When I picture an inspiration wall, it’s hard for me not to think about the oversized cork board that I was so attached to in high school, overflowing with beads and Polaroids and feathers and God knows what other random kitsch. So when I saw furniture designer Sean Woolsey’s version of one—more an art wall than a collage, more an artful homage to his passions than a random hodgepodge—in his studio in Southern California, I realized my definition needed updating.
Working alongside one partner, Sean does all the wordworking for his furniture line in a teeny tiny space. About once a month they launch a new design—which goes from a written-down idea, to a drawing, to a cheap model in a material like plywood, to a mock-up in a 3D software, and, finally, to a fully-fabricated version before possibly being tweaked all over again. It’s often a long road to actually selling one and with such a small team, the days can turn long at the studio.
What they've hung up around them serves as a reminder that there's a world waiting outside its walls, and this is where the inspiration wall comes into play.
When Sean's hard at work in the studio, he wants to remember where he's been—and that sometimes the best thing to do is leave the office. Travel is what rejuvenates him; he calls it his “cross-training for furniture time" and he and his wife recently went on a month-long trip to Turkey, Israel, Copenhagen, and Berlin (and one before that to Japan).
So he's hung a photograph of the 1987 Westphalia van that he and his wife traveled in for a summer. A plan of a sailboat, which references a craft that has historically defined this Santa Mesa area (and a sport that he loves). Photography of shapes and textures have influenced him. The first skateboard he ever designed. A saw he picked up on the road and painted with a simple reminder: stay wild & free.
“As you get older, there’s more conventional domesticated life,” Sean explains, carefully. This wall, which he's always adding to, serves as "a reminder not to lose sight of the kid inside me, and stay curious, and take breaks, and mess up, and not always go for success.” Putting random stuff on your wall, the way I always do, is not a terrible thing—but collecting reminders of what you love and what inspires you, especially from the places you travel, is the art of the non-art wall 2.0.