Las Falles | a metaphor

Today was the final day of the week long Las Falles celebration in Valencia, Spain. “It is a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph. The term Falles (meaning torches) refers to both the celebration and the monuments created during the celebration. A number of towns in the Valencian Community have similar celebrations inspired by the original in Valencia. Each neighbourhood of the city has an organized group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the famous specialty paella. Each casal faller produces a construction known as a falla which is eventually burnt.” -wikipedia 

To be clear, the Falla (large sculptures) are made by crews of artists and artisans, sculptors, painters, and many others that spend months producing these elaborate constructions of paper and wax, wood and styrofoam towering up to five stories, composed of fanciful figures in outrageous poses arranged in gravity-defying architecture. The Falla are created according to an agreed upon theme that has traditionally been, and continues to be, a satirical jab at anything or anyone who draws the attention of the critical eyes of the falleros – the celebrants themselves. They aim to create the most outrageous monument to their target, which would in turn ‘win’ and be burned last on the final evening of the celebration. Each Falla is laden with fireworks which are lit first. The sculpture itself is lit either after, or during, the explosion of these fireworks.

The celebration sounds like so much fun and I would love to attend some day! However, the thing that I am most intrigued by, is the willingness to diligently create in the shadow of inevitable destruction.  (see more below) *

the scale and level of detail are incredible...

*The idea of taking so much time to create a fabulous work of art, only to completely destroy in in the end, is almost heart stopping to any Artist or Designer. This is something that I, and others, struggled with so much in school. It was so upsetting when a teacher asked you to redo a painting, or model, or anything. You had already given it your all, and were then being asked to do it all over again.. and better this time. Contrary to my personal battles in destroying my own work, the pieces were almost always better the second or third time around– having learned from the first runs. Being able to lose that sense of ‘preciousness’ about your work can be so liberating and beneficial in so many ways.

Years after college, in the professional world, I am often called to redo Interior spaces that I previously designed. Never because they are wrong or bad…Rather, simply because they have new needs, wants, or it involves a move/ expansion. I find that it is really interesting to go back and assess your work some time later. You get to look back at who you were then and how your work, style, or thought processes may have changed over time. In my line of work, there is also a unique perspective into the clients’ life and how they have evolved over time and molded the space. (That will be a whole other post about my interest in psychology and use of space over time.. that I will get into at a later date).

Repeat clients are great for business and offer up the unique challenge of ‘working with yourself’ while working with the client again as well. What do I mean by that? Well, when you go back into a space (that you theoretically designed, and chose all of the furnishings etc. for) you likely have to re-work with those items to create a new space that fits the new criteria, while staying within budget. This can be an interesting challenge, for many reasons. Most uniquely; Your style and thought processes have most likely changed over time, therefore you are forced to be even more creative in making a new space that works even better than the first. In extreme cases, this can relate more to Las Falles, when I almost literally ‘destroy’ (take down and completely redo) my work. Design is a constant learning experience and there are always new products and technologies; So it is normal to change your views over time. ‘Going back in time’, as it so often feels, can be refreshing and inspiring it its own way.

I got off on a bit of a tangent there but my main point is this: We rarely get a clean slate in life. I think that how you choose to treat the ‘old’ reveals truth in character. Finally, and more literally— being able to part with your own creations make you stronger and forces new creativity– and I think that Las Falles is the perfect metaphor.

One last note: I bought this print last year from photographer Sean Sheffer. It is framed and hanging above my desk in the office. I like it as a reminder that most things in life are not permanent. I think that it is another great metaphor for life– and more specifically, for my work.

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