This column ran in Saturday’s Arts Section “Salon” in the Telegraph Journal, May 18th 2013
Photo: The inexorable evolution of taste can transform what leading critics once called ‘garbage’ into one of the most expensive modern paintings sold in the 20th century, such as was the case with Andy Warhol’s original Campbell’s Soup cans artwork on display at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Sometimes it hits me, as it must all of us at one time or another, that my chosen profession is, as Desdemona says of Othello’s own past, “passing strange.” As an interior designer, I often find myself, a stranger, standing in the private space of a client, discussing how best to transform what is an overly familiar space to the client into something strange, something new to them, something they could not have imagined or accomplished on their own.
What makes this strange experience even more odd is that we are negotiating the transformation of a private space into something with that foreign thing called taste, one of the most complex categories any culture produces and manages.
It’s not that taste is strange because so few of us possess it, or that it’s in short supply. In fact, the opposite is the case; like opinions, we all have taste. No, what makes taste so inherently strange is, at its best, it is always evolving and yet somehow constant. While taste is extremely sensitive to innovation and the evolution of the”new,”it is always informed by tradition.
Now, if you really want to up the strangeness factor, take that thing called taste as it exists in a given culture or era – always evolving yet basically conservative – and wed it to the very particular and personal.
None of us, even those of us in the business of managing matters of taste, really “know”where our taste comes from. And, perhaps, this is as it should be. It should remain something mysterious. This is not to say taste isn’t subject to change, or education, or radical shifts from time to time. It’s only to stress that some part of it will always remain utterly resistant to definition. And anything resistant to definition is in constant need of conversation.
One of my favourite parts of what I do for a living is that moment when I’m standing clients in their space, about to determine with them how best to transform it into something (hopefully) marvellous. Remaining open to the other is one of the keys to making those moments work for both. It is very important, even though I’m there as the”expert,”with a kind of professional taste, I don’t so much impose my views on them as accommodate my views to theirs. Likewise, their views must also seek to accommodate themselves to mine. Good design is always the result of good conversation, always the result of maximum openness to the sometimes hidden possibilities of rooms, people and circumstance.Passing strange,indeed.
Judith Mackin runs punch inside, an interior design company, and Tuck Studio, located at 40 Autumn St., Saint John: Follow Judith on twitter: @judithmackin, Tuck Studio on Twitter: @tuckstudio, or reach her by email: email@example.com.