Monday, December 7, 2009

IAm utilitarian

In the process of developing new designs, it has been at the forefront of my mind to create products that can address a level of practicality or necessity.  Being a designer, I am the first to recognize the simple importance of beauty.  However, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that it is also important to create objects that tap into a greater need than superficial decoration.  I want my work to address the physical interaction between humans and our relationship to the material world in which we live. 

As I begin to realize all the options that are available to me, my skills, technique and medium, I can't rid myself of this desire to use my creativity to assist my fellow human beings in their day to day existence.  Everyone, everyday, is using these tools we have been given (our bodies, our vision, hearing, touch, our physical capabilities) to interact with their environment.  As a designer, I feel it my personal duty to address these interactions and be able to assist others in making their actions a little easier, a little more delightful.  In essence, I want to create things that will allow the mundane to become a little less so.  I think this is really the intent of all designers. 

When I can create something that is useful as well as beautiful, I really am exploring the value that we place on the material objects of our lives.  When an object becomes a necessity, then I pay much more attention to maintaining this item.  It becomes important to take care of things, ultimately increasing the longevity of my work.  This can be my way of addressing our disposable lifestyles.  It is easy to slip into this throw-away mindset when I am surrounded by things that are of poor quality, cheap materials, superficial design, or unconsidered contexts.  We cannot blame people who adhere to a disposable lifestyle when we are not offering objects that they need and grow to love as a result of this need.

When you own things that make your life easier, then something really wonderful happens.  All things eventually begin to break down with time, but now you are motivated to use your own creativity and resourcefulness to maintain the usefulness of your belongings.  This is when really amazing design starts happening.  I was recently reading about Kintsugi, or the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery.  This process goes way back, when broken pottery was pieced back together with metal staples.

Eventually, this process evolved into using a lacquer resin sprinkled with powdered gold, creating a metallic web across the surface of each bowl.


It would also happen that if a piece was unrepairable, it would be replaced with different pottery pieces.

In looking at these bowls, I see more than a bowl.  I see a beloved object for which people will do anything to keep functional and useful to their lives. I see a history, a story, craftsmanship, the resourcefulness of mankind; ultimately, an immeasurably more interesting aesthetic. 

It is tempting for me to want to try to fake this aesthetic and I have yet to give up on my goal to recreate this worn, well loved look.  However, I am beginning to realize that my job is, instead, to create the initial product worth such love and care.  I plant the seed of creativity, send it off into the world and let others work their magic too.

All images in this post are courtesy of the Smithsonian.


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