How do you respond to the question when people ask what you do for a living?
I tell them I put smiles on people’s faces.
If they ask you what that means, what is your follow-up answer?
I tell them that I have one of the best jobs in the world, and I get to be creative all day, every day.
You still haven’t answered the question. What if someone said, “What’s a display trimmer?”
I’d say a display trimmer is something from the past. Now, they’re called visual stylists. The communication vocabulary presenting product today is a little different than it was when I started in the industry.
That was in Dayton, Ohio, at Rike’s. Is that right?
This will be the fifth year that you’ve done holiday crawl tubes for kids in the downtown Neiman’s windows. Where did that idea come from?
The world of windows still intrigues me greatly. There’s this thin sheet of glass that separates you from this fantasy world. When you’re a display trimmer and you’re on the inside of the window looking out, it’s a whole different view than being outside and looking in. Clearly, a select few people, window stylists, get to get into that world. But I wanted to come up with something where you could somehow penetrate that glass without breaking it literally, and I finally came up with the idea of using the crawl tubes to take children on a journey through the windows. The parents get to follow along, on the sidewalk, and, with video cameras in the tubes, watch their children take the journey. It’s the first such attempt that I know of where windows have literally been opened up during the holiday season for kids to go through.
Did you have an inspiration? Because the first time I saw the tubes, I thought of Habitrails, those things hamsters crawl through.
Ideas come from everywhere. Honestly, it was probably just driving by some fast-food place. In the creative process, oftentimes what you have to do is look for creative ways to bring the parts together. It’s like a recipe. You take different ingredients, and, depending on how you put them together, you come out with a different product. All I did was put together these different ingredients and came out with this product, which I think is a rather innovative result.
How do you outdo yourself every year? Make the tubes better each time?
I don’t ever set out trying to outdo the previous year, whether it’s the crawl tubes or the holiday windows. It’s just about doing something in a different way. We like to involve children, have them do drawings, write stories, sources of energy that we’ve brought to life. Whenever you tap into the imagination of a child, you’re going to get something new and different and fresh.
That first year you did the tubes, when you came up with how much it would cost, what was the reaction from the bean counters?
The crawl-tube solution was a very efficient way to take the experience to a dynamic level. It’s a lot of bang for your buck.