Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bobby Jones Also Taught Me...

In my last post, I was able to share 3 of the lessons I took away from the movie on the life of Bobby Jones. Should I say in another way, lessons he taught me, even though we never met. This is often the case in life though, further enhanced by technology, the internet and social media. People we have never met and would never meet are influencing us and we them. More people can watch you, more can listen to you, more can read from you..., so what information are you sharing, what lessons are you teaching?

As Bobby grew older, he got involved in informal plays and then competitions. People began to notice him more, especially because he was so young compared to those he played with. On one of his trips at the early stages of his exposure to the limelight he said "I don't think I want to be famous...I just want to play". That definitely challenged me. One may say, he was just a kid, what did he know. But then, approaching life from a kid's perspective...innocent and pure (even in motivation) is usually a healthy approach. He saw what he did and was more into it for the fun he derived, he thoroughly enjoyed himself. That was why it turned out so differently for him. Later in life, he said again, 'once you play for money, you can't call it amateur'; he preferred to be referred to as an amateur. I like to use the word passion to describe this. I feel it's a differentiating factor and also a sustaining one. What you do now, is it fun? Do you enjoy it? If you never got a dime or recognition for it, would you continue all the same?... mhh, time will tell.

At one of the opens he played in, Bobby reported an infraction which set him back in the game and eventually affected his win. At that point, he displayed the height of sportsmanship. He was more concerned about doing it right than winning. We also do get to those points in life, when we have to make tough choices. Do we choose to show integrity or win (knowing, we've broken the rules)? If we become so overtaken by the sense of always competing, always wanting to be the first or the only ones achieving some feats, it's so easy to fall into this error. Sometimes never learning the rules (but then ignorance is no excuse), or knowing them and never truly valuing them. In addition to the dent to one's name or personality, what's the use of breasting the tapes and then getting disqualified for running so wrong? On the long run, truth, sincerity and fairplay always win. Some famous personalities especially athletes have suffered falls from this too....if only they had known. Learn the rules, play by it, sometimes it hurts, but then it pays.

Bobby played more, won more, and became very famous. This involved traveling more, practicing started to tell on his health, and even on his marriage. Tell -tale signs were blinking red lights...and then he stopped. He retired. He stepped out of competitions. Simply putting it, he knew when to stop. This is another challenge all of us face. The question 'when will you stop?' Or 'when will you say no'. If we get carried away by fame, always putting up a show, always being there, or perhaps the idea that without us, some things will never be, then we allow the more important aspects of our lives to deteriorate, and we eventually lose out. Watch your relationships, watch your health; those are usually the first to give warning signs. Do not take them for granted, besides, it's better to leave the scenes when you're still being celebrated. You really don't have to take up just any and every opportunity. Let's be careful and be bold enough to identify when to say no when we have to. Do you know when you've had enough, done enough and when to step out completely? ‘Cos truly, life never ends when this happens.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Six questions with Kunmi Otitoju aka minku

My sister was born an artist.  She was raised in Lagos, passed through the USA, and settled in Barcelona, Spain.  
At Tade Nursery School in those days, her favourite subject was PATTERNS.  She loved art throughout school (St. Mary's Private; Queen's College), and at home, she loved cutting and tearing, then stitching and glueing and just making things.   
Many years later, Kunmi attended the real HU, graduating summa cum laude in Computer Science in 2005.  She was a programmer and usability engineer and design fanatic who got to intern at Goldman Sachs and FAST (Microsoft), edit a magazine, see Europe, present research, learn languages, design corporate websites, and earn a Masters in Human-Computer Interaction from Virginia Tech, ...before making a return to creating objects, products, and culture via Minku, her bespoke leather goods company. 

For my second-ever UpNaira interview (see the first), I thought to ask minku to share some of that magical ability to be authentic, brilliant, creative, distinctive, eloquent, fashionistique...ok, I'm getting carried away here.  Let's go...

What do you love about working with leather and fabrics?
minku: I generally enjoy doing fun things with colour and texture: this exploration is the one thing that is consistently evident in the bags I make. When I was in art school here in Barcelona, I did not really care which media I used for my projects, as long as the colours and textures I was conveying felt right to me. So working with leather, which comes in so many colours and textures, is for me like being a child that can eat all the candy she wants.
The Fagunwa bag is a minku classic
Is minku loved by all, and if not, describe the typical minku loyalist.
minku: Ahh, loved by all ;-P
The typical Minku loyalist gets a kick out of knowing that hours of skilled blood sweat and tears went into making something, of which there is probably only one in the world. Maybe this makes them art collector-type people. They may not care much for Campbell soupcans arranged in a certain order, but they will spend hours lost in the intricate brushstrokes of Yayoi Kusama's White Infinity Nets, for example. The typical Minku loyalist has a strong ability to respond emotionally to everyday objects made in an unusual way.
This "man bag" is another minku classic
What is the financial potential for a company like yours?
minku: I ask myself this daily :-) Oh man. Considering that Louis Vuitton started similarly to me (as a malletier, making travel trunks for wealthy people on a one-on-one basis) and is now worth about $25.9bn, I think there is hope. It would take time though, years and years of building a base of trusting customers. But I am fine with this consistent-climb approach.

