Bradley L. Bowers spent his youth hanging in the basement with Grandma Dorothy while she upholstered furniture. Always outspoken, in High School he found that only the art teachers embraced his questioning of the status quo. A fruitful spell at SCAD earned him Industrial & Furniture Design degrees + loads of skills, but it’s by tuning his antenna to the ‘little Yodas everywhere’ that he gathers his wisdom.
Bradley Bowers: There’s something missing when something comes solely from a machine. But once a hand gets involved, to lacquer it or polish it or sand it or shape it, all of a sudden there’s an imperfection introduced to that perfect shell and then some weaknesses, some flaws, all of a sudden become the strengths.
Amy Devers: Hi everyone, I’m Amy Devers and this is Clever. Today I’m talking to Bradley L. Bowers. His work spans Interior Design, Furniture, product and lighting, wallpaper and textiles, as well as new media art installations, and bespoke pieces for fashion brands, art institutions and private clients. His New Orleans-based namesake design studio is dedicated to blending the worlds of fashion, furniture and culture, through exploring the dynamic overlap of material research, advanced technology, and artisanal craftsmanship – a practice he calls “technocraft.” Prior to founding his studio in 2012, He studied at Savannah College of Art and Design, earning his bachelor’s in Industrial Design and his Master’s in Furniture Design. He’s been featured in international design publications like Abitare, Interior Design Magazine, Architectural Digest, The New York Times, Elle Decor, and Design Milk. His Awards include – Best Contemporary Designer – Design Miami 2021, Interior Design best of the year – 2022, HiP Award NeoCon – 2022. And in 2023 you may have seen his work in the Crossroads exhibit at ICFF, or as part of Haworth’s DesignLab, or maybe you clocked him in the Wallpaper USA 300, their guide to creative America… in any case, keep an eye out, he’s definitely one to watch. As you’ll hear – he likes to keep things interesting, always pulling at the threads of his curiosity and tuning his antenna to the wisdom of the people and the world around him. And his generosity of spirit is our gain.. Here’s Bradley.
Bradley L Bowers: My name is Bradley L Bowers. I am based out of and live in New Orleans, Louisiana. And my design practice endeavors to create objects that push the envelopes of technology and craftsmanship.
Amy: I always really like to know how you got to be who you are now. So can you take me back to where you grew up and maybe something about your family dynamic and home town and the things that captured your imagination as a kid?
Bradley: I’m glad you asked that because I oftentimes tell people about the origins of all of this. But for me, my earliest memory of being intrigued by the creative parts was with my cousin, Jeremy, who was an amazing drawer. He would do a whole ream of printer paper and he would just draw on every single page and he created his own comics, his own comic characters and I would go over to my aunts house and watch him do this and so it made me want to learn how to draw. And so I got all of the little ‘how-to’ books that used to come out that would say how to draw Marvel superheroes or how to draw Spiderman or Wonder Woman. And so I would just sit down every day after school and try to recreate these characters that I saw Jeremy creating, except he was making his original. I was copying some pre-existing thing. And then one day I remember being over at his house and he was hanging out with some of his friends and Jeremy was older than me by maybe five/six years. He was hanging out with his friends and they were talking about what they wanted to do after they graduated high school. And they said, ‘we want to go to SCAD.’
I lived in Atlanta at the time and SCAD was in Savannah and my mother’s side of the family is all from Savannah, like born and raised, our origins are in Savannah. And so as a kid I just clocked that, I just blocked it away in the back of my mind, I couldn’t have been older than nine or 10. So SCAD and college, none of those things even made sense to me. And so as the years passed, I would get involved in little things here and there that most kids do, going to a camp where you make clay pots, coil building method. Or you would have a summer camp where you just painted flowers or something. I would just do these things that was normal for a kid to do. And then as I got into high school, my schooling was difficult because I didn’t really enjoy being in public school, I didn’t like being in school at all. My mind was fixed on just getting things done. But teachers want you to do things repetitively, I want you to do the Pythagoras theorem 12 times, and my thought process was, I’ve shown you I can do it once, so why do I need to do it 11 more times? Needless to say teachers didn’t enjoy me thoroughly (laughs) in their classes. And so it got to the point where the only teachers who would take me were the art teachers. And so I…
Amy: So you were outspoken then? You were rebelling a little?
Bradley: Yeah, I was outspoken, rambunctious and there were actually two classrooms that I was always… three, I was always excited about, geometry, literature and art. And oddly enough, I use all of those things to this day on a five times a day basis. And so I was very outspoken and I would make my thoughts be known and some teachers were receptive and other teachers were just like, I’m just trying to get through the day man! (Laughs) Can you just cut me a break? But the art teachers weren’t that way and there was one teacher in particular, Miss Bryant, who I always tell people I swear to god, looked exactly like Paula Deen, and she was my ninth grade art teacher, and she taught me how to paint and draw with pastels. And I fell in love! And it was portrait painting and portrait drawing. And that got me. So I slowly started just hanging out with her or hanging out with anyone who was interested in the arts. And by this point I had kind of forgotten about those sessions of sitting with Jeremy and drawing comic book characters. And so kind of maybe it was bubbling those things back up. And so, as I was sitting there doing all of this, I was inadvertently building a portfolio. [0.05.00] And so the next year another counselor told me, she says, “Hey, Miss Gibson would like to have you in her art class,” and she was the advanced art teacher.
Amy: Ooh, you’re getting recruited now! (Laughs)
Bradley: Exactly! And this was also one of the first times outside of my literature class that I was seeing recognition. I knew I was smart, that wasn’t the issue, but there was no recognition happening in my math class. There was no recognition happening in social studies. But in art people were saying, “You’re kind of good at this,” and that felt nice.
Amy: You know, can we just stop for a second and just dwell on the idea of recognition. Because I feel like we’re often taught that we shouldn’t even want it or need it, but it’s really important in terms of encouraging…
Amy: How we see ourselves and when we find something that we’re passionate about, that we’re good at, if it sort of goes into a black hole and nobody responds to it, then it confuses our sense of self.
Bradley: Or even beyond that, it becomes a thing where it has to constantly come from you and you alone. Not only does the talent have to come from you. Not only does the tenacity have to come from you, but also the pat on the back has to come from you, and that’s a lot to ask, that’s a lot to ask of one person. And so yeah, I’m a huge believer in telling people that they’re doing great. That doesn’t mean I have to like their work, but I just get excited that people have the courage to wake up every day and keep going on any of these crazy paths that we seem to choose for ourselves.
Amy: Yes! (Laughter)
Bradley: But yeah, so recognition meant a lot to me and at the time, clearly I didn’t know that recognition was what I was looking for. But it told me that I fit, that there were some places that I could find comfort in. And that was really nice and that empowered me. But anyway, what ended up happening after that was, we moved and we moved to a new area, Peachtree City, Georgia, which is about 45 minutes south of Atlanta and I was playing tennis and the schools I had been going to pre this moment were 98% black. And this school that I was going to was 98% white.
Amy: Ai-ya-yai, that’s culture shock!
Bradley: A huge difference! But what I noticed was they had AP courses, they had extracurricular that I hadn’t even heard of. And so when I got to this school the counselor there said, “Ooh, you know what, we looked at your portfolio and we think you could be an AP art.” And I had only known AP from my sister going to magnet programs, because she’s the smart one. And so she got into all of these AP courses and I was like, oh my god, that used to just be stuff Yasmin did, but now I can be an AP something? So I was enrolled in AP art and I continued building the portfolio. And it was that portfolio that got me accepted to SCAD on a painting scholarship.
Amy: Can you tell me a little bit about… I can see how your creativity was starting to get recognized and developed and I’m really grateful that that was happening for you. But can you tell me a little bit about what your life was like socially and was this move… did it require a lot of transitional skills on your part and what did it mean for your family and your family dynamic?
Bradley: I’ve always been pretty easy with socializing. My mom used to tell me I could get dropped on a glacier and I’d have a good time. And so I don’t have a hard time mixing in different social circles. So high school for me, and middle school for me, the difficulty was never in socializing, the difficulty was always with authority. My peers and I, we got on like thieves! (Laughter) If you needed me to do something that I didn’t want to do, it was going to be hell in high water.
Amy: (Laughs) No wonder you’re self-employed now, yes?
Bradley: Exactly! Exactly! For me, going to this new school, McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, Georgia, going there was largely to do with my tennis career. I was playing Juniors tennis and they had a really good academy in that neighborhood. And so we moved there. And also my grades were slipping and my mom wanted me to have a better chance of getting into college. [0.10.00] And that required me to be in a space that would be maybe a bit more challenging. So I was in this new school environment and I’m really thankful for it because it also forced me to learn how to interact with people that I had not been interacting with before. And so I build this portfolio. I get this scholarship to go off to SCAD and now I’m going to Savannah, which because my mother’s side of the family is from there, and my grandmother’s family is from South Carolina, very near there, although I was leaving to embark on a college education, I kind of didn’t feel like I was a foreigner, it felt home-like in a way. And so I arrived to Savannah and I did not leave for four and a half years. So for those four and a half years, I didn’t see my family at all. And that was part due to right as I graduated my mother and sister moved to New Orleans, because my sister had gotten accepted to grad school in Tulane University. So she’s in Louisiana, about a month before Katrina hits.
Bradley: Oh yeah. So my mother had been going back and forth for a few years, so by the time I left to go to college, most of the family was fully in Louisiana and maybe two days before I left to go to school we drove down from Atlanta and then my mom went straight to Louisiana, Katrina hit. So there’s always something! So my sister stayed, my mom stayed and they tried their best to make it work. And the reason I never left Savannah to go visit is because in my mind I said they have enough on their plate, let’s just get back on steady ground. And I’m in Savannah, I’ll make this work. So for four and a half years Bradley flew solo…
Amy: How was that?
Bradley: I really got to know myself. I had a blast. I met some of the most amazing people in the world, people I still keep in touch with on a very intimate basis to this day. But most of all, I really found myself and I’m so glad it was this place, this slow, country little town, I really learned a lot.”
Amy: Both Savannah and New Orleans where you are now are really magical places. I mean more so than other places. It’s hard to explain what feels so dense in the air, but it feels spiritual. It’s definitely a spiritual vibe and it’s spiritual beyond any type of religious aspect. It’s something that every person feels. There’s a magic in the air. And it’s as simple as if I walk to the coffee shop right now, I pass two goats in a little field and then I might hear someone practicing their tuba on their porch, just to go get a coffee.
Amy: Oh, I love it!
Bradley: Or if it’s later at night and I’m going to a bar, I will hear frogs next to the railroad tracks, doing whatever they’re doing, there’s so many little things you can’t categorize them as being influential or powerful on their own, but when you mix them all together, and when you’re in a city that has such history to the country and to cultures and especially to black America, both Savannah and New Orleans were so ingrained and braided into what it means to be black in America, I couldn’t help but be in these places and feel it. And to be making the work that I make. I make very contemporary work, but I like being in these very [0.15.00] ‘traditional’ cities because they give me something to rub up against. They give me something to rebel against, which is something I need.
Amy: I’m hearing that now!
Bradley: You’re catching onto that! (Laughter)
Amy: I’m catching on, yeah. Okay, so quick clarifying question about tennis. Did you let it go when you went to college?
Bradley: Yes, tennis fell by the wayside.
Bradley: Not because I wanted to, but because I recognized, I’m here on a mission. Yasmin and my mom are here in New Orleans, they’re making things work as best they can, as much as I’d love to, I’m not here for tennis, I’m here to get something and leave here with something. And so I played every now and again on the court with friends, like intramurals maybe, but it was me… recognizing I had a new frontier in front of me and I wanted to dedicate all of myself to exploring that. And I had a professor once, I was an industrial design student for my undergraduate and she was a jewelry professor. But I took her class anyway. And I was walking to a lecture and she bumped into me on my way to the lecture outside at some fountain near one of the buildings. And she goes, “Where are you headed?” And I go, “There’s a fashion lecture that’s about to happen over at so-and-so building.” And she goes, “Gosh, I love you, you’re going to milk this thing dry!” (Laughter) Yes I am! Yes I am! She said, “You’re going to milk this thing dry!” That was how I saw it. I was in paradise, SCAD was a creative paradise, of course I’m going to eat from every tree, come on!
Amy: (Laughs) Man! Your joy is contagious, I’m starting to feel it! (Laughter) SCAD, you got both your bachelors and your master’s there, correct? First industrial design and then furniture design and you have a lot of work experience that happened during the years while you were still in school, so I’m guessing there were internships jobs on the side, all kinds of work experience that was coming into it?
Bradley: Again, I have a problem, and I think most creatives who eat/live/breathe and love it. I like it so much that I’ve put myself in some very compromising positions just to do it. But in the moment, they didn’t feel so compromising because I’d often tell people it’s like fish in the water, if you ever pulled a fish to the side and told them they could monetize breathing, they’d go, wait, I don’t know, I kind of just do it. And I go yeah, breathing underwater, that’s pretty special, a lot of animals don’t know how to do that. And they go, yeah, but I just wake up and it just kind of happens. And so for me, I just wake up and I kind of just enjoy doing it to the point where… at one point I was enrolled in online classes, virtually, working for Ralph Lauren in New York and completing an art residency in New Jersey, in Jersey City, all at the same time. And the only reason I did the online classes, hopefully nobody at SCAD hears this, is so that I could get the financial aid in order for me to keep living in New York because Ralph Lauren, hopefully nobody from Ralph Lauren hears this, was only paying $10 an hour. Again, I put myself in some compromising spots, but I just loved it so much. And I learned so much from all of those experiences, but it was just… I can’t get enough of it, to the point where sometimes I should have gotten enough of it and I needed to take a break, but I don’t know how.
Amy: Yeah! What I’m hearing is, you’re incredibly resourceful and you’re a sponge and you were appreciating all of the experience in all of those different situations. So you were absorbing it and knowing that you’d be using it to apply it later in life.
Bradley: I don’t think I knew I was going to be applying it later. For me it was more just being in it. If you had put me in Istanbul instead of Manhattan, I would just be in it. And maybe subconsciously I knew that there was a way it could come back to be helpful later, but in the moment I was just over the moon that I was working at Ralph Lauren. And every now and again I would see Ralph walk through the halls and I’m like, oh my gosh, I just saw the OG, the master of the brand, the lifestyle, he just walked by me. And so for me that was the joy of it. It wasn’t until maybe a year later where I was like, oh, this is kind of similar to how I had to communicate with factories in Hong Kong when I was at this thing. The lessons came later. The moments, I was just mouth open, excited. [0.20.00]
Amy: (Laughs) Oh, don’t ever lose that Bradley.
Bradley: I don’t think I could if I tried! And I’ve tried, I’ve definitely tried.
Amy: Well, one good way to lose it though is to really burn yourself out, which sounds like might be an occupational hazard of yours if you’re not careful?
Bradley: For me burnout is another thing that I suffer from, but don’t at the same time. I don’t need much to recharge and these last two years have really allowed me to understand that more. But also to understand that it is an actual hazard and when the pandemic hit and everyone was bugging out and freaking out over work from home, I was like, wait a minute, this is the only way I’ve known how to operate. This is problematic? (Laughter) Wait, this is dangerous? And then I realized, I mean on top of that, my grandmother, who was the light of my life, she passed, the first year of Covid.
Amy: I’m sorry.
Bradley: And I didn’t know at the time how heavy that was on me. I knew it was heavy, but I didn’t know how heavy. And so it took some years for that to bubble up to the surface and cause problems. And that’s when I realized, okay, the world will keep spinning. Clients can freak out if they want to. Galleries can freak out if they want to, but Bradley has got to take care of Bradley. And if that means taking a break for three weeks or a month or three months, then I’m going to do it. Because for years, for more than a decade, I’ve done somersaults and cartwheels and bent over backwards to make this career joyous for myself. I can take a little break. And so this, I only learned that these past few years. Prior to this, I was on a plane every other week or doing this… but at the time I wasn’t drained, I wasn’t being burned out because in the moment you’re not burned out. Burn out is something that’s cumulative. When you’re in it, it’s just a little pin prick here and there. At the end of it you realize how much blood you’ve lost. It took me some time to be okay with taking a break and letting breaks not mean failure or weakness. And I think that might have been part of why I resisted them so much.
Amy: Is there any part of you that was suppressing things like grief or really uncomfortable feelings and traumatic feelings and sort of medicating it with work and the excitement of the experiences that were all in front of you?
Bradley: I mean maybe. I don’t know. That’s something I think maybe in 10 more years or so, I will be able to have perspective on. When I worked at Procter & Gamble, the thing they kept saying was ‘work/life balance.’ And I was like, yeah, but my work is life and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I mean that in… some of my best friends in the entire world, I never would have met if it wasn’t for the creative arts. Some of the most amazing clients have become best friends. And so for me, I have a hard time having a conversation with a person if there isn’t some sort of creative or artistic leaning that they have. It doesn’t mean they need to be Picasso, but that’s typically where I’m able to latch onto a person and find some mode of understanding. So the work was never really a salve or a medication. It was actually the excitement; it was the drug.
Amy: Right okay. Did you eventually give yourself the space and the time to properly grieve your grandmother?
Bradley: I think so, but then also no, because someone that big, someone that powerful, grandmothers are the most magical creatures on earth. Maybe unicorns are right below them, there’s no way you could ever fully grieve that. The thing that was most powerful about it was the night before she passed, I was sitting with her. That was the other reason I moved to New Orleans. Right after I finished school my mom was taking care of my grandmother who had dementia and Alzheimer’s, and that’s the reason she passed. My sister had gotten a job with the EPA, so she had to go up to DC and my job, luckily, allowed me to be almost anywhere in the world. And at the time I was in New York working on a project, La Noxe, which is this nightclub that I designed, it’s doing really well.
Bradley: I realized I can move to New Orleans and still work on this project. As long as they have an airport, I can be anywhere. [0.25.00] And so I moved here and I started helping my mother take care of my grandmother and we all lived in the same house. And so the night before she passed away I was sitting with her, talking to her, but at that point she was non-verbal and just was in the room present. But we had a moment and the power of that, I think, allowed me to not make it about me. But then also just recognize that she’s always going to be there. Always, always, always. So I think when someone is that powerful, it’s impossible to say, I’ve gone, I’ve finished my grieving. It’s just that it will never end, as long as I’m alive, there’ll still be some part of me that longs for her to still be here. So no, I don’t think I finished the grieving process, but I think I’m at peace with her being at peace. Oh wait, by the way, I completely forgot this whole part of it, I don’t know how I skipped this. As a kid, pre-Jeremy, my grandmother built, designed and upholstered furniture. I completely forgot that part.
Amy: Oh my goodness!
Bradley: Yeah, how did I leave that out? (Laughs)
Amy: You absorbed it through osmosis, through your early childhood experiences.
Bradley: Well, it was in her basement. Her basement in Clemson, South Carolina, I would sit and she would be sewing sheets, or she would be sewing slips for chairs.But yes, years ago I never would have imagined that I’d be doing what she did. And so that’s what I mean by it. She’s always in there. Dorothy is always a part of me and so yeah, so I got it from her and I honed my craft in Savannah, which is where she lived for quite some time. So yeah, it’s all tied up together.
Amy: Yeah, I love this multigenerational picture you’re painting for me. And I also love Dorothy through hearing her…
Bradley: She’s the best, the absolute best.
Amy: I can tell, the word choices you’re using and the tone of your voice, I can feel the love for her. I do believe you’re right; you’ll always sort of feel her absence, but you’ll also always feel her presence because her energy is just transformed. It’s just not embodied anymore, but it’s still there.
Bradley: Exactly. And because it’s not in body, it’s even more potent and I think that’s also with design. When a design concept or when a design language transcends, it’s almost like a Zaha Hadid or a Frank Gehry or Tadao Ando. When they have such a language, it doesn’t have to be in any particular objective or objectified form. All of a sudden it becomes very… it almost becomes a philosophy or a religion of some sort because it can take on any shape it wants to. And that’s when I think stuff gets really exciting.
Amy: Yeah, I’m with you there. So carry me through some of the… you’ve had a very exciting last couple of years. But before we get up to present day, I would like to hear about your early career trajectory and it sounds like you moved to New Orleans very shortly after graduation.
Amy: It looks like the Satellite show in Milan was also a kind of big kick-off to your career?
Bradley: That was one of those moments where it was again, it was a fish in the water, swimming and breathing through gills and just going, this is what I do. I had no concept of how important, how influential and how mega that was. And if I did, I don’t think it would have affected me in a negative way. It probably would have given me a little bit of pause, but that happened because I was working on my thesis and a friend of mine, who I hadn’t been speaking to in a while, we had a little bit of a falling out. But he approached me and he said, “Hey, I know you’re working on your thesis, and I’ve got this opportunity to show at the Satellite day in April, but I don’t have enough work, would you want to go in together and show?” And I said, “Alejandro, let me think about it, but I don’t have any money. I know this is going to cost something.” So I walked away and I thought about it. But then I remember that when I was an industrial design student, SCAD had a policy that said, ‘If you get accepted into a competition, we’ll pay half the competition entry fee.’ [0.30.00] And so I said, well, this isn’t exactly a competition, but maybe let’s see what they’ll do. And this was another one of those moments where I did something I had no business doing and if I knew better, I probably wouldn’t have. But I literally called the president of the university, Paula Wallace and I said, “Hey Paula, I just wanted to let you know that two students, myself and Alejandro Figurero, we have the opportunity to show at the Satellite in April,” and at this point it was maybe October of 2011 and the Satellite is April of 2012. I go, “We have this opportunity. However, we have no idea how to ship work overseas and go through all the union requirements, but I know SCAD does this all the time, would you be able to help us figure out this part of the process?” And I genuinely just needed help figuring that out because if furniture department could cover the fee, then we could pull this thing off. Paula Wallace, who is forever one of my guardian angels, I love her to the moon and beyond, responded and said, “So-and-so person will be in touch with you shortly.” And they got in touch with me and this person was the liaison to the president’s office or something. And she had a meeting with myself and Alejandro. By the end of the meeting they said, “Okay, we’ve got you covered.” They paid for us to go. They paid for the hotel. They paid for the flight. They arranged us to meet the ambassador from Italy to America. They got us a PR representative, so that if anyone wanted to talk to… she did all of that for us. And…
Bradley: That changed my world.
Amy: Wow! It’s a two-way street, right? You’re a talented and hungry student and she clearly recognized that and it’s not that it looks bad on SCAD to have two star students out there showing (laughter) you know?
Amy: But at the same time she probably really recognized, this boost you can turbo-charge it by just making it really possible for the students. And so she put some rocket fuel…
Bradley: She really did.
Amy: In what otherwise would have been a train trip and that’s incredible. That’s really generous.
Bradley: I had another moment, and I was just sitting with a young designer here in New Orleans yesterday, he’s about to leave to go to London and I was like, let me give you some unsolicited advice! (Laughter) And one of the stories I told him was from that same trip there was this bus driver, Miss Wilson at SCAD, who would pick me up from the dorms and take me to the class building, which for industrial design and furniture students, was way, way out, much further beyond the dormitories, at least at that time. And Miss Wilson picked me up and she was dropping me off and I was leaving to Italy the next day. And I said, “Miss Wilson, you’re probably not going to see me for a little while because I’m about to go show my thesis in Milan.” And she goes, “Oh, that’s fantastic.” And I said, “Hopefully I come back with some good news.” And I promise you, I remember this ever since that day, she looked at me and she said, “Baby, it’s already good news.” And yeah, that always gets me. And I think that’s the excitement that I have for this career. All of these accolades that are coming now, that weren’t coming years ago when I started, they aren’t really the boost behind it. The good part is that I’m just in it. That’s the fun. That’s the good news. But I remember Miss Wilson… and it’s funny, because I just saw her earlier this year, I went back to Savannah to visit and she was driving one of the buses that I happened to get on and I go, “Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?”
Amy: You have a lot of wise people you interface with and you know how to keep those nuggets of wisdom with you and let them continue to fuel you.
Bradley: But they’re everywhere. I think that’s the funny thing, they’re like little Yoda’s all throughout… the lady on the corner, that’s a little Yoda. Actually I was sitting at a bar once, late night, here in New Orleans and there was this random lady I was sitting next to. She didn’t know me, I didn’t know her. But we got to talking and she said, “You know what, I’m learning how to forgive myself for doing the things that I know I’m going to do.” And I was like, oh come on, you can’t just be saying heavy stuff like that randomly!
Amy: Yeah! (Laughter)
Bradley: That’s so powerful.
Bradley: Yeah and I’ve embodied that. I said, you know what, I know I’m going to make mistakes, that’s okay, [0.35.00] I’m going to forgive myself for doing the things that I know I’m going to do.
Amy: You know what’s so powerful about that too, because it’s hard enough to learn how to forgive ourselves for our past mistakes, but to give yourselves forgiveness for our future mistakes, just really…
Amy: It’s the license it gives you.
Bradley: It’s license to be human.
Amy: Yeah. Oh, I’m going to do that too, I’m learning how to forgive myself!
Bradley: Right! (Laughter) I wish I knew this lady’s name, but yeah, it was a random night at a random bar.
Amy: (Laughs) This happened in New Orleans?
Bradley: Yes, that’s the other thing, in New Orleans I met some of the most magical, if no one else was there to witness it, they wouldn’t believe me. I have these moments all the time. I mean I have them in general in my life, but specifically in this city. It almost seems like it is a repository for fantastical creatures that happen to be in human form. Sometimes they’re weirdos and other times they’re sages, and sometimes they’re a little bit of both. But yeah, it’s an interesting city.
Amy: So, you’ve been thriving in your creative practice. When would you say you went from being a student to being a professional? Was that around 2012/2013?
Bradley: You know, that’s a really beautiful question because one of the other things I did, that I had no business doing, at the time Susan Szenasy was the Editor in Chief of Metropolis Magazine and I had the luxury and the privilege of meeting Susan in 2011, she came to SCAD, a part of some furniture conference and the Chair of my department knew Susan from New York when he was there and he introduced us. And Susan and I were talking and she says, “Do you have a business card?” And I said, “I’m so sorry, I don’t have a business card.” She said, “You should always have a business card.” And I said, “Susan, next time I see you, I’m going to have a business card.” And then sure enough, there was another event in Savannah and Susan was moderating it. And I heard through the grapevine that she was in town and that the thing was happening at so-and-so building and I didn’t have tickets to it, but I figured, I’ve snuck into enough stuff, I figure I could figure that one out. And I had business cards and I went to the thing luckily enough, I knew the girl working the front desk and I said, “I just want to slip in.” And she goes, “Go ahead, go for it.”
And so I slipped in and luckily they had just taken a break and Susan was getting some food and I walked up to her and I go, “Hi Susan, my name is Bradley, you probably don’t remember me,” And she goes, “Yes I do! You’re that hot shot designer guy!” (Laughter) And I said, “I don’t know where that came from, but sure.” And I said, “The last time I saw you I did not have a business card and I told you the next time I saw you I would.” And so I handed her my business card with two hands, like I learned how to do in Hong Kong. And you would have thought I’d handed her a million dollars. She was so excited, she goes, “Oh my gosh, you don’t know how much this means to me.” And I’m a little confused at this point. And I’m like, what? She goes, “To keep your word is so powerful.” So that moment happened in 2011.
Fast forward, I’m getting ready to leave to go to the Satellite and I reach out to Susan because again, I was much bolder than I am now, and I’m going to try to lean back into that bold Bradley, if you can believe it. And I reached out to her via email and I said, “Susan, I’m about to go to the Satellite and I think it would be great if Metropolis did some sort of coverage on what it means to transition from being a student, to being a Designer with a capital ‘D.’” And she goes, “I love that idea, do you want to write the article?”
Amy: Oh my god! That is gutsy.
