Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baby Name Mood Boards?

(images 1, 2, 3, 4)

Don't "Oh good grief!" me just yet. You can take this as literally (or not) as you like. No, this is not an art project, but it's a process that needs to be inspired, so off we go to collect and arrange our little bits of meaning!

We didn't have a mood board for naming our last baby, per se. It sort of happened by accident, but a happy accident it was! You may want to make a formal mood board by tacking up photos, nursery colors, a grandmother's hanky, a favorite poem, a photo of Aunt Mamie; or it may be as simple as just surrounding yourself with the baby's clothes, or other pleasant objects, scents, tastes and emotions when pondering names. 

People are often trying to make this decision in rather uncomfortable settings: arguing in the car about about how Maybelle is "too old-lady," or how you don't even really like Uncle Albert, so why would you use his name?  Nancy has put out some interesting posts lately about how our surroundings affect our decision making (and our partner's.)  

I think it's pretty simple: If you want to come up with something that you wish to have particular traits, surround yourself with things sharing those traits. It may be that you just need to think names while outside, or inside your favorite room. Maybe you're lucky in that you're always surrounded by traits you admire in your friends and surroundings. Whatever your set up, it can't hurt to make a lovely thinking space for brainstorming on names. 
  Here are some of the images that accidentally helped us pick a name:

(images 1, 2, 3, 4)
These are all images that I taped to the wall before Valo June's birth (I won't include the images of laboring and pregnant statues and such!)  I figured I'd spend most of my labor in my bedroom and wanted lots of pleasant images surrounding us. We'd just moved into our home and everything was still so unsettled, so I decorated the walls with my flickr favorites to give myself lots of nice focal points. 

I had a very short labor and gave birth to Valo June in my room, amidst all of these images. We spent the following weeks gazing at each other in their midst, too. They were very much a part of her name selection; the images (and smells in the room) created a mood that truly influenced how we evaluated.  Though I hadn't really thought of it in such terms at the time, these pictures on the wall were a sort of mood board for the process of selecting a name for our child. I recommend the practice to anyone wanting to be inspired by things you love, rather than swayed by your fears and name horror stories. 

You may even want to try your names on images of people you don't know. yes, name models. Here's my thinking on this:  it's a good practice to try your names out on grown people who don't have a real, personal identity for you. Maybe you want to look at images of people in various settings, like in offices, as everyone is so focused on professionalism when naming people. 

 I have to say, I don't really get the obsession with seriousness and professionalism in the naming process. Realistically, we all have to work (or someone in the family does) and we may not all choose creative endeavors or be self employed. But is this really the number one thing we should think about when naming a human being? What does this say about our culture?  

 I mean, pick your amazing virtue to consider in naming a child--there are so many great ones--but why is the question always "Will this name be taken seriously in the professional world?" Why is this the favorite measuring stick?  Why don't we ask with equal frequency, "Does this name sound like the name of a great father?" or "This name just sounds like the best friend ever, doesn't it?" or even "Doesn't this have a gentle, lovely sound?"  Do the questions we ask ourselves about how our kids' names will be received tell us about what we really value in each other and in ourselves?  Are our top aspirations for our children really that they escape teasing and fit nicely into the work force? 

  So we want them to fit in. Okay.  But are we focusing on the best commonalities amongst us, ones that speak to the best features of humanity? Or are we focusing on those commonalities that just center on our economy? Without turning this into a conversation on Marxism (yes, I can get there from baby names in like one step), let me just say that I wish the professional world to be more a reflection of us, rather than us being a reflection of it. Maybe it shouldn't be the number one consideration in naming human beings?

What's your take on this?  What virtues, if any, do you look to in selecting a name?

Today's list is a little different; this is stuff for your baby name mood/inspiration board:

Nice smells. Do you want a super feminine name? Put on some rose oil along with your thinking cap. Do you just want your partner to be calmer during negotiations? Lavender might do the trick. Because they do different things for birth and the postnatal time, we had the smells of rose, neroli, lavender, and clary sage oils circulating heavily during our process. I wonder if they had any influence?

Images: Stock yourself with images full of the traits you want in a name. Do you want an indulgent, fluffy name? A modern name? A very bold name? A vintage name? A short, simple name? A calm name? An energetic name? Consider putting up some images with the same features while you think about names.

Loved ones things:  Maybe there are loved ones who you really admire, who you wish were there to help you pick, or whose characteristics you'd love to see in your own children. Perhaps under the influence of their special treasures and photos, the names you come up with might have some of their lovely traits, if not their very own names. 

Bits of nature: Bring in the twigs and leaves, the flowers and pretty stones if you're craving a nature inspired name! Or better yet, go outside!

Memorabilia: Mementos from a favorite trip, cards, photos of old friends or pictures and objects from special days in your past might all provide inspiration. If nothing else, they create a cozy, intimate mood full of meaning and warmth, just the mood you likely want to be in when choosing a name for your new little one.

Music: Music can certainly set the tone for a certain mood. While we were driving fourteen hours to our new home, at around thirty-two weeks in my pregnancy with Valo June, we listened to a lot of Iron and Wine and old Bluegrass in the car.  I was absolutely convinced that our baby should be called Virginia Reve or Verbena Jane by the time we got out of the car, just because of the mood set by the music.  And I'm pretty darn sure Nona's name was at least partially brought to us by the mood created in our bedroom a la Isobell Campbell's Milkwhite Sheets, in the week following her birth. At the very least, music can relax you and your partner for negotiation talks!

Food and Drink: Want a super summery name? Eat berries. A rich, syrupy name? Drink or eat something sweet. If you want a warm, cozy name, drink something comforting. If you want a bold name, try eating nibbling on something spicy!

Favorite Poems and Quotes: There's a reason they're your favorites, and they'll likely put your mind in a nice spot for finding something lovely. They might even make it into the name somehow!

Pictures of people you don't know: Find someone with no real personal identity for you, and try names on him or her.  

Baby's things: Have any little gems you've picked out already for your sweet little one? Has mom knit him a sweater? Perhaps these might inspire you.  

Of course, it could be argued that a sort of high-on-beauty mental state might not be the best place to objectively evaluate something.  I don't buy it. I think being in such environments makes us more able to recognize something that shares it's traits and those things that don't.

Did you do any of these things to talk names over with your partner or to ponder them on your own? Any negotiation tips?

one last image of ours, by the talented Lina Scheynius. Happy Thursday!


  1. What an excellent and intriguing idea! I'm looking forward to seeing some of the J. Crew model names as well.

  2. Thank you! Something like this could seem a little out there, but I think it's basically just good, common sense! The next post should be up very soon.