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Learning by Doing Part 3 – Finding Inspiration in the Ordinary

Meagan Vanderhill | Sep 11, 2019

For the next several months, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation 2018-2019 Graphic Design Fellow, Meagan Vanderhill, will be exploring the concept of learning by doing. Here, she challenges herself to find inspiration in her everyday routine by seeing things through a more creative lens.

“The sources of inspiration for the individual at Taliesin are strong and diverse. An individual who is open to these springs of creativity will develop a creative spirit and a life-long desire to learn.” – Taliesin Life, 1982. Unknown Author

In this edition of my series, Learning by Doing, I’m exploring the role of creativity and inspiration in the Taliesin Fellowship. The Fellowship sought to create well-rounded, creative individuals and teach them, not just skills, but a way of living. Frank Lloyd Wright believed that everything was part of the whole. Unity played a huge role in the philosophy of organic architecture and life at Taliesin. The Fellowship taught the inter-relatedness of all things. Learning by doing was essential to this lesson because every opportunity at Taliesin converged in order to teach that creativity, art, design, and organic architecture are influential and applicable in every sphere of life. Taliesin Life, a guidebook created by the Taliesin community that outlines different aspects of Wright’s Fellowship, shares this list of where inspiration can be found at Taliesin.


  • Wright’s buildings at Taliesin and Taliesin West
  • The natural surroundings at Taliesin West
  • The creativity of others
  • The encouragement of others
  • The spirit of adventure of the group
  • The opportunity to work at simple physical tasks while stimulated by beauty and ideas, which gives a chance for those beauty and ideas to become a part of the individual’s fibre
  • The belief that all the elements of experience should be integrated into the fabric of life, so that nothing is lost, all life is meaningful and all tasks are opportunities
  • The variety of people who one meets and learns to respect
  • The life of the group

Finding inspiration at Taliesin West is not a challenge, but taking time to stop and reflect can be. It’s easy to forget, even in an inspiring place like Taliesin West, to look up and observe. As a designer, I learned early on that creativity isn’t something you have, creativity is something you learn, nourish, and build upon. If creativity is something you learn, then inspiration is how you learn it. In my experience creativity isn’t limited to art or design, in fact limiting it to art and design can stifle it. There is potential for creativity in every area of life and being inspired in all things is the key to unlocking its limitless potential. Today, I decided to approach every experience as an opportunity for inspiration.

7:30 am

I wake up after hitting snooze a few too many times. My alarm reminds me to “Have a creative day!” and I keep this in mind as I get ready for the day.

8:00 am

I make coffee and grab a yogurt from the fridge. Normally I take breakfast to go and eat it at my desk, but today I am determined to change my routine. I take my breakfast outside to my small patio that overlooks the Valley. It’s warm, but pleasantly so, and slightly overcast. There’s a haze blurring the mountains in the distance. I eat slowly and savor my coffee as I listen to the cicadas and the birds. I have some extra time so I decide to sketch (more like scribble) in my notebook for awhile.

8:45 am

I make my short commute to work. I walk through the parking lot to Whitman Square and past Wright’s office as usual, except I take time to notice the way the clouds are moving across the sky and how the quail are running back and forth trying to hide from me. Instead of walking past the Drafting Studio, I decide to take the long way. I walk out on the Prow and look across toward the Valley. It’s an incredible view and I already feel more inspired just taking a second to notice it.

9:00 am

Every day in the Marketing and Communication office is different. We get requests from different departments and today I am working on signs for the Preservation Department. It’s pretty straightforward but I take a moment to look through our old files. The Graphic Design Fellows have been responsible for all the signage at Taliesin West for several years. I enjoy looking through our past files because I get to see how different Fellows interpreted and grew the Foundation’s brand.

11:00 am

We like to play music in our office while we work. As my coworker and I are listening to a random playlist, we start talking about Taylor Swift’s new album and decide to play a few songs. It’s nice to take a short break and get inspired by some tunes.

12:30 pm

The lunch bell rings signaling that lunch is ready. Every day residents and staff gather in the dining room to share meals together. I normally get there early to help set the table but I was distracted by what I was working on and it was already set when I got there. Today it was chicken dumplings with stir-fry vegetables – a personal favorite.

1:00 pm

Lunch time conversations are always interesting, but I decide to linger longer than usual. I make an effort to engage and listen. I really enjoy talking with people at lunch. Everyone has interesting stories to tell. Some of the staff members and residents have been at Taliesin West for many years and will occasionally share stories about the Fellowship and how Taliesin West has evolved over the years.

3:00 pm

My coworker and I go by the Frank Lloyd Wright Store for a quick project. I love going into the Store because there are so many different Wright-inspired products and products from local artists. I look at the stained glass patterns by Wright and admire the way the sunlight filters through the colored glass.

On our walk back to our office I make an extra effort to take in the architecture and the desert landscape. I look up and notice a small hummingbird perched in a tree. It was a refreshing trip but now it’s back to work for the rest of the afternoon.

5:00 pm

I stay late at the office to work on a personal project. I enjoy creating projects just for myself. Creating without pressure helps me reset and recharge my creative brain.

6:00 pm

Before dinner, a resident and I decide to drive around the property for a while. I stop to notice and appreciate the circular patterns made in the gravel by the facilities team. I point out some of the student shelters that I know. There are several buildings around the property that were built by Wright’s Fellows. I am inspired by how they interpret Wright’s principles in unique and extraordinary ways. The history of Taliesin West is so incredibly rich and driving around to look at the shelters and buildings reminds me of how much I have learned about Wright and his apprentices this past year.

6:30 pm

Time for dinner! Dinner time is a quiet affair during the summer because the students are at Taliesin and the dining room is only filled with residents, which there aren’t very many of. We have a quiet dinner and talk about our plans for the weekend. It’s a typical evening, but I enjoy it more than usual because I tell myself to savor these moments.

Even though my day was pretty typical, it was a refreshing experience to be present in every moment. Inspiration, for me, comes in the form of awe and wonder. I like observing all the beautiful details, small and large, that create the world I live in. When you open your mind to it, inspiration can be found anywhere but it doesn’t always have a tangible outcome. I think of it like a cup, if you let that cup run out then you can’t drink from it when you need it. But taking time to fill your cup means you’ll always have inspiration to draw on. Creativity is limitless, but it is essential to learn how to fuel it through inspiration. In my practice as a designer I have found it so important to take time to cultivate my creativity. Creativity helps sustain my passion for the work that I do and today reassured me that I am in the exactly right place for inspiration and growth through creativity.


Do you want to spend your days inspired, like Meagan, and watch how the beauty of Taliesin West can change your experience and perspective?

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2019-2020 Graphic Design Fellowship.


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