I stumbled upon Paula Scher’s Ted Talk, after my husband surprised me with her children’s book,“The Brownstone.” 44 years since the first edition, and Kottke initially recommend we scoop it up. It’s a cheerful story about the difficulty of getting along with neighbors. And a fun wintertime read about a bear family trying to hibernate.
In the short Ted Talk, Scher tells the story of her career in terms being “serious” vs. being “solemn.” Both characteristics require you to be ambitious, hard working, and talented. But serious work resonates in the caverns of culture and requires serious play. Her stories illustrates the difference between making serious work and living a good life solemnly.
Scher argues that “play” is a key component to serious work. It is a kind of making that we agree is critical for children, but optional for adults. I’m not a parent who likes to play games or dress up, but I do enjoy helping my children play with an idea or a skill. My children require living to be about play in a way that my art studio doesn’t always demand it. I can work the play out of my studio. But Scher argues that when we lose the element of play then our ambitions are solemn rather than serious. The question is how do we protect play through the seasons of our life.
More work by Paula Scher: