Category Archives: [2] Mark Making / Writing / Defining [Words]

Random Think-a-Long according to Lottie

Oh Muse, where are Thou?

Ok folks, here is the deal: While I’m writing this, I should be writing my MA design studies proposal, but here is the thing – I can’t.
And it’s not that I haven’t been trying for almost two months now and I need to get it done… I have tried everything: free writing, organised writing, bullet points, using my journal, reading up on new and old stuff, post-its, using my laptop, my typewriter, good old fashioned ink and paper. I have tried writing at different locations, upstairs in my workroom, downstairs, in front of the TV, with the radio on, in total silence. I practiced yoga, went for a walk, took pictures, been in the garden, sitting in the kitchen, wrote on the floor, took my laptop to bed, write in German and in English, read all my old journals, borrowed some books, talked to friends. I’ve drunk coffee, hot chocolate and tea. I have literally tried every kind of tea I could find in the cupboard from fruit to herbal, white to red, green and black , Good Morning and Good Evening blends, organic, teabags and loose leaves … Believe me, I have tried everything and I am exhausted! I truly am. I have now written the equivalent to a paperback novel and I still can’t write this proposal… it is just not happening.
To be honest with you, I can’t wait to start my Masters – although my future as a postgraduate student seems to hang in the ropes at the moment … I really need to get this piece written, and I guess that this pressure doesn’t help me even a little bit.
I could write you another undergraduate dissertation straight away. And I am serious here. As challenging and painful as it was, I enjoyed working on it and –without blowing my own trumpet too much – I’ve done a pretty good job, well, and the fact that I receive a first for it (but again, I don’t want to tuut my own horn too much). I can write dissertations. I can write design proposals and I can write essays. I can write reflective pieces, poems and I’ve even written a film script for a short movie once. I am good with words. And yet, I am writing this and not my proposal.
I am a postgraduate student. I have the needed disciplines, skills and personality traits – I am ready to carry on studying and I believe that the University of my Choice would benefit from me joining them. I am at a point in my design career where I consider an MA as the most important next and vital step. My personal dialogue with design has just started and I am not ready to just let go of un-investigated ideas. Considering I graduated top of my class and live and breathe design thinking, I could join a design company and stop and alter my journey momentarily. I would not be able to go deeper than I require, I am in need of a design mentor. I have too many un-answered question. I would just be working and maybe, yeah only maybe, I would continue with my quest.
I am open to new leaning; new locations, new thinking and I believe that I can continue finding the right path in the world of design by completing my MA.
I know all the reason why I want to continue studying. I wouldn’t have looked at options if I didn’t want to. I am as sure as I can be. I know what I have learned during my undergraduate studies – all the skills I acquired, from using a drawing board to computer generated renderings, using clay and wood and even pasta. I have learned about design basics, about architecture, materials, green thinking and colour theories. I have studied Saussure and Derrida, investigated Plato and “the Cave”. I worked with light and shadow, I have collected and organised, written essays and hold presentations about my own and group work in front others students and tutors. I have used digital manipulations and I have used acrylic paints. I am capable of designing a website and taking a picture with an analogue and a digital camera. I have learned to read – critically read and write academically. I have established my own web presence and I have made friends. I have won a photography competition in 2009 and one of my designs has been shortlisted in an international design competition this year. I am good at what I do- I love and respect my position in design – I am a graduate three-dimensional designer.
And I am sitting here, this time drinking some apple juice with cinnamon, trying to find the right words to fill in my proposal. Maybe I just take it far too seriously, but on the other hand, an MA is serious business. It is my future and I don’t want to jeopardize any of it. This report could make or break me and at the moment, it is breaking me. I don’t want to write something that is far too open or closed, not do I want to write something that only makes sense for me but anyone else reading it won’t see anything apart from “blahh blahhh bla bla blahdii bla” … I want this proposal to show who I am and how interested I am in design, but this proofs to be more difficult than finding a unicorn to share lunch with…. Seriously? Seriously!.
I am at breaking point – I need to get this document finished and I know what I need to write – damn, yeah –I have written pages and pages about it, but nothing that I feel justifies my true intentions to the letter.
Maybe this is the point, maybe I cannot write about this because I am too immersed into it, too close to see beyond, or just simply not ready to write about it. Maybe this is it. Maybe I need to finish my MA to be able to say where my grounding in design is. Or maybe I am mistaken and I just need to pull myself together. The information is all there, maybe I just need to take the plunge and send it all off.
I have dreams about this and all I think of every waking minute is this document. I am truly living it. Just why can I not get my proposal down in words…. Why can I not just sit down and write it?
By now, I have written 1089 words and counting and I can write more. I can write you a short mini essay on chocolate cupcakes or the monobloc chair. I could write you a poem about “white’ness” or just a quick not that someone has called for you. Say anything and I start working on it. I guess we have reached the point now where my frustration turns into full-blown anger and sadness – an anxious state…. Situation desperate – Send help. Writing is part of a design student’s life and I can write personally, academically, reflectively…well … normally …Where is a @(#%]&! muse when one needs one?

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the wind

Manchmal muss ich einfach mal draussen im Wind sitzten und in die Baumkronen starren.

Sometimes I just need to let the wind blow through my hair.

September war schon immer mein Lieblings-Monat. Windig, warm und farbenfroh.

Sunflowers looking at me, apples hanging, growing on the trees. Pigeons flapping through the air.

Jetzt ist meine Zeit – mein Anfang, mein Ende, meine Mitte. Jetzt bin ich da – vollkommen.

I am me now – I can be here and be happy – I am free.

Design Telling

I am a part designer, part writer and part photographer – I find myself walking through the notions of design telling. I design, I write and I take picture, all finding an outlet in telling stories through and within the fizzling boarders of Design.

I am me.
Design is.
Change is expected.
Flux is celebrated.

“Everyone is …”

People tend to fall in two categories over Joseph Beuys words “Everyone is an artist”. Of course there will be some that don’t really believe in  or agree with either side of the statement,  some that only agree  little bit and some that just couldn’t be bothered answering the questionnaire. But still one either leans towards an agreement with his words or an head-shaking-grumbling-something-about-education-and-knowldege-kind-of- approach (giving you almost the extremes here…)
So when I read those words on the back cover of a book I am trying to read for over a year now, but never really got down to it, I started thinking on which side I stand. Let’s play something:

“Everyone is an architect”

“Everyone is a writer”

“Everyone is a doctor”

“Everyone is a builder”

“Everyone is a photographer”

“Everyone is a psychologist”

“Everyone is a police officer”

“Everyone is a painter”

“Everyone is a designer”

“Everyone is a novelist”

Everyone is a goldsmith”

“Everyone is a politician”

“Everyone is a car mechanic”

“Everyone is a dentist”

“Everyone is a historian”

“Everyone is a cook”

“Everyone is a manger”

“Everyone is an athlete”

“Everyone is a teacher”

“Everyone is an engineer”

“Everyone is a baker”

“Everyone is a plumber”

“Everyone is a psychiatrist”

“Everyone is a racing driver”

“Everyone is a pilot”

“Everyone is a barrister”

“Everyone is a nurse”

“Everyone is a hairdresser”

“Everyone is an electrician”

“Everyone is a sales accountant”

“Everyone is a shepard”

“Everyone is a fine artist”

“Everyone is a lorry driver”

“Everyone is a ceramicist”

“Everyone is a beautician”

“Everyone is a secretary”

“Everyone is an urban designer”

“Everyone is an archaeologist”

“Everyone is a vet”

“Everyone is a journalist”

“Everyone is a landscape architect”

“Everyone is a captain”

“Everyone is a philosopher”

“Everyone is a fashion designer”

“Everyone is a musician”

“Everyone is a fitness instructor”

“Everyone is a life guard”

“Everyone is a dancer”

“Everyone is a florist”

“Everyone is a crime scene investigator”

“Everyone is a software developer”

“Everyone is a timber merchant”

“Everyone is a spy”

“Everyone is a zoo keeper”

“Everyone is a waitress”

“Everyone is a banker”

“Everyone is a potter”

“Everyone is a factory supervisor”

“Everyone is a security guard”

“Everyone is a lecturer”

“Everyone is a three dