Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.
Ivy Ross is the Vice President for Hardware at Google, co-author of Your Brain On Art: How the Arts Transform Us, and A National Endowment for Arts grant recipient.
What is the thing you like doing most in the world?
Having a big idea that comes from a unique moment of what feels like a synaptic connection in my brain, or a flash of inspiration, and then manifesting it. Bringing it to life usually involves working with others and collaborating, which I love. I remain the orchestra conductor and enjoy leveraging everyone’s gifts and talents in service of the idea. Said differently, I love making magic happen.
What is the first memory you have of being creative?
My dad was an industrial designer and worked for the famous Raymond Lowey. His office was filled with incredible materials that I loved to play with, imagining all of the possible things I could do with them. I do remember one Saturday, when I must have been around three years old, he gave me a blueprint with a series of outlined murals that he and his team were in the process of designing for a commercial project. He also gave me crayons. I remember coloring all over the blueprint and in all the shapes on the page. When I was about seven years old, my dad told me that he had taken my color scheme that day and recreated it within the lines of the murals on the blueprint and presented it along with the other color schemes his staff had done. The client picked mine. That is the first memory I have of knowing that I was creative. I wonder if I should have billed my dad as I am sure he billed his client.
What is your biggest regret?
Not having a twin sister, as I would like to think that I would have twice as much fun in life, but maybe that is naive.
How have you gotten over heartbreak?
I always think that a heartbreak must be happening for a reason, and I just am not seeing it yet. But in time, the reason will reveal itself, and I will be grateful for it happening.
What makes you cry?
When I see others in pain or being treated unfairly, whether it be in a movie or in real life, it often makes me cry.
How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?
It depends on the accomplishment. However, the average time is probably one day, as once something is accomplished, I am immediately onto the next thing. I have so many more things I want to do and so little time.
Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?
I once had an out of body experience where I felt what it feels like to be pure spirit, which I assume is the state we go back to, at least until we are embodied again— although my Tibetan teacher says this is my last life here. When I was pure spirit, I felt like I was swimming in a sea of unconditional love, as if someone was continually hugging me, but they were not there. It was a beautiful, peaceful, calm feeling. The only thing is being in that state, I missed all the sensorial aspects of life— seeing, touching, smelling— and so when I got back in my body, I became more obsessed with our senses and aesthetics than ever before.
What do you hate most about yourself?
Hate is a very strong word.
What do you love most about yourself?
The true joy I get in creating the conditions under which others can flourish.
What is your absolute favorite meal?
A big chocolate ice cream sundae for my main dish, with chocolate cream pie and coffee for dessert.