Does Design Reflect Character?

I saw that question in The New York Times a few months ago, and of course it caught my attention. How could it not, being what I do? I also love museums and have studied art and design. I think of the great works I have looked at studied and learned from and it seems almost a silly, banal question, when the answer to me is so evident . When I think of work created by Da Vinci, Praxitales, Pollock, Shakespeare, Wagner or Frost I know that their art affected and changed me. Their passion, vision and expression of the world, of life, as they saw it affected and changed me as well as thousands more. Just to mention those names is to have an immediate impression of how their works have rippled through the ages showing us themselves as well as ourselves.

 In my opinion then art is a Rorschach Blot Test. We are voyeurs when we walk through museum halls and corridors and look at a painting on a living room wall. Why we will criticise some art as bad art...lacking character, insight, originality whether the medium is writing or the painting of a vase of flowers. A vase of flowers by Picasso is a discovery, and by another painter , most probably an object to fill a blank wall. Every sculpture, painting, inscription of written word, shares the world we experience through the artist's eyes and so we see the world anew through their personal lens. That is character. That is a character filter honed to use a certain medium to show not just the object created and now observable but the artist's interpretation of the object, space or moment, their vision and that vision which is art has the art reveals the artist's character.

Steve Jobs once said that design is assumed to be about how a product looks but in reality is about how a product works .I would further say that design is what an object can do, the effect it has when beautifully designed so that it becomes a joy to use. Therefore the character and intelligence of the designer is revealed in their very thoughtfulness. Their ability to make a functional object beautiful, as in a Micheal Grave's tea kettle, speaks volumes of the creator and earns its place on a museum shelf.

If you haven't studied art and learned to decode it, let me do some of the work for you and why it is impossible in my opinion to separate art from the character of the artist. Let's look back to the first pieces I created and why some jewelry would be bought by collectors and others sold at a Five and Dime after its been copied. Why most people could see a piece of my jewelry and know it is Mahlia Collection by Konstantina Mahlia just as they recognize a Picasso, Mozart or a Rodin.

The ring above is one of my first pieces and belongs to a collector in Los Angeles.I mention who owns it as the reference of a person who collects art and lives surrounded by beautiful things. I believe though that anyone can appreciate art, which is why museums are open to everyone. There are layers to a work that some who have studied art will see that others miss and so here I will 'decode ' one of my pieces. The decoding will show my values as well as how the object reveals my sense of proportion, scale, symmetry story and color.

I believe, and have been told, that I am a person of integrity. I mention this because this is where it becomes clear that the work becomes indivisible from the artist. I sought and learned a language unfamiliar to most which is symbolism. The study of symbolism was important to me because I grew up in a very muticultural envelope where as a child, it seemed quite obvious we needed a language everyone could easily understand and share without years of study. A picture book of values embedded into visually digestible codes. I wanted to share the codes. How was I going to inspire others to reach high, if I could not show it to them and give them talismans with with to ornament themselves where the codes showed they belonged to the same tribe of believers? This tribe of believers believed in honesty, integrity, loyalty, hard work, courage, love, strength and that all these 'good' things would have their just rewards. Fruitful endeavor would result from their belief system of good things they adhered to.

So, the ring above is an object with inherent good character. The metal is fine gold which will not tarnish or change with time. It will remain the same for aeons which is why the ancients chose it to make jewelry thousands of years ago. Look in a museum case; the gold jewelry is still unchanged in color. Form a pragmatic point of view, the two tones of the gold, white and yellow gave me contrast which is essential to an an object of rich detail , but it also gave a modern woman a piece of jewelry that would always go with any other piece she might wear, or accessory that might need its compliment, therefore it was a fashion statement that was very wearable. Its design has an essence of subtle opulence, Again, my time, our times called for something to be enjoyed that was not an obvious , ostentatious statement of wealth, but an object of taste which did not draw attention. The design of the shank is very comfortable. It will not swing on the finger, it will not cut into the finger. It is not delicate...the stones will not come loose, chip, wear because the bezels protect them. The ring shank will never have to be rebuilt as it wears thin. It will never need to be polished because the dimpled texture of the gold will always look the same after years of wear and use.

There is a row of laurel leaves which encircle the bezel.The laurel leaf has been used to represent loyalty and triumph since the times of the ancient Greeks. That detail alone speaks of my beliefs, heritage, sense of aesthetics and values. There is a warrior engraved in the honed surface of the amethyst. A female warrior. The lavender color of the stone too, is feminine. Again - here I am.

I am of pure cultural descent. My bloodlines are old and my crest, stamp, stories and belief in objects that will outlive me all derive from that very ancient heritage and culture I carry in my genes, veins, persona and work.

Does design reflect character?

There is no other answer. Yes.

Chris RobinsonComment