When I think of the rain, I think of my own city. "Raincouver" is a place us Vancouverites call home. Showers and drizzles permeate our seasons throughout the year. During rainy days, endless rain would blanket the world with its gloom, painting the skies an infinite grey.
When we asked artist Shirley Liu to scribe a message for our embroidered t-shirt, she gave us a phrase she hand-wrote in Japanese. It read: "be not defeated by rain".
"If I had to summarize all my thoughts just in one phrase, 雨ニモマケズ would be it. It is the title and first words of a famous poem written in 1931 by Kenji Miyazawa, a Japanese poet from Iwate prefecture — my hometown." Shirley explained.
The poem was a well-known literature that Shirley learned in grade school. When it was first read to her, it merely registered as being just like other historical war-time pieces. She did not recall reading deeply into it.
Shirley was born in China, but moved to Japan at the age of four. She eventually immigrated to Canada with her family. I sat down with Shirley to discuss how her diverse cultural background affected her creative process.
"Let's see, I don't see creativity as just being able to think 'outside of the box'. On the contrary, creativeness can happen within the box as well. It then becomes a matter of how well one can execute it with-in or with-out the given parameters."
I nodded to her words. As a product designer and brand owner myself, I know too well the importance of working with restrictions. Constraints often came in different forms — sometimes it was a lack of materials, inadequate budget or even marketability. Shirley was an architect by day, and she too, must also work with both the creative and technical sides of her mind.
"Creativity is really about being resourceful, being able to make something worthy to oneself out of any given materials or circumstances," Shirley elaborated. "I do believe that everybody has some kind of 'creative' traits. These traits just manifest differently."
Shirley saw creativity not as a hard skill, such as the ability to paint or to have an artistic vision. She recognized it as a soft skill that resides deep in one's core. It simply became the way one thinks and behaves at any time, all the time.
Outside of being an architect, Shirley enjoys painting, drawing, sewing, and making furniture in her spare time. Looking back, she could not pin point when her interest in arts started.
"Growing up in Japan played a large part in the way I think and see. However, I find that anywhere I go, new information from my surroundings will always have an influence on my work."
Shirley's schedule were always filled with projects. When she craved a fresh perspective, she enjoyed collaborating with other creatives to keep her mind stimulated. It was always enlightening to discover another viewpoint, one that provided an unusual angle to an old vision.
"My talented friends in our community is a great source of inspiration to me. For instance, your work at Vestige — I am often blown-away by your care to the details. From designing for your customer's lifestyle, to selecting the right natural fabrics, to sourcing your ethical factories."
"Vestige goes beyond," Shirley continued, "to have a dialogue with the unique worlds of your customers, featuring their stories and sharing their values."
Touched, I thanked Shirley for her kind words. What we hoped to achieve with the embroidery collaborations was to forge a way of communication with my audience. On top of producing functional, aesthetically pleasing lifestyle goods, we hoped the use of stories will also provide meaning, and would resonate with people's lives.
"I believe Vestige will continue to evolve alongside users' inspirational stories," Shirley smiled. She traced her finger over her embroidered words 雨ニモマケズ.
Reflecting back on the poem, Shirley explained that its words must have remained within her from her first reading of it as a child. It captured modesty, stoicism, empathy and diligence, expressed in a simple and honest language that struck through her heart. She now takes this poem as a role model to be a good person.
During rainy days, endless rain would blanket the world with its gloom, painting the skies an infinite grey. However, at times, the rain also washes away noise and weariness, leaving behind a calming, revitalizing stillness.