Mohawk Maker Quarterly #11: Process

I received the 11th edition of Mohawk Maker Quarterly a few weeks back – and since there is so much fabulousness to absorb, it’s taken me a while to write it up! The focus is on process — and any Stationery Trends reader will know that the mysterious set of steps that leads to the creation of something wonderful is a borderline obsession of mine. We’ve had a department, the Creative Process, devoted to just that idea since we started the magazine in 2008 — so it’s a real treat to see Mohawk putting its own spin on it.

The entire quarterly deconstructs the entire idea of a publication. I love the inside-out rainbow of smyth-sewn bindery and smaller sketchbook-sized format, the cover itself a collage.  Footnotes throughout the issue detail everything from its tactile, rough edge trim to the volume of coffee consumed by the design team from start to finish.I subscribe to the Willie Wonka theory that invention is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple. You can try to create something good by following a set of steps, but more often, it’s by wandering into unexplored territory that you stumble on something wonderful.

Thomas D. O’Connor, Jr.’s letter, devoted to the topic, seems to agree: “Creativity can be messy and random; we need time and space to allow for serendipitous discovery and the possibility of finding an unexpected or superior solution.”The issue’s 80 pages are divided into five chapters, each delving into an aspect of process and printed on five distinct Mohawk papers: Beginnings — Printed on Mohawk Via Felt, Light Gray 80 text/118gsm; Participation — Printed on Mohawk Loop Antique Vellum, Husk 80 text/118gsm; Place — Printed on Mohawk Options Smooth, 100% PC Cream White, 80 text/118gsm; Practice — Printed on Mohawk Via Laid, Natural, 70 text/104gsm; andProduct — Printed on Mohawk Loop Linen, Restful Blue, 70 text/104gsm. 

There are so many gems packed inside these five signatures. Out of Line: The Incredible Creative Impact of Sketching by Patrick Sisson takes a closer look at the power of sketching, pen or pencil to paper. “It’s one of the most significant, and perhaps misunderstood, benefits of sketching: providing a space to work it all out.” 

There is a certain magic in the act of sketching, the piece continues. “We often assume that the brain is split into the logical left side and the creative right side … When the brain starts a creative pursuit such as sketching, neurons in different sections start snapping. Sketching is so powerful … because it gets different parts of the brain to focus on improvisation, ambiguity and making connections. Sketching flips the brain into a flow state: think of a rapper mid-freestyle, or a jazz musician gliding through a solo.”To that end, a sketchbook is included for your own creative process. The Tom Sachs Pocket Notebook is smyth sewn just like its Maker counterpart, printed with a Safety Yellow Via Vellum cover and a light ghost grid pattern on its Superfine Eggshell pages.I also enjoyed DIWHY? by Jordan Kushins, a look at the joy still to be found in doing it yourself. By creating, we really come alive, he writes. “We make, therefore we are.” If you have never been to a paper mill, but use it like most of us without thinking about its origins, then you’ll enjoy Inside the Mill, a photo essay by Jeff Dey. This trip through Mohawk Mills, where four generations have built an American legacy of fine papermaking, reveals a what hides beneath this most humble everyday object. As an avowed introvert, I also really enjoyed Creative Islands by Caleb Kozlowski, which touched on what can be the creativity-killing power of social media. “So, what your friend thinks or the number of likes on a post — and the comments it draws out — narrows what comes next, whether we like it or not. This influence changes the work, so we have to ask ourselves: Whom are we choosing to give influence to and why? Are we sharing to make the work better or is it just a serotonin boost? In the beginning, resist the urge to share. Sharing is a passive aggressive soft factor filing the craving for a hard factor. Resist and discover what you do differently.” Though targeted toward designers, Design Thinking is Dead. Long Live Design by Dora Drimalas, delves into Design Thinking. You know, a modern example of corporate speak “where words are taken, repackaged, and served up as meaningless descriptions of corporate processes … The term design thinking has sunk to the level of corporate speak and simultaneously created the factory system of design.” 

Despite this effort to homogenize it, Drimalas writes, “the real design process looks more like a plate of spaghetti. It’s a heaping pile of starts and stops. There are many entry points depending on the project. There are many people making it and eating it. There are meatballs that you either need to dodge, go over, under or God forbid, go through.”There’s many more surprises — or should I say meatballs? — within these carefully thought out pages. And best of all, all this food for thought is completely free! Go here to get a subscription for yourself.