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Video: Making a change

(music playing) Marian Bantjes: I first came to Vancouver to go to art school. I went to Emily Carr for a year, but it didn't really work out for me; it wasn't the right thing for me. So after that, I was getting fired from restaurant jobs. And let's see, I was nineteen years old, I think, and I went into a bookstore one day to get change for the bus.
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Watch the Online Video Course Creative Inspirations: Marian Bantjes, Graphic Artist
2h 18m Appropriate for all Sep 16, 2011 Updated Nov 10, 2011

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Graphic designer Marian Bantjes has collaborated with numerous design legends, including Debbie Millman from Sterling Brands, Michael Bierut and Paula Scher from Pentagram/NY, Sean Adams from AdamsMorioka, and Stefan Sagmeister—all of whom are featured in this film. This Creative Inspirations was shot on location in Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, and Marian's home and workspace near Vancouver, where Marian shares her views on design and designers. We also visit her distinctive one-woman show at the Ontario College of Art & Design.

In Bonus Features, Marian talks about her creative process at the Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto.

Subject:
Design
Author:
Marian Bantjes

Making a change

(music playing) Marian Bantjes: I first came to Vancouver to go to art school. I went to Emily Carr for a year, but it didn't really work out for me; it wasn't the right thing for me. So after that, I was getting fired from restaurant jobs. And let's see, I was nineteen years old, I think, and I went into a bookstore one day to get change for the bus.

There, in the bookstore, was a little sign by the cash register that advertised a job at a publishing company. The job at the typesetting company quickly led into training in layout and paste up and all the things that people used to do before computers took over.

I was not a designer; I was a typesetter. So I would receive instructions, usually written, sometimes hand drawn, from the designer as to how they wanted the book to look, what typeface they wanted it to be in, what sizes. The exciting part of book design is always in the front matter, the half title, the title. You get to use some display type. You get to do something a little bit different. Contents page. You've got all sorts of various decisions that you can make here, whether it's going to be flush left or centered, or whether there is going to be anything between the title and the numbering.

These are sort of very exciting things to book designers. It sounds incredibly boring, but those are kind of the moments of, when you get to make big decisions, as opposed to the pages that are just text. Yeah, so this is the kind of thing that I worked on for many, many years, and I really enjoyed it. Looks beautiful. Gold edges.

You do what you are told, and you do what you are told over and over and over again, and eventually you learn. You learn what is the right way and the wrong way to do things. I mean, that's one of the things I like about typography is that there is a right way and a wrong way. There are variations within that. There are personal tastes and various things, but you can really--you can do it wrong; you can screw it up. And there is something about that that I like.

Don't know why. (music playing) I moved to Bowen Island full time after leaving my business, and it was quite a bit of change, not only in terms of the work that I was doing, but also in terms of my lifestyle.

I had been living in the city and going to work every day like a regular person, getting up in the morning, seeing people, being in an office with other people, meeting with clients, doing all that stuff. I had the place here and would come here on weekends. And there is this kind of leaving behind of the city and the tensions when you make this journey on the ferry. There is a very different mentality between the island mentality and the mainland mentality.

(music playing) I was working a four-day week at the company and then coming over here on Thursday evening and smashing and demolishing and building every weekend for over two years.

So the first couple of years that I owned the house, it was a work project. I mean, there was nothing relaxing at all about coming over here. By the time I moved over here, the house was ready to go, so it worked out quite well that way. (music playing) It's a living space, but it also functions as partly a workspace as well.

It's completely different than it used to be. The whole thing is opened up. These doors and windows didn't use to be there, so those got put in. Um. I've got various pieces of artwork along the way. These are by Ed Fella, on the side. This is my bedroom. I spend a lot of time in here, sleeping. I like sleeping. Sleeping is a really important part of my creative process.

It took me a while to figure this out. I used to think I was being very lazy spending a lot of time in bed or just lying around on the couch. But I've realized that I actually do a lot of thinking when I am laying in bed--not when I am sleeping; when I am sleeping, I am dreaming. I am restoring that energy somehow. And so getting a lot of rest is, I think, really important to me. When I worked at Digitopolis, I was working almost entirely on the computer, basically the computer and with photography.

And now I am using a wide variety of materials, sometimes still involved with a computer and sometimes just with the materials themselves. But having a space like this allows me to obviously store them all, and to work on these various surfaces in different media. I've got my pencil crayons here. I actually have a vast pencil crayon collection, which is growing, because I subscribe to these crazy, freaking Japanese pencil crayon subscriptions. So yeah, there is a lot of pencil crayons going on there.

When I first came here, I wasn't really getting any--I certainly wasn't getting any paid work. So I was spending my time working on a number of personal projects and just things that I was interested in. So this was a piece that I did for a kind of a magazine-type thing called Ladies & Gentlemen. It shipped with a vinyl LP, and the piece I did for it--there's the LP-- the piece I did for it was this here.

I was doing quite a bit of ballpoint pen work at the time. It says, "HOW ARE YOU." This was the kind of thing that I was doing, just contributing to things like this, that were essentially for me free printing. So my goal at the time really was to just keep putting stuff out there, keep making things, keep exploring these ideas I was having, honing my skills, and just kind of stay busy during this time when I wasn't actually getting any commissioned work.

Welcome to my dirt collection! What is that, exactly? Bowen Island. It's just, it's dirt. It's got a lot of cedar in it, so it's quite red. This one says, "South Africa Mala Mala River Bed." This is actually probably my most dangerous dirt, because it's unsterilized, came from an African riverbed, and God knows what's living in it. Here's some little shells, shell beach stuff, from Galiano Island.

And you might wonder why I have a dirt collection. I think one day I am going to make something out of it. I will make something interesting, something like a sand-painting-kind-of-thing using all my different dirts from around the world. We will see. But for now, I collect dirt.

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