Go Outside! Kill something! Design!
On fresh air and creativity
O Street is a small company. One of the big reasons for this is that we want the opportunity to do things like this — to pile into a van and spend a weekend in a cottage in the middle of nowhere, like any other dysfunctional but loving family. We do this every summer: pack our bags, load up on snacks and liquids, and head for Loch Fyne on the west coast, where mussels, hiking, sing-a-longs and fishing adventures await.
The Friday of our trip is when we arrive at the cottage, and there’s lots to do. Whether we’re hill walking, taking a dive into the salt waters of Loch Fyne, or poking about the beach looking for good skipping stones, the weekend if filled with moments connecting with nature.
It’s these moments we find inspiration beyond blogs and Pinterest boards. Connections with the natural world have a way of turning up in our work in unexpected ways. And creatives finding inspiration in nature is nothing new.
Henry David Thoreau said of being inspired by nature, ‘I derive more of my subsistence from the swamps which surround my native town than from the cultivated gardens in the village’.
The ugliest that the natural world has to offer than the prettiest of the built world. In other words, if you want to make good creative work, go roll around in the mud.
This is a Spoon
Everyone’s favourite part of the trip is how we keep busy: games and sing-a-long’s (yes, we’re very wholesome). Last year’s go-to game was a dice betting game from Peru. This year we spent more time than necessary playing a maddening game which requires everyone to forget what a spoon is. The night is capped by us sitting around with guitars, whisky, and the O Street songbook.
It’s these long nights sitting around chatting about everything in world (other than typefaces, colours and hashtags) that we cement friendships making working in the studio a total joy.
If we’re on our best behaviour we’re in bed before 3am, as the fishing commences early on Saturday.
Fishing as Therapy
Ernest Hemingway famously went on and on in his writing about fishing — quite often to his reader’s annoyance. Where was the excitement, the swashbuckling? I hear about how macho this man is, but all he writes about is getting up early to catch grasshoppers as trout bait!
While Hemingway did love to fish, he wasn’t really writing about fishing. He was experimenting with modernist prose; simple and direct, observational, but never overtly discussing the true meaning. His character who rises early to fish and sleeps in the woods isn’t just doing these things for the hell of it–he’s recovering from the physical and emotional traumas of war.
For Hemingway, nature was a place for rebirth. Getting away, slowing down, taking a deep breath and giving yourself a chance to emerge rejuvenated is just as — if not more — important as it was one hundred years ago.
Along with fishing comes savage killing (if you want to eat the fish). The Saturday night of our trip is one full of feasting, but we’ve got to earn it first. If you want mackerel sushi, you’ve got to break some necks. The poor buggers don’t suffer long, and Neil (who lived in Japan) schools us on proper fillet and sushi prep techniques.
It’s brutish, yes, but to snap a fish’s neck with your bare hands is to be in touch with the inherent violence that we facilitate but ignore in our everyday lives.
So how do these adventures feed into our work? Well, in just about every way possible. An obvious choice that comes to mind was the inclusion of Nan Shepherd in the new RBS bank notes. Nan famously walked every nook and cranny of the Cairngorms, finding inspiration in every step for her writing. If you look into the details of the notes, you’ll even see an appearance by nature’s pesky, unappreciated minions, midges (more on this project soon).
Mostly, though, it’s not this straightforward. Inspiration from nature works its way into design in subtle ways, too; the colour and grace of a brushstroke,
or finding beauty in…a rock.
Our weekend away is — according to our loved ones who are sadly abandoned — an excuse for us to have fun, piss about and indulge. They’re not wrong, of course, but here’s what’s important: we don’t need an excuse! And neither do you.
As a creative outfit, getting fresh air, running around like wild animals and some good old-fashioned bonding is what keeps us ticking. This goes for everybody, no matter what sort of work you do.
Here’s hoping you can get out and break some necks.