Breaking the Rules

By Jason Vickers

Raw inspiration, creativity, and originality can get you burned, crushed, beaten and broke. But if executed properly, that can be the sweet spot for success. Dozens of times throughout my career I have taken a manufactured or custom product with intent to modify its purpose after being told it’s not recommended or “Will not work that way”.

As a child, I habitually took apart everything I could get my hands on to see how and what made that thing work. I would later watch as my disgruntled father put them back together. In adolescence, we took apart his trucks, machinery and heavy equipment to rebuild and reassemble in his steel processing facility. In college, we did the same to rebuild old Jeeps together. All these little adventures in mechanics left me with a constant desire to see what was next. It’s the surge of adrenalin and blood pressure that thumps within our hearts as the key turns and power is released. It is a man making fire followed by the nourishment and the warmth it provides our souls with.

It was always so easy yet frustrating to sit with clients early on in my career, spreading stacks of cutouts of various pool shapes out onto the table. From rectangles to free-form, we would discuss them all. I can remember always pulling the “kidney-shape” to the side and jokingly saying “I think its better if we don’t build a pool named after an organ”. I hate that name and shape. I really do. It could be that my hate for the kidney pool is what first pushed me to do something different. It could also be that my childhood habit, of continuingly dissembling things to create something much cooler, was now evolving into a big boy hobby.

To instantly look upon something and see the potential of what it could become is a gift. When I approach every new space for the first time I still get anxious. I want to run and see the canvas! My heartbeat quickens. At first glance, I can envision the basic design. I know exactly what I want to do. I believe that the space is anthropomorphic and emotionally alive. There is a voice on every project that is just waiting to be heard. There is soul and character yet to be revealed. It is our job to evoke the emotion and soul of the empty space for the value of the client. Sometimes, the need for something fresh and original is just a basic fundamental of the design. This is where we grin and get our hands dirty. This is where we turn the page on the past and run into the future. This is the place where the tireless, fearless, reckless and brave meet. It’s a state of mind that tosses and turns through sleepless nights, where the alarm clock does not venture. It’s a restless, sweaty and almost angry resentment that pushes you to the drawing table many hours before scheduled. It’s the faint voice you hear as you shuffle out of the dark bedroom as though its midday and your wife says, “Where are you going? Why?”. God bless her for her patience and understanding.

So what is it that we’re doing? BREAKING THE RULES. We have authenticity and correctness, but then, rules be damned. We have lines, right? Okay lets skew them. We have water in transit, right? Maybe, it should be louder, higher, lower, potentially a little violent in form? How about my favorite…FIRE. It reminds me of when I was a boy, putting my G.I. Joes in my Tonka dump truck, squirting lighter fluid on them and pushing that fireball down the driveway. But as we mature, we fill those same pyrotechnical needs with more responsible ASTM and UL listed gateways.

I am from Alabama, so Roll Tide and all that but like my mentor, Joe Dirt, I like to see it go boom man! You can’t go through life just playing with snakes and sparklers. There are few things in my life that fulfill the “BOOM!” that I hunger for. First, my beautiful wife, who shares the same flame for what I do. Second, the other beautiful marriage in my life, fire and water. That coexistence of two naturally opposing forces can create the most vigorous to the most soothing emotions depending on the form of display. I have learned that bigger is not always better. For example, the Mirage in Las Vegas with its proud volcano should be left in Las Vegas. Sometimes, the design that stands up in the crowd, loudly boasting its appearance, is quietly shadowed by the design that doesn’t tell its story without experience and investigation. It quietly commands your attention to the detail that progresses like sheet music or a poem. In the end, depth prevails.

So what’s next? Well, truth be told its already been done. And much better than we ever could. This is where the past merges into the present and we learn from it. We absorb all the best ideas that we come across and then attempt to combine them in novel ways. Most often, we’re merely interleaving history and modernity. Simply stated, fire is ancient. Water is ancient. Even copper is an ancient metallurgical component that’s been being harvested from Mother Earth for centuries. Now, combine that with modern technology and what do you have? My fellow cowboys and cowgirls of the modern, naturalist, watershape movement… We are educated yet constantly learning. We are collaborating and fraternizing. We are evolving and the best is yet to come. Technology is moving at the speed of light. Our only constraint is the physical labor of the shops that work tirelessly to bring our visions to reality. Its guys like Bob Roman of Fire By Design that works hour after hour building our little dreams after many have said it simply cannot be done. So stand up and dream, join a group or signup for a class because “Only common things happen when common sense prevails – Anonymous”.

— Jason Vickers of Vickers Pools