to get my hand tattooed without the scolding NO IT MIGHT DRIVE AWAY CLIENTS. (Which brings me to another side-bar. I’ll never forget the defeat that I felt in my heart during one of my classes in college when I was singled out for having a half sleeve at the time, from a woman I had previously admired for her success and strength. “Look at Dakota,” she had said, “if she keeps getting tattooed, the likelihood that she’ll be hired and succeed in our industry will keep going down.” Fuck that. That’s all I have to say. Tattoos are art on canvas, and if you can’t appreciate the *non-offensive floral work* I have on my body, then you’re soft and outdated. And yes, I was petty enough to return to class the next week with my forearm tattooed. Bullheaded? Maybe. Authentically myself? Definitely.) I will reiterate – I belong here. My weirdness is accepted here. My process is appreciated here. And honest to God Herself, I pity anyone who is not in an environment where they thrive as an individual.
Looking at everything inside the box keeps you within that box, and as a result, you’ll never grow as an artist.
This used to scare me. I used to question, damn, should I post that online? A place where I am surely vulnerable? Will people judge me? That type of thinking encapsulates everything I avoid now. I know I could keep my true self, to myself, and still be as happy but I no longer fear revealing my inner thoughts, struggles, perspectives, or personal art. There is nothing to gain by hiding other than the acceptance of those who fear change, difference, and uniqueness. And trust me when I say, you are often a reflection of the company you keep. I would rather not be associated with judgment, those who fight acceptance, or people who only value the mundane. Give me weird. Introduce me to your art inspired by the experience. Tell me about your desires and oddities. Life is far too short to be fearful of the things that push your boundaries. (I have been listening to a lot of Nitty Scott, MC lately. In my humble opinion, she is a goddess of experience. She has endured hardship and turned it into some of the most lyrically powerful music that has ever graced my ears. Genre? Hip Hop. If I were to suggest some songs, I’d have to say Flower Child and The Unlearning. – Additionally Shyne by Dounia. Lyrically challenging the norm, and what we typically hear on the radio. My Anthems.)
Back to your regularly scheduled programming, and the point of all this. I am not saying, get tattooed! Dye your hair! Get weird! You must stand out! That is just the wave that I am riding. This year is progressing into a higher standard of acceptance, and personal peace, accommodated by the pride that I feel from being associated with Raven Vanguard. Between the way I represent myself and the way we brand our company moving forward, I think I speak for all of us when I say there is a lot of power in sticking to what you know is best for your identity. It’s never about gaining the attention and worship of every person you come into contact with. It’s about finding those and marketing to those who can respect the things that make you unique. My advice is to meditate on who you are and what you represent.
We are authentically Raven Vanguard. It’s who we are. It’s reflective of the books and movies we divulge in. It’s the artists who inspire us. It’s the furniture manufacturers that take their time to craft each piece, upholding a higher standard of quality. It’s artisans and musicians that are not afraid to be different. To challenge. We are a compilation of all things weird and wonderful, avant-garde and mystifying. We are moving forward this year by showing you all who we truly are and the design we aim to achieve in the coming year, and I just hope that you all are genuinely ready to open your eyes and see us, I mean, really see us. To meet us. To become acquainted with who we are and why we are. To engage with us. We are indeed ready for this. You will see.
Word count – 2493. Oh shit, I’m in trouble; maybe not – 2501.