Saturday, March 13, 2010


Laurie works at the Boston Store and also teaches a course in visual merchandising at MATC, Madison Area Technical College. The school started out as a lowly stepchild to the University, but it served the community by providing mechanics and beauticians to the white-collar government officials and university professors abounding on the isthmus of our post-war metropolis. Now the college has expanded and grown into a reputable institution providing technical training to a broad base of industries including the design community.
After looking at our book that had floated around the aisles of the Boston Store for over a month, Laurie approached Rick about our doing a guest lecture for her class. They were in the midst of a section on retail furniture display and interior design.  It was flattering and scary at the same time. It instilled a bit of puffery, a pinch of confidence, into a couple of egos that needed some reinforcing, but at the same time it made my knees shake with the nagging question of capability and Rick’s legs to quiver with the task of getting up in front of a group of people when he was still working on prying himself out of his sealed cocoon of antisocialism.
We drove around, literally, taking notes on talking points. Laurie had asked us to do the lecture twice, once to each of her two sections. We decided to start with an overview of Shaver/Melahn Studios talking about our history of transforming from an AV studio producing software for the industrial show business industry to Rick’s going back to school and beginning the interior design phase of the business, then sneaking in the opening of our retail store in Andes and finally the addition of Rick’s true passion: our furniture design branch. Passion became a key to our talk. We constantly stressed the need to have an intense passion for whatever you do. Without passion life becomes a series of chores, jobs to be completed but never challenging the metal from which we are made.
We then took our audience on a journey through past projects discussing their relevance to the story of design. We talked about concept and finding a starting point from which to launch a design. We emphasized the element of teamwork and how important the client is to the success of a project. If you haven’t satisfied a client’s needs than you haven’t listened and listening is crucial to success. We talked about inspiration and knowing your field, getting out and looking at what is being done in your field. We emphasized taking the time to scour every nook and cranny seeking inspiration in a piece of hardware or turning an ordinary flea market find into an extraordinary centerpiece for a window display.
Laurie’s classes were two hour chunks of time. I feared we’d be done in twelve minutes hoping if we opened ourselves up to questions we might be able to fill another couple of minutes. In both cases the bell rang well before we had run out of words. You’re never really sure how well you’ve done, but our reward came when we received an email from one of the students praising our work and asking for an internship. You can’t beat that.

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