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10-year logoBy David Tisherman

‘The creation of something outstanding, something that stirs an emotional response, something that establishes an ongoing, extraordinary experience for clients and anyone else who sees our work all starts with the passion we have in our hearts for art and its intimate relationship to what we do as watershapers.’

That’s how David Tisherman opened his Details column in the October 2005 edition of WaterShapes.  He continued:  ‘I believe that unless you appreciate and (on some level) understand the raw power of artistic creation, then what you generate will seldom be true to the ideals of beauty, balance and harmony toward which we all should be striving.’

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‘I’ve written over and over . . . about what it means to be a designer.  Some of you have come to the conclusion that this line of discussion is meant to exclude all but an elite few, but I can’t think of anything that is more off base.  In fact, I believe that most everyone possesses some artistic ability.  This is why I spend so much time in front of classrooms:  I hope to unlock that ability in others.’

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‘[I]t’s clear to me through more than 20 years of teaching that those talents lie untapped within many of my students, their true passion hidden behind a detrimental set of preconceived notions.  . . .  [T]he worst of the detrimental preconceptions is the “retail mentality.” ’

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‘This mindset says that when we work with clients, we are there to sell them anything and everything, including the kitchen sink, because it means the project will generate more money for us.  The last thought in mind is to select carefully or artfully among available materials to find things that go together:  This is about jamming as much into the project as possible to extract as much money as the traffic will bear.’

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‘Think about it:  We have the opportunity to bring beauty, balance and harmony to the lives of our clients, and they’ve come to us because that’s what they really want in their backyards.’

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‘[W]hat I do boils down to looking at materials with a fresh eye and using them in innovative, creative and visually appealing ways that work with the site and the client’s needs and desires.  By contrast, the volume builder looks at materials as commodities and thinks in terms of what’s on the shelf rather than what’s creatively possible.’

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‘No matter what level I operate on, I don’t want my clients and their guests to view my work and say, “What pretty tile!”  Instead, I want them to walk out into the yard and say, “What a beautiful space.”  Yes, the nuances of the tile (or stone or plantings) and the overall composition contribute to that impression, but it is the way they all work together that creates the experience.’

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‘Yes, there may well be a spillway or tile or a construction detail or a water effect that is beautiful unto itself, but it is the context and the interrelation of elements that carries the experience to a richer potential.  This is why, when I discuss projects with prospective clients, I don’t have a sense that I’m “selling” anything.  Instead, what I’m doing is presenting ideas – specific ingredients as well as the possibilities embodied in an overall concept.’  

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‘As for the perception that I’m different from other watershapers because I work only at the highest end, that’s just a crock.  What is important,’ David concluded, ‘is to approach the work as a designer and artist, forget about selling in a retail sense and focus on collaborating with the client in useful and creative ways.’  

Do you share David’s attitude about working with clients in creative collaborations, or is there room in what you do to balance your artistic ambitions with more commercial needs?  Please let us know how you walk these fine lines by sharing your comments below!   

 

David Tisherman is the principal in two design/construction firms: David Tisherman’s Visuals of Manhattan Beach, Calif., and Liquid Design of Cherry Hill, N.J. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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