“Anyone can become an inventor as long as they keep an open and inquiring mind and never overlook the possible significance of an accident or apparent failure.”
– Patsy O’Connell Sherman, Inventor of Scotchguard anti-stain product
Patsy invented Scotchguard by accident when she was working on a product to protect jet fuel from deteriorating. A spill by a lab technician caught her attention after it landed on one of her shoes. Incredibly, the shoe remained free from dirt and scuffs, unlike the other one. Scotchguard was born and Patsy harnessed a new discovery.
Women in history like Patsy and Melitta Bentz, the German housewife who revolutionized the coffee industry with paper coffee filters and new coffee pots, are inventors of change. Whether the invention is intentional or quite by accident, what matters is that these women identified a way to improve the world with their inventions.
In the world of art, innovation and invention are part of the craft, especially when artists like Kara Walker who studied the history of African Americans in art and literature realize new insights.
Kara is unique and not worried about failure because she cares more about creating meaningful new discussions around familiar topics. It’s like putting on a new pair of glasses that help you to see something in a completely new light.
Kara’s reinterpretation of familiar images of African Americans in her work has been controversial and considered quite notorious; not unlike our recent history-makers in Notorious RBG versus B.I.G.
Kara’s first sculpture, A Subtlety or The Marvelous Sugar Baby was built in Brooklyn in 2014. Meant to be an homage to the underpaid and overworked people who labored in the sugar cane fields and kitchens of America, it’s part sphinx and part mammy. A total of 15 young male figures cast from a hard and dark amber hard candy surrounded the figure.
It’s huge, measuring 75 feet long and 35 feet high. Machine cut blocks commissioned and installed in the derelict Domino Sugar Refinery factory were covered with 80 tons of sugar. The artwork was demolished after the exhibit ended but Kara made her point about the whiteness of a product in the roots of the slave trade.
To see more of Kara’s work and her fascinating talent, visit her website or social media pages @KaraMariaAnanda
Maybe you’re an inventor that needs some motivation? There are all kinds of books and stories to inspire you to greatness, like those curated below. And, having a stash of Melitta’s coffee on hand to keep that inspiration going isn’t a bad idea either. Be brave and open to greatness – it just might surprise you.