Clothing designer, trained architect, teacher, and writer Martha McQuade makes simple, beautiful things from her studio in Minneapolis (be sure to check them out here and here at her UNIFORM Natural online shops. Inkblot table runner below). And this week, she made us a simple, beautiful playlist (be sure to check that out below).
Do you listen to music while you work? It depends on what I’m doing. If I am working on production sewing or photo editing, I will listen to podcasts (I love The Moth) or loud music (usually punk). If I’m doing something where I need to think, it will be quieter music. When I’m creating a new clothing collection, I’ll listen to something that feels inspiring to that particular collection, although it is usually something quite minimal in sound—ethereal/ambient.
What do you listen to? I think my musical tastes are all over the place. I tend to listen to stuff I’ve had forever because I’m too busy to find new music that I like. Generally, my heart lies in punk, minimal/ethereal/ambient, dance/electronica and breathy woman vocalists. I also like it when I can hear a guitar player’s fingers on the strings.
I sort of feel like my tastes don’t change too much, although when I was in grad school in the late 90′s, a friend let me listen to a demo tape given to him from a friend who worked for a radio station. It had the song “Greenlander” by Pavement on it. At the time, it wasn’t on an album and I remember the song really haunting me. When I asked the friend about it later, he didn’t remember it and had returned the tape. I periodically thought about the song, but couldn’t find it (and that was back before the Internet was so huge). Recently I thought of it again, looked it up on Google (it was finally released in 2002), and was disappointed that it really didn’t live up to my memory.
How do you listen? In my downstairs studio, I listen through a speaker system on my iPod, or on headphones if there are other people in the house. At my desk upstairs, I listen on my computer.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? I really like Last.fm because you have the ability to build a library of artists that is easy to browse and search. They also have a function that suggests other bands you might like based on bands in your library. My 9-year-old even has his own account.
Does music influence your work? Certain music definitely influences how I think about design. I’m interested in design that is simple, but has a bit of interesting detail in the construction with an emphasis on texture. My Fall 2008 collection, titled “Land,” was really inspired by images of Iceland as well as minimalist ethereal music like of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. What I think of as a spare but beautiful tone in their work really inspired me.
Where do you find music recommendations? I get music recommendations from friends for the most part. I find I don’t have the time to search for new music these days. And as I mentioned previously, I like how Last.fm will recommend bands based on what is in your library. As far as influence goes, either I like it or I don’t. I can usually tell right away if I like something—I can just feel it inside. I’m the same way with color. There are certain types of music that make me feel physically ill. (Bluegrass would fall into that category.) There are also certain songs that I just think of as happy songs, like “The Boat Dreams From the Hill” from Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. Strangely enough, most of the songs on that album are happy songs for me.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? I guess I would like it to be Sigur Rós, but it’s not there yet. It’s where I aspire my work to be.
West Bay Invitational, Jawbreaker
Secret, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Sweetest Decline, Beth Orton
When I Grow Up, Fever Ray
Why Can’t I Be You?, The Cure
Go Do, Jónsi
Downtown Train, Tom Waits
Compression, Everything But the Girl
Pretty Little Girl, All
I Feel It, Lorraine
I Try, Macy Gray
The Walls Are Coming Down, Fanfarlo
Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder
Safe From Harm, Massive Attack
Three MC’s and One DJ, Beastie Boys
The Greatest, Cat Power
Billie Jean, Michael Jackson
Tribulations, LCD Soundsystem
Glósóli, Sigur Rós
Mouthful of Diamonds, Phantogram
Images: Martha McQuade and Sarah Rubens