When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

04.22.2013 / Author: Dipika Kohli

You can live your whole life and not know where you’re going, and that’s when things start to get prickly towards the end.

When you start to ask the question, “Wait a second. Where is this all going, anyways? What did it mean?”

All things worth doing take time.

But all things worth doing well take setting an intention. Thank you, yoga, for teaching me this.

Yes, I’m talking about individuals and the ways we perceive the meaning in our own lives.

But I’m talking about brands and collections of people who make up organizations and the ideas they represent, too. What legacy do you want to leave? It’s a big question, but the work that Akira Morita, my partner in life and business, have turned our full focus towards in the last three years ever since setting up Design Kompany in 2006 as a full time shop in a storefront in Seattle. So much evolved from that time, as we began to learn how to talk to people in ways that helped them transform rather than just try to get to “done.”

At first, we thought it was important to find people who got our “style,” and now we know it’s more imperative to recognize the value of a process. That’s why I was so delighted to see this blog, the first time, and then to contribute this post, “Are we allowed to be creative?

People need space to play. To muck around. To be given permission to just try something. Even if it doesn’t become a piece of fine art that goes in a museum. Even if it’s a manuscript that winds up getting junked. Even then. What matters is that we get better when we let ourselves start.

Durham, NC, is where Akira and I are based presently. Akira and I lived on and loved a tiny street and our foster cat, back in the 1990s, and I always had this idea that we could return to our quiet existence in Durham when the time felt right. When our son was born, it did. So we returned, a decade later, and felt like Rip van Winkle.

“Wow,” people who came back after a long time like us would agree. “Durham’s changed.” More restaurants, more people walking, and fewer gunshots crisscrossing the old tobacco warehouse districts that are now high-end, refurbished condos.

When the local visitor’s bureau sent an RFP to Design Kompany asking us to help strategize about the city’s vision, we knew that there was something we could do to help. But not in the regular way. In a different way. A grassroots, from the core and the soul outwards kind of way. That’s where Akira hatched STITCH.

With STITCH, we’re asking 20 local artists to make original pieces to be shown in downtown storefronts that are inspired by a collection of 276:

These are the words that about 500 citizens of Durham told us they’d like to see Durham become. To keep the surveying simple, we asked, “Give us ONE word for what you’d like to see Durham become.”


A 9 year old resident picks her favorite words. Photo by Alex Maness

Stitch 2

all 276 words given to us, in a word-cloud indicating frequency/popularity

You could say something someone else had said (the most popular words are the biggest in the image above). You could think about it, and email it in through a form we set up, too. People got to be creative here. To jump in the sandbox for a bit.

But then something cool happened.

They wanted to know what other people said.

That’s how it began to become a conversation. One with a center, and not sides.

This Kickstarter campaign ends in a week, lining up with some events in town that neatly align with the idea of meeting your neighbors and expressing your individuality amongst a group of people who more than any other place like where they live. “This is a town that really likes itself,” said someone I met who was from the West Coast. “That’s really rare.”

Stitch Artists

STITCH Artists

So that’s why we’re doing STITCH here in Durham. That’s why we’re going to see what happens. To try something new, to see where it goes, and to do the hard but sometimes overwhelmingly revealing thing, and trust the process.

Fuzzy Quantum Pop

The title for this post is a quote by Max Planck, the quantum physicist who used Boltzmann’s probability work to find an equation neatly relating Energy, the speed of light, and wavelength. Einstein didn’t like that, saying “God does not play dice.” For more about this, watch Fuzzy Quantum Pop by Dipika Kohli”

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