Bradley: So if you look up on Metropolis Magazine, I believe there are two credits for me. I’ve written for Metropolis; I could add that to my resume. I’ve written for Metropolis. And I said, if that’s the case, I want to document the process, the behind the scenes, what are the guts of these shows like. And then how do you dust yourself off and make yourself presentable to the flocks of onlookers coming in? And so Susan took that gamble on me, but that was literally my transition. That was the beginning of it, 2012, I recognized that I was no longer going to be a student and I had to figure out how to be a Designer, with a capital ‘D’ and Susan Szenasy helped me do that.
Amy: Not only is that a bit precocious, but in a beautiful way it’s also very astute. I think what’s powerful about it, is you didn’t say, just look at me, look at me. What you came to her with was actually a really good story pitch. It’s a win-win situation. It’s also a very astute way for you to be able to put your name out there and get a writing credit, but also be able to tell a story and have some narrative, control over your own narrative. But the exchange is what’s powerful is because you sort of instinctively understood, if I’m going to reach out to Susan, what’s a scenario that’s good for both of us.
Bradley: Bingo! That’s what people overlook so often and I was just doing a panel yesterday, it was alumni panel and some people were asking, how do you go about doing this and how do you network? And I said, “Look, when I graduated there was no medical design in my portfolio, so maybe I shouldn’t apply to any medical companies. If there are no sneakers in your portfolio, don’t call Nike. And if you do call Nike with no sneakers in your portfolio, Nike looks at you and goes okay, you clearly did not do any research on us, so you’re clearly not that invested.” And I wouldn’t approach Susan with something like that if I didn’t think that was something up Susan’s alley. If I were to say, “Susan, let me write a story on the different colors that will be present at Design Week this year.” She’d go, “Oh, that’s not really what Metropolis does.” And it would be kind of sour because she’d go, I thought you got me, dang it, you don’t. I think one of my strong suits is that I am very observant and I try to be as strategic as possible, but because I smile a lot and I laugh a lot, people think that I’m kind of just come easy/go easy. Which I don’t mind, everybody has got their opinions.
But yeah, I’m very thoughtful and considerate with how I approach people because it takes a lot. People risk a lot by just saying yes to you, it’s a big gamble, because no one knows what’s going to happen. If that had been a flop of a story and Susan puts it in there under her watch, people go, what are you doing? What’s going on? So I take it very, very personal to do my homework and to make sure who I’m speaking to and how I’m speaking to them, is doing everything possible to lead to a yes.
Amy: That clearly has been a winning strategy for you because just harkening back to what you just said about don’t reach to Nike if you have no sneakers in your portfolio, you’ve built a creative practice that is not about any sort of specific typology. And so at some point you started designing wallpaper when you didn’t have any wallpaper in your portfolio.
Bradley: Exactly, so that was a strategy too because that was when the pandemic was hitting and I was in front of my computer already and a good girlfriend of mine, Jordan Graves, she’s phenomenal. At the time she was getting her PhD, I hope she still is, in robotics at Georgia Tech. And she’d shown me this robotic arm she had just programmed and it was drawing moray patterns. So Jordan Graves was showing me a robotic arm she had programmed to draw different line patterns. And I saw those line patterns and said, “Ooh, this would be really cool as a wallpaper.” And I hate wallpaper, because most of the designs are so kitschy and it’s daffodils and ponies and I thought to myself, I can’t be the only designer out here who wants something that has a bit more substance and it’s a bit more art-leaning than pictorial. I had just finished designing a wallpaper collection for this local design company called Eclectic Home and after I finished doing it, they loved the pattern so much and I said, “Who are you all working with for your wallpaper?” And they said, “We’re working with so-and-so company, I’ll give you their contact info.” And so they gave me the contact info and I reached out to them and I said, “How does a designer go about making a collection with you all?” And they said, “Oh, we’re more of just a manufacturer, so you send us what you want us to print, here are our prices and here’s our lead time.” I said, “Perfect.” So there was no minimum orders, none of that. So I sat for a good month and a half and I designed, conservatively, 60-70 patterns, if that few. And then different color options and I kept playing with it and I would print it out at the Kinko’s near here, or the FedEx and I would play with it and I would tweak it. And it got to the point where I said, this actually might be pretty good. And so I started working with this company and they would print it for me.
But then I realized there’s a lot more to wallpaper than just printing it. And so again, kind of a Susan Szenasy moment, a Paula Wallace moment, I got a DM from Interior Design Magazine saying that Cindy Allen would love to do a Zoom chat with me. I said, “Sure, let’s do it.” So as we were talking, Cindy and I hit it off as well and we realized that we really liked each other and that she enjoyed my work and I liked the mission that she was undertaking at Interior Design Magazine. And at the end of it she made the fatal mistake of saying, “If you need anything, let me know.” (Laughter) And I said, “Cindy, I will, as soon as I can think of something, I will.” (Laughter)
Amy: If you leave the door open a crack, I’m going to come through.
Bradley: Oh, you know what’s funny about that? My grandmother used to tell me, she said, “You’ve got to get your foot in, and then your knee in, and then once you can get your hip in, you can throw that door wide open.”
Amy: (Laughs) I love that!
Bradley: So Cindy said, “If you need anything, let me know.” I had to get up the courage, because again, people think I’m much more bold… they think it oozes out of me and I have to really psyche myself up to do it. And so I hit her up and I said, “Cindy, I’ve been working on this wallpaper collection,” and I sent her a PDF of the wallpaper patterns and I said, “However, it’s a lot more work than I thought and I’m not representing it as best as I can. Do you know any companies that you think would be a good fit, that could help me develop this and put it out to the world at large?” And Cindy responded and she says, “Give me a little bit of time, but in the meantime, send me a portfolio of your work and some of your press, and make sure you include that press,” because Interior Design Magazine had carried a few clips of my wallpaper in their previous issues. She said, “Make sure you include that stuff from Interior Design Magazine.” I said, “Okay, perfect.” So I put that together, I sent it to her. She sent it back to me with some edits. And I made the edits and I sent it back to her and she goes, “Perfect. I have a few people in mind I’m going to send it to, look to hear from me in a few weeks.” And so three weeks pass and she hits me up and she says, “I want to introduce you to Marybeth Shaw over at Wolf-Gordon.” And I said, “Okay.” She said, “Will you be in New York any time soon?” And I go, “Oddly enough, La Noxe, the nightclub that I designed, they’re having an anniversary party, so I’ll be there.” This is when I think… I get a little bit too in my head about universe and spiritual and all of this. It turns out that the offices for Wolf-Gordon are directly above La Noxe. And I go, come on, that can’t be a coincidence because I’m going to be in this building and I have a meeting, this is too much.
Amy: Oh, that is beautiful, the universe is conspiring on your behalf.
Bradley: In all of Manhattan, they had to be in the same little spot.
Amy: Yeah! I just got goosebumps, that’s for real.
Bradley: This is life. My life has just been me being able to recognize it and be glad and appreciative. But I get to the meeting with Marybeth and Michael Loughlin, who is the design director and Marybeth is the chief creative director, and we have a blast. Again, we get on like we’ve been friends for forever. And in one meeting we picked all the patterns that we wanted to do. We realized them at NeoCon that year, which would have been NeoCon last year, and they swept all these award categories.
Amy: I love it!
Bradley: And again, it was that recognition. That was the second time I’d won anything for design, ever. Prior to that it was at Design Miami for my paper lighting collection, but these were just things that I was already doing…
Amy: That was Halo for the Future Perfect, by the way, for our listeners.
Bradley: That is correct. So Halo for the Future Perfect was the beginning of people recognizing and then CHROMALIS was the next thing that I did with Gordon. But that literally stemmed from a thing nobody asked me to do. Nobody asked me to design wallpaper in my room, in my little studio on my little old computer. But I had a funny feeling (laughs) that other people were tired too. It’s that, if you want to see it, do it, so that’s my motto most of the time.
Amy: I love your initiative. I love your enthusiasm and I love that you revealed that you have to psyche yourself up to do these sort of bold moves…
Bradley: Oh yes.
Amy: I think people can relate to that. I’m much older than you, but I still have to psyche myself up for that kind of thing.
Bradley: You always will have to, that’s the catch. My senior project in undergrad was on the transformative quality that objects can have, and what it stemmed from was athletes and superheroes. I had the funny feeling, growing up playing tennis, I knew that there was a moment when I stopped being Bradley and I became the opponent. And I thought to myself, Serena Williams is a world champion, but she’s also an aunty. Is there a moment when Serena Williams stops being Aunty Serena and becomes one of the greatest tennis players to ever exist, and what happens? And I interviewed a ton of athletes. I interviewed the gold medalist from the Beijing Games in fencing, the silver medalist in the same Games. I interviewed college wrestlers, college swimmers, professional swimmers, professional golfers and every single one of them had a moment where in one way or another they were psyching themselves up. And most of the time psyching themselves up had something to do with a physical thing. One guy said, he was a swimmer, he said, “I had to put on my swimming goggles from high school. They were too small for my head, but it was that pressure that I felt around my eyes that let me know it was go time.” And this guy has won medals left, right and center. But even…
Amy: That’s so interesting.
Bradley: Yeah, yeah and all of that really stemmed from me researching African masks and the transformative quality that putting a mask on in these ceremonies and these rituals has. It’s a signal that now you’ve got to do it. And mine is typically sending an email, and I do it very aggressively, I send an email and I click ‘send’ before I can doubt myself and once I’ve done that, the mask has been drawn and I’m in it, (laughs) because somebody is getting it and somebody is responding. So I’m in it now. I realize that even the greats, even the people that make it look so effortless, their hand was shaking five seconds before they walked on court. Actually their hand is still shaking on court, but they’re doing it, [0.55.00], they’re jumping in it.
Amy: Yeah, oh my god, that’s amazing, that’s an amazing story and I love that you were able to distill it down to something as what we can often think of as mundane as an email. But if you ritualize it into a sort of moment where you’re transforming from Bradley, Dorothy’s grandson into Bradley the superhero designer (laughter)…
Bradley: Your words, your words!
Amy: You’re sportsifying it, you’re like, okay, I’ve got to get in athlete mode with this. Yeah.
Bradley: And it’s that moment where you’ve released it, because I think that’s the other part that’s so… which is why I love sports so much. There was a wonderful moment, Rafael Nadal was playing some match at the French Open, where he was king, and he lost the match. In the press conference where they said, “Rafael, what happened?” And he goes, “Well, sometimes you do everything right and it still doesn’t work.” And I go, oh my gosh, yes! But what I got from that was him saying, ‘I have to release myself from the outcome. All I can do is do my part and whatever happens on the receiving end, I accept it. If it’s positive, wonderful, if it’s negative, learn from it.’ And I send these emails, I send these messages, I shake hands, I go to these events, I make my work and I put it out into the world and I move onto the next thing. And if by some twist of fate that ends up being something that people recognize or want to purchase, wonderful. If it doesn’t, wonderful. It’s not why I’m doing it. I enjoy when that happens (laughs)…
Amy: Of course!
Bradley: But that’s not why I’m doing it. And I think it’s that release, just saying, I’m just going to jump and whatever happens after the jump, let’s see.
Amy: Yeah, I think that’s very wise and I think that’s going to help you have a very sustainable, long term career. And there’s a lot of people, a lot of wise people talk about detachment from outcome. I think the other piece of it that’s so hard to digest that we forget is sometimes the experiences that feel negative in the moment, or are not the outcome we wanted, actually end up having a kind of benefit that we just have to process the experience more deeply in order to extract the benefit.
Bradley: And also you end up thinking to yourself, like I’ve been in some spots where I kept chasing after something that was clearly a no. And I got on the other side of it and I go, oh, this was a disaster. (Laughter) This was an absolute wreck. And also actually in the same conference that I was in yesterday, someone had made the comment, ‘Don’t chase bad money.’ And I said, “I can’t co-sign that because sometimes you have to.” Aretha Franklin in one of her songs, she said, “I had to give up what was right for what I knew was wrong.” And sometimes you have to go after some sour deals. You have to be adamant about some no’s because your survival depends on it. I’m glad that I can be sometimes in a position where I can say no to something, or I can push back on something that makes me unhappy or uncomfortable. But for the most part I think it’s really about trusting how you feel initially, but then also leaving space for yourself to go, you know what, I could be wrong. I’ve embarked on some stuff that I was sure was a winner and it was an absolute flop. And I’ve embarked on some stuff that I said, this is going to be an absolute dud, but I’ll do it, why not, I ain’t got nothing else to do. Then it turns out to be a hit. And so now that means I just say, I just open myself up to it and I go, I’m going to do my part and if they don’t pick up the pace and do theirs, then I’ll just keep on moving. If they come back two years from now, I’ll entertain it, I’m not going to be vindictive or nasty, but I’m no longer pushing-pushing-pushing on stuff. I’ll do my due diligence, but after that, that’s the end of it. If you want this to come to life, you have to play your part too.
Amy: I think that you have many generations of wisdom coursing throughout your brain and your body.
Bradley: That’s only a podcast. You see me out in the wild you’d be like, why is he making such horrible choices! (Laughter)
Amy: We can go to a bar and have a drink and talk about your horrible choices, I would love that, I’ve got a few of my own to share. (Laughs)
Bradley: Exactly! I mean I don’t know if I even made horrible choices. I just made choices …and I’m a huge believer in this. I believe everybody does what they believe was their absolute best in that moment. And that doesn’t always mean that people see their best, it just means I did what I thought I had to do and I thought I did it the best way I could have. So I’m not too mad at myself over some bad decisions, unless it was blatantly obvious and I knew it was blatantly obvious and in the moment I was like, you know this is an idiots decision. It’s that moment we all have where we’re talking to ourselves going, you know this is not going to work. But some stubbornness says, yeah, I know, but I got it and I go, yeah, I know you do. I know the feeling! I see it. It’s hitting me in the face, it’s blatantly obvious, but you know what, that’s part of this career as well. Like very recently I had an experience where I had to make a decision, do I want to let one individual, who I didn’t know before this, and won’t know after this, deter or determine my trajectory forward? I was like, this is a really amazing opportunity that I have in front of me. I don’t know this person and if I let them be the deciding factor on it, I’m going to be very upset with myself later on in life. And so I said, all right, I’m aware now, I’m going to keep my guard up, I’m going to be aware of stuff, but I’m going to still go down this road and get out of it what I can, and move on. And I think that’s another difficult thing, is some people seem to be under the impression that the moment a room turns chilly, or the moment an experience seems complex or complicated, get out. And I’m like, no, maybe, maybe, but maybe not. Maybe stay in there, get what you need and then go.
Amy: Yeah, it’s sort of like the difference between discerning between actual danger and just discomfort.
Bradley: Right, yes, bingo. Discomfort and danger are different and they can switch into each other very quickly, which is why I said in that moment I kept my ears perked and I was aware and trying to be attentive. But I also recognize the situation for what it was offering. And I’m like, I’d be a fool to let this stranger keep me from this glory.
Amy: So I want to talk about your creative process. I know that you are equally invested in technology and craft and blending it to amazing results. And I think we’re in an era where you can really soar with this. I think both technology and craft have room to be reconsidered and revalued in deeper, more meaningful and superconscious kinds of ways. And I would love for you, if you wouldn’t mind giving us a kind of breakdown of what your creative process looks like through maybe describing a recent project? And I know you were part of the DesignLab cohort…with Hayworth and with Patricia Urquiola as the curator. And I thought that whole project was really great. And also, your piece in particular, I’d love if you could talk about not just how you developed it creatively, but also how you worked the relationships through the whole process?
Bradley: The goal was to bring to life things that we would not be able to bring to life otherwise. And what was exciting to me was the way digital technology operates now is very much like artisan craftsmanship operated back in the day. Where an artisan could make 25 different things in a day, because there was no need for repetitive reproduction. A 3D printer or a CNC operated machine today can cut 27 different curves because the machine doesn’t do better or worse depending on the curve it cuts. So variety is no longer the enemy of industry. Now you can actually make it a selling point. So I said I want to use some of those machines you all have. And I have this design, which was this Polaris collection, that takes the curvatures found all around us, like if we have the vision to see electromagnetic light waves, we would see all of the waves being given off by anything that’s either electronic or magnetic. And so it will be this beautiful kind of three dimensional line drawn [** 1:08:54]. And I said, I want to give some sort of substance to that. And so I started playing around on the computer with configurations, obviously trying to lean on the electromagnetic side of it, but also lean on the archetype of coffee table, a library chair, a bench, a settee, a couch, and through that I knew that whatever complex curvature I created, the machine could sort it out. So at that point it wasn’t about me having to find things that were easy to do, but now it was things, as long as it fell within the parameters and the guidelines of the machinery, anything was possible. And so I got very excited by that. But my process typically starts, like with that collection, it starts with me diving into the physics of it. I have about as many physics books as I have design books in my library. And so I needed to understand what makes electromagnetic lines or fields is what they’re called, these field diagrams, [1.10.00] what makes them happen. And once I understand what makes them happen, I can reproduce it in the computer. Once I reproduce it in the computer, I’m now speaking a language that machines and fabricators use. So I used to sketch a lot by hand, until I got into the world of making objects that are very difficult to sketch because they might have a geometry that’s not so simple. And so when I get to the computer, it’s not only me sketching, but it’s also me translating. Because now, like with that project, all I had to do was send the file. And so I sent the file to the team at Hayworth and oddly enough no one will believe it, although it was designed to be bent by computers, all of those curves were bent by hand. So that added another layer to it because now it was almost this digital concept that was being created in this virtual perfect world of a computer, that was then being brought to life by the skilled hands of artisans. And it was really this concept I came up with in the very beginning years of me being in Miami, which is called ‘technocraft,’ and for me technocraft is the merging of high technology and hand craft. There’s something missing when something comes solely from a machine. But once a hand gets involved, to lacquer it or polish it or sand it or shape it, all of a sudden there’s an imperfection introduced to that perfect shell and then…
Amy: And a soul.
Bradley: A soul, some cracks, some weaknesses, some flaws, all of a sudden become the strengths. And so with this project with Hayworth, I wouldn’t have access to anybody who could do all that complex bending, unless it was just me and I get tired or bored too quickly. And so that whole project was kind of me wanting to share, which was a big thing I believe in. There’s a song I love, it’s an old negro spiritual and the lyric is, ‘There’s plenty good room, plenty good room, plenty good room in my father’s kingdom, just choose a seat and sit down.’ And I think that for me, that’s been a mantra of mine. There’s plenty of space for everybody. All we have to do is provide seating at the table. And so when Hayworth approached me, my immediate thought was, how can I get Brian involved? And he’ll never believe it, so hopefully he doesn’t listen to this podcast. But I immediately thought of him. And then I immediately thought of Max. And then when they were saying they wanted to talk to Eny, let’s get Eny Lee involved. And Chrissy as well. And so it became this thing of Hayworth has more than enough money, know-how and reach, where Bradley doesn’t have to be the only person involved. Let’s spread this out and let’s get more views. Let’s get more voices. And so for me that project was really about access, but then also I was finally in a position where I could give recognition to people, in the same way I needed recognition in my early career. I still need recognition.
Amy: That’s so beautiful and I think the cohort, it was very powerful. Everyone came with a very solid perspective, it was very diverse, the product, the output of each was very, very different, but you could feel a little bit of Hayworth DNA in all of it.
Amy: But it also felt like it was the very experimental side that Haworth could be, right?
Bradley: See no, I disagree, that was the reason we were doing it. Is there was nothing experimental about it. And I think…
Amy: Oh okay..
Bradley: That’s the other difficulty that the industry faces, is any time young designers or forward thinking designers are tasked with a challenge, the outcome is deemed experimental. And what that does… I know people mean it in a good way, but what it ends up doing, it tells the CEOs, think about this 10-20 years from now…
Amy: You are absolutely correct, yes. It separates it into another category.
Bradley: It separates it into lottie dee fantasyland and the reason I was glad that we made it by hand with Hayworth, all of those pieces were made by hand. We didn’t make those pieces 10 years from now, we made them today, so they’re absolutely 100% feasible today. The difference is we have an industry that’s convinced that the only thing that works is the thing that’s already worked. ]1.15.00] And what I wanted this project to be, was to show no, no, Brian Wooden is getting a lot of recognition for these rugs and these upholstered forms right now. People are excited by the bent wirework that I’m doing right now. Eny Lee’s cloud sofa is dreamy and romantic right now. So I want companies to see that and I want Hayworth companies to see that and go, oh, we could be doing this right now in addition to the things that we already know are tried and true. But right now the industry typically has to choose, for some reason, it’s self-assigned the choice of, either we do tried and true or we do ‘experimental.’ And I want experimental to be, if I designed a couch in VR, I’d go that’s experimental, because that’s years from now before somebody will be able to enjoy a couch, a virtual reality couch. But a tangible, physical thing that just looks different and endeavors to try something out, that’s here and now. So that whole project was here and now. I want crazy projects like that to not even look different. I want them to be so commonplace that people go, cool, electromagnetic field lines, great, big deal. (Laughs) That’s how I want the world to be. Obviously a lot of companies don’t agree, but I think it would be a beautiful thing.
