The Education of Paul Sahre II

In calling attention to the ethical decisions of others, Sahre begs that the same questions be asked of him. If you’re willing to speak out on such topics, you’d better be free of sin or freely admit your own sins. Sahre chose Kent State University near Akron, Ohio for college. He was attracted to the school’s place in American progressive thinking and leftist political history. He liked it enough to continue there for grad school. An exciting time in his life, he discovered design was not a “job” but more like “religion.”

Paul Sahre designs
Designed by Paul SAHRE

After grad school, Sahre and his first wife moved to Baltimore. She worked as a fashion designer for Merry-Go-Round, an ’80s retailer, and he began a series of mind-numbing jobs that made the exhilaration of grad school a mere hallucination. Reality, as it turned out, was disappointing.

Still, Sahre bought in deeply to the American Dream. He settled down, got married, bought a house, assumed a mortgage, and took on a series of dull jobs to pay for it. To escape the displeasure he found with his paying work, he set up a low-tech silkscreen print shop in his basement and began doing jobs for little or for free. His main client, Fells Point Corner Theatre, gave him free reign. Sahre only charged them for expenses, usually less than $150 including paper and ink. The theater “sniped” the posters across Baltimore. They got noticed. They got stolen. They brought Sahre a small degree of notoriety and a great deal of pleasure.

Sahre created this illustration for the New York Times’
Sahre created this illustration for the New York Times’ op-ed page. Two computer hard drives full of weapon secrets disappeared from the Los Alamose nuclear labs. The energy department said there was “no proof” that the drives had fallen into the wrong hands and that they had been merely “misplaced.” CO-DESIGNER: Brian Rear

And still, Sahre continued to work for others, paying the bills, plodding along, weighing his options. He took a job with GKV Advertising as director of an in-house design group. Working on a brochure for a company that serviced attack helicopters, Sahre realized he hated his job. It was making him hate his life. One day, without forethought, he called a staff meeting. He recalls the moment: “I said to [the designers], ‘Why are you here? Why are you wasting your best years here? What are you doing? Does any of this have any meaning to you? Because it means nothing to me.’” The pep talk worked: A few months later, the agency closed the design group, releasing them to seek their Zen. “It was a mercy killing,” Sahre says, looking back. “We were euthanized.”

The only worse thing than a scold is a hypocritical scold. What kind of guy was this Sahre? One year later, I had the opportunity to find out.