A Designer At Play

Angela Adams on Finding Inspiration in the Everyday

Q. Is there a certain feeling you get when you know you’re creating and on the right track?
A. The idea of not being inspired feels like a dark shade being pulled over the soul. We need to follow the things that fill our tanks spiritually, creatively, and energetically. When you ask a child about something they are not inspired by, they give you a dopey look, and you can feel a connection being instantly lost with them. But when we ask a child about something that truly inspires them, their eyes pop open, they shoot up tall and straight, and a smile takes over their face. We need that kind of energy to power us up in this chaotic world. When we are inspired, it spreads to everything and everyone around us. Inspiration is contagious!

Q. How do you find inspiration for your designs?
A. I often get ideas from random places. The produce section at the grocery store can be a feast for the eyes. My eyes might clap onto a bright green apple next to a red leaf lettuce. Suddenly I am on a mission with burgundy and green. Or maybe I am walking behind kids on their way to school. One is wearing a pink jacket and the other a furry brown coat. I need to go write that down. Pink and brown, in soft textures. Love it! From there I go to my sketchbook, always. I write colors down, tape in cuttings of colors, fabrics, yarns, etc. It goes off on its own from there.

Q. Are there any tricks or methods you use to overcome a creative block?
A. I play with paints and love to explore textures and layers of colors and the unexpected surprises that creep out from under the original concept. I often find the solution to a design puzzle hiding under the thing I was sure of in the early stages, but that I lost touch with during the process. The other tool I love to use for design exploration is a sewing machine. I love to sew fabrics together; sometimes I sew papers and fabrics and other random fibers together. While it can get messy and snarled up at times, it can all make sense after I snip away at sections of it and find some interesting textures, shapes, and combinations that happened in spite of me trying to make another idea work.

The more I try and force an idea to work, the uglier it gets. So if it starts getting crunchy, I need to move on and come back to it later—or not.

Q.You are one of Maine’s most famous designers and have achieved great international success. How do you balance between managing a business and being a creative?
A. My husband furniture designer, Sherwood Hamill owns and manages the business with me. So it’s a team effort. One of my biggest challenges is balancing the business side with the creative side. I’m right at home when it comes to design, but the business work is a lot more of a brain scrunch for me. It’s not my nature, and the force it takes for me to focus on it and try and do the right things in the right order is all-consuming. So, when it’s time for me to shift and get on a creative frequency, I need to get outside and shake off the biz. Getting out on the water or into the desert or the woods gets me there in a heartbeat. A good dunk in the ocean recalibrates everything, and I’m back in my happy place again. That’s when I do my best work. That said, I can’t forget that the business is what allows me to have a creative job. And I work with super-talented people every day; we all wear a lot of hats and support one another so we can all get where we want to go.

MH+D is proud to partner with acclaimed architectural photographer Trent Bell on his architecture, design, and photography podcast. To hear Bell’s conversation with Adams, please visit trentbell.com/podcast