The Insights Design Lecture series is back, starting off with Marian Bantjes on Tuesday, March 4, at 7 pm in the Walker cinema. Buy tickets here.
After a decade working as a book designer and typesetter in Vancouver, British Columbia, Marian Bantjes decided to chuck it all and reinvent her practice. Widely hailed in the recent resurgence of ornamentation in graphic design, her current work draws on 20 years of experience in painting and printmaking. Now a self-proclaimed “ graphic artist,” Bantjes produces designs of intricate craft, elaborate patterning, and complex ornamentation. Her acclaimed work includes commissions for a limited-edition cover for Wallpaper magazine, catalogues and bags for Saks Fifth Avenue, and illustrations for such publications as Yale Alumni magazine, Wired, and Print. She has taught at the Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver and is an author for the design-discussion Web site Speak Up. Check out her website.
To whet your appetite for the lecture, we asked Marian to answer a few of life’s most—and possibly least—pressing questions:
1. What have you been obsessing about?
I’m working on a book and I’ve been obsessing about it from nearly every aspect: what to include, whether anything I’m making is good enough, how much research I should do, whether it will be a work of staggering genius or a laughable and inconsequential attempt. Also about how much work I’m putting into it, and simultaneously how I’m not working on it enough. And finally whether I am wasting my time.
2. What’s your most prized possession?
Hmm. This is hard to say. In one sense it is my house, as it’s what I get my most obvious daily pleasure from, and it’s also my most expensive possession. It is, however, replaceable. So from that perspective, from what I would miss most if my house and everything in it burned to the ground, it would have to be my photos of friends and family.
3. What are you reading?
A number of blogs, ongoing; a number of issues of The New Yorker, ongoing; ditto, Eye Magazine; an issue of Cabinet; plus Debbie Millman’s The Essential Principles of Graphic Design which I have one or two chapters left to read; The Best American Science and Nature Writing, 2007, ed. Richard Preston; and The Sense of Beauty by George Santayana. I am in desperate need of a good novel.
4. What’s one of your guilty pleasures?
Well typically this refers to something that I am embarrassed to admit, and I can’t think of much that I’m embarrassed to admit, except for the things I’m *too* embarrassed to admit. But I do feel genuinely guilty that I really love to sleep. It doesn’t fit with our contemporary work ethic, and given that most of my friends seem to be rushing around, getting lots done on little sleep, I feel guilty that I really like to pack the hours in, in bed. The other thing I really enjoy, guiltily, is doing nothing. Just staring into space.
5. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Well this is a tough question, so I decided to look up the Classical virtues, as derived from Plato, which would be temperance, prudence, fortitude, justice … and piety. Despite being an obsessive, I think temperance, or moderation is a good thing; Fortitude is also important: a stick-with-it-ness is necessary to get things done; Justice is a no-brainer; Prudence gave me some pause, as we’ve come to equate it with caution, but really it means to show sound judgment, which I actually think is underrated. That leaves Piety as my obvious answer … especially as I am not a religious person and have pretty strong views on that matter which I won’t go into here.
Aside from that interpretation, something which has been bandied about as a desirable trait has been “passion.” I read a wonderful description of passion somewhere as an extremely destructive force, and I have to agree. Passion is the loss of all sensibility, it is the opposite of prudence, and as such I think it is highly overrated, except in matters of sex.
6. What is one of the most unexpected influences on your design?
Probably modernism. You can’t see it, but I know it’s there.
7. What were you doing before you responded to this questionnaire?
I was writing an article for my book, *Silly*!
8. What question do you wish we’d asked you?
If I would like to sign on the dotted line to accept a paid, year-long Artist-in-Residency at The Walker.
And if you want to go ahead and spoil the lecture for yourself, read Ellen Lupton’s heartfelt review of Marian’s talk at the most recent AIGA conference.
Hope to see you on Tuesday!