What is ‘functional art’?

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By definition, functional art refers to aesthetic objects that serve a useful purpose. Or, the way I described it to someone last week, “a thing of both form and function, something beautiful and useful”.  I wanted to write about my own functional art for a few reasons. Most important of them all is, as a minimalist, I don’t like to create things just to create them, much like the West African view of using words just to use them. It’s wasteful. This is not to say that conspicuous consumption does not have a place in our world, because it obviously does. For me, as a creative, I feel it’s  almost wasteful of my gift to just make or design something to chase a dollar. Now, it just so happens that I will create something before the need or the trend shifts, and sometimes that can be mucho frustrating, but I’m learning to trust my intuition and my gift, and it’s been helpful. Anyway, let’s get into the interesting stuff. How and why I create functional art. 

Which of my pieces are functional art? Well, anything that is beautiful that can be used for another purpose. That includes: journals, keychains, mugs, wine glasses, boxes, et cetera. That’s a lot of functional art. One question I get a lot when I’m vending at events or talking about my art is, “How do you decide what to make and how to design it?”. The easiest answer is: I make things that I like and use every day. I think about what I use every day, how I use it, how I went through the process of purchasing it, and whether or not it brings me joy.

I drink out of 3 mugs on rotation because coffee is life, and I know how important that morning cup can be to a daily routine. So mugs had to happen. I have loved keychains since middle school, mostly because I was always on the hunt for one of those novelty keychains with my name on it (always Nicky, or Nicole, or Nichole, never Nikki… it’s not that hard).  So keychains made all the sense to me. I drink wine regularly, and for me, that part of the day or evening is usually my wind down time, my patio time, and that should be special. Wine Down Wednesdays begins on October 20, 2021. Y’all already know how I feel about journaling, so while I wait on Moleskine to catch up and give me a deal, I design my own. And boxes? I’ve had a special things box since I was in kindergarten, and took one to college with me to save my memories: first concert ticket, first club wristband, even a leaf I found walking to class. Special to me. 

My functional art is about elevating the ordinary. So the keychains aren’t just resin and glitter. They’re small talismans to bring good energy with you when you leave the house, or make you smile while you’re in the middle of a boring conversation and longing to just grab your keys and run, lol. In office culture, a person’s mug is a way to set them apart. It’s a way to create some space for your personality in a homogeneous environment. So when you take one of my hand crafted mugs or one of my printed mugs in to the office with you, you are reminding yourself who you are with every sip. A holiday dinner with my wine glasses on the table might not make your guests more interesting, but I mean, what better humblebrag is there than “oh these are custom made and hand crafted”? It’s definitely not something the people who shop at box stores can say.

Every home I’ve ever lived in has featured a curated collection of things that made my every day life uniquely mine. So as a creative, it only made sense that I would offer the same. I make and design beautiful, useful things to edify the people who collect them. Special, exclusive things for people who want a bit of understated elegance. 

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