3 Questions with Jay Harman
Inventor and futurist Jay Harman on paying attention, getting out into the wild, and staying alive to our own experiences.
3 QUESTIONS is a series of brief, three-question interviews with PNCA’s visiting artists and lecturers. Each year, PNCA attracts innovative, thoughtful, and creative makers and thinkers who share our belief in the transformative power of creativity. In three short answers to three short questions, these artists offer perspectives on career, motivation, and transformation. When available, we include links to audio recordings, transcripts, slideshows, or video.
“Focus on the rawness of your experience, unfiltered.”
What advice would you offer current students about to embark on a career in the arts?
What brings you alive? Identify the things that heighten your sense of aliveness and dig into them. Focus on the rawness of your experience, unfiltered. Zen or other meditation practices are great tools to develop this ability to pay attention. Over time, expand this practice to all your experiences. The more present you are to any experience, the more you can speak from it – it’s your unique piece of this shared truth of being human.
How do you maintain your creative practice? What keeps you motivated and engaged?
I go out into nature, into wildness that is not shaped by humans. Anything from the shape of a seedpod to the flight of a dragonfly to the splashing of water on a beach can grab my attention and excite my creativity.
Could you describe a moment or experience that profoundly changed the nature of your work?
When I think of those moments, and there are a few, the common experience is the level of attention rather than the content. Sometimes life overtakes us with a life-threatening challenge – that gets our attention. Sometimes it’s just a delicious taste, or falling in love. Any moment, any experience, in this diverse, extraordinarily infinite existence, is filled with miracles and stunning possibility. It’s a matter of whether we’re available to see it.
JAY HARMAN is an inventor, entrepreneur, futurist, and is one of the world’s leaders in biomimicry research and development as well as founder of several companies that create industrial solutions that are clean and green and based on mimicking nature’s design solutions. Harman has just published his first book The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature Is Inspiring Innovation. A native of Australia and now a U.S. citizen working out of San Rafael, California, Harman is a gifted storyteller and successful businessman. Best selling author Paul Hawken says of Harman and The Shark’s Paintbrush, “Imagine Indiana Jones, Huckleberry Finn, and Erasmus Darwin rolled into one person, and you will have some sense of what it is like to roam and see the world through Jay Harman’s biomimetic eyes.”