For me, part of the reason I love doing this is that I dream of a day that more sub-Saharan leather goods makers, with their heritage of excellent craftsmanship, would be as renowned as Hermes Paris, Prada Milan or Loewe Madrid. 
minku did Barcelona Fashion Week in January
Why did you study Computer Science in uni if you knew you were going to end up in design?
minku: I think that even though I used to make things by hand when I was younger, I did not know the word 'design' as it exists now. Fashion design seemed like something tailors or Paris Fashion Week designers did, and both seemed distant from my reality. Yet what I do now is somewhere between product design and fashion design. I did not know such a realm existed until during/after my masters studies at Virginia Tech.

My journey to design has been an interesting one, and I think my work is all the more interesting because I haven't been so schooled in design and materials use, so for example I don't care if a certain type of leather should only be used for shoes, or if aso oke should only be worn on heads and waists -- if I conceive a bag I can make with it, I will just follow through.

Actually part of the motivation for starting Minku was that I finally, for the first time in my academic life, got accepted into a design program - Stanford's mechanical engineering masters with the product design option. This was in April 2010. By this time, I was just loving Barcelona life and not sure I wanted to leave (the folks at Stanford were very understanding and let me defer for a year). During the year, I got to experiment answers to the question: "can I build a product-design project that would be on a similar level to if I were a Stanford graduate?" I had Virginia Tech's human-computer interaction masters and a handful of art courses under my belt by this time, and I managed to convince myself that though Stanford would be a super cool place to be, my combined educational and travel experiences had already given me a great foundation for what I wanted to become.

Having said these, computer science has been good to me, even as a designer. Knowing how to create the precise brand identity I want online, and how to modify my site and e-store without having to rely on someone else's timelines, have made my life easier.
What will your next collection be about?minku: My next collection will be about rebels. A working quote is "She wore her crown as an eyepatch and declared mutiny on the land."  I came up with it, if you were wondering, a few days after reading some Yalla poems on your site... you awakened my poetic side :-)
We did a preliminary photoshoot for the collection last month, and it is about subtle subversions of authority through dress.
Earlier this year, I attended a job interview wearing an afro. And that got me thinking: I had to wear my hair that way because the resources for the management of 2-inch long African hair in Barcelona are quite scarce. But in wearing an afro to an interview, something unexpected happened -- I felt cool, powerful almost, in being so "rebellious", considering how university career services counselors used to advise that we wear our hair for interviews.
For the collection, I am also creating a limited line of menswear and womenswear to help convey the theme. The bags would still play the prominent role of course.
The designer, chilling
You live in Barcelona but grew up in Lagos. Which is the more exciting city? 
minku: Both are exciting for different reasons. Barcelona has metro, Lagos has traffic. Exciting life can be witnessed while traversing the city in both...

minku's Twitter, Blog, Shop, Facebook

This is how much I pay for internet in Lagos

Visafone Nigeria $1 = 160 Naira
Five to ten thousand naira per month, for service that may be much improved from a few years ago, but is still very limited/limiting.  How much do you spend on internet monthly?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

What Bobby Jones Taught Me

Unashamedly, I like movies. Infact I really enjoy watching movies, first for the entertainment derived and also the new things learnt. Apart from the effects that are achieved post production of some, I'm particularly thrilled by the creativity put into them - the plots, the quotes, the make up, props and costume. 

Like music and books I do stay away from certain genres. I know very well to guard my heart by watching the things I expose my eyes and ears to. Sometimes though, I struggle to watch some movies, consciously pushing out the 'behind the scenes' like locations of lighting, cameras, director, producers et al. This wasn't quite the case with Bobby Jones - Strike of a Genius. 

Ok, I don't play golf yet (I will definitely someday, outside of wii) and don't even know all the rules but I do like the little I know already. Probably this and the movie - The Legend of Bagger Vance, which I watched a while back motivated me not to change the dial. I'm glad I did not. Inspite of the not so encouraging reviews some have written about it, I still feel very positive about it. I learnt a number of things, but I'll pick my top two to share in this post. 

The early days of Bobby show him tagging along with his dad on golf courses (despite grandpa's disapproval). Watching and learning without paying a fee. What better way is there to stir up an interest in a person than starting casually, without cohesion, without duress, especially a young mind? Also, do the young ones around you know what you're passionate about? Are they opportune to watch, to study even leisurely? If yes, you might be raising a protégée without even knowing it. If no, you may want to create opportunities even deliberately to stir. 

Another learning point was while he (still so young) was at a tournament where the masters were competing. He knew them. He brought out a book (probably from his dad) and was pointing them out, and the peculiarities he knew about them to his friend. It got me thinking. Is it possible to be passionate about a cause or a field of endeavour and not know those topping the charts. Is it possible not to have heard of the works of the experts who have blazed the trail, the professionals who have broken records, the gurus who have left footprints in the sands of time in that area?In as much as one can't model one's life totally after any, their strengths (even weaknesses) and teachings are great learning points. Is it possible to say then, if you don't know or can't say anythng about anyone in this regard, perhaps, you're completely in a new terrain, or perhaps you haven't discovered what you're really interested in? And you may want to make an effort to discover and learn from them, or keep records of your learnings for others. 
To be contd... 

Previously on UpNaira