Amy: I think you’re right and I appreciate this discourse. I 100% agree with you and I hadn’t thought of it that way. So I really like the way you’re thinking about it. And I believe that you’re pushing on something that is very much where the industry needs to be pushed forward, which is that with technology and handcraft at our disposal, we don’t have to rely on sameness…
Amy: And we don’t have to rely so rigidly on existing archetypes. We won’t lose our brand.
Bradley: If anything, we’ll expand the brand. The brand will reach more people, because now without diluting it or without losing its core and its essence, which is I’m glad when you said earlier that you saw some of Hayworth in every single one of those pieces, and that was what was beautiful, to have a diverse voice, or a choir, in my mind it would almost be like having different choirs sing the same song. It’s all there, but you hear it done in so many different ways, but the lyrics are the same. It’s like it’s perfect, it’s Aretha Franklin doing Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel was cute and all, but Aretha takes it to a place where you go, oh, I didn’t even know we could do this. And you go, yeah…
Amy: Right, right, that’s perfect. (Laughs)
Bradley: For me that’s it. I’m not saying I’m Aretha Franklin, I’m just saying… (Laughter)
Bradley: Actually I think I am, I would love to be in the same voice or the same sentence as Aretha Franklin.
Amy: Wouldn’t you? I would love to be in the same vibratory space…
Bradley: Yeah. Aretha, rest in peace.
Amy: I’ve loved this conversation and I’m hoping you’ll be game to play a little game with me.
Bradley: Let’s do it. I probably should have asked more details before I said that, but let’s do it. (Laughter)
Amy: I loved that you jumped in. It’s just a quick word association game. I’m going to give you six pairs of words, you’re going to choose one, the fastest one that you resonate with. And then at the end we’re going to take the six words that you chose and create a quick psychoanalysis of you.
Bradley: Nice! Great! (Laughter)
Amy: Are you ready?
Amy: Okay. Buffet or menu?
Amy: Secrets or weapons?
Amy: Climb or slide?
Amy: Data or mystery?
Amy: Variable or impressionable?
Amy: Aroma or pixel?
Amy: Okay, let’s unpack this shall we?
Bradley: Let’s do it! (Laughter)
Amy: Okay, tell me why you chose ‘menu’ over ‘buffet?’
Bradley: I think I like the way the word sounds more.
Amy: Ah, I see it as a willingness to commit versus needing to keep your options open.
Bradley: Oh, okay, I thought you just meant in that moment, why did I choose it. No, with ‘menu’ I think you have someone’s vision. [1.20.00] There was thoughtfulness to it. Buffet, I’m thinking sneezing, I’m thinking hair is falling on stuff…
Amy: Getting dried and crusted over, yeah.
Bradley: Yeah, there’s green beans in the mashed potatoes, that’s what I’m thinking.
Amy: Okay, between ‘secrets’ and ‘weapons,’ what are you feeling there?
Bradley: I think one is malicious and premediated and the other is just human, secrets is just human. Weaponizing something, that’s me thinking that people would have secrets that they would want to use against you, that would be something that seems intentionally malicious.
Amy: So a secret in itself isn’t malicious unless it’s weaponized?
Amy: Okay, ‘climb’ or ‘slide,’ you chose slide.
Bradley: Slide because you get to have the joy of the work you do.
Amy: You get the momentum of movement that’s not under your own effort.
Bradley: For me it was, if I’m sliding down something, that means I had to have climbed up it already.
Amy: Of course, that’s beautiful! Okay, you chose ‘data’ over ‘mystery?’
Bradley: Data I think is still… given the amount of mathematics I deal with on a regular basis, data is still mysterious and still befuddling. Honestly, sometimes it’s more befuddling. You go, I have so much information now, I don’t know how we possibly could have arrived at that outcome.
Amy: So you get both, you get the clue and the mystery in data.
Bradley: Yeah, the clue makes it even more mysterious. (Laughs)
Amy: Why ‘variable’ over ‘impressionable?’
Bradley: Because for me, life is nothing but a bunch of variables. If I lean one way or another, that determines the next move and the next move and the next move. And so variable, almost just immediately jumps out. You could have said any other word next to variable and I probably still would have picked ‘variable.’
Amy: Okay, you’re that big of a fan.
Bradley: I love it.
Amy: You chose ‘aroma’ over ‘pixel.’
Bradley: And aroma is so… again, it’s similar to variable. I would have chosen that over almost anything. And aroma is immediately an entire story. Just the word ‘aroma’ is a story and when someone says ‘aroma’ you already have a vision of something happening. And so for me it’s this interlinking of things and pixel is this individual thing. When they’re masked together, pixel could form an image or pixel can create some sort of thing or impression or an idea of a thing. But the aroma is the group, it’s the totality of it all. But even beyond itself.
Amy: Right. And I feel like a pixel is a building block, but an aroma is the whole story, like you said, but it’s also sensual and memorable, whereas a pixel, since it doesn’t have that story behind it yet, unless it’s part of a larger group, is unmemorable, it’s dust…
Amy: Okay, so you’re interested in vision, in a very beneficial, benign kind of way. You’re not interested in malicious, any sort of aggressive attack type of behavior. You enjoy the climb because you know there’s a fun slide at the end of it. And data is nothing but clues to a larger mystery. You move through life understanding that every step you take is a variable that impacts the rest of your life. And all of the things that hit your senses, like an aroma, come with their own stories attached to them. So there’s so much to interpret in any given moment.
Amy: We got you!
Bradley: We did it! We solved it! (Laughter)
Amy: Bradley, you are an absolute delight, and a talent and a sage…This has been so wonderful.
Bradley: Thank you so very much, I truly have enjoyed it. I love talking about this, this crazy profession, this psychotic career. I love it, I love it, I love it, and if I can in any way give somebody the little bit of courage or boost to stay the course, then job well done, I’m on board for it. So thank you for having me.
Amy: Hey, thanks so much for listening. For a transcript of this episode, and more about Bradley, including images of his work, and a bonus Q&A – head to cleverpodcast.com. If you like Clever, there are a number of ways you can support us: – share Clever with your friends, leave us a 5 star rating, or a kind review, support our sponsors, or hit the follow or subscribe button in your podcast app so that our new episodes will turn up in your feed. We love to hear from you on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter X – you can find us @cleverpodcast and you can find me @amydevers. Please stay tuned for upcoming announcements and bonus content. You can subscribe to our newsletter at cleverpodcast.com to make sure you don’t miss a thing. Clever is hosted & produced by me, Amy Devers with editing by Mark Zurawinski, production assistance from Ilana Nevins and Anouchka Stephan and music by El Ten Eleven. Clever is a proud member of the Surround podcast network. Visit surroundpodcasts.com to discover more of the Architecture and Design industry’s premier shows.
Bradley: Gosh I love you, you’re gonna milk this thing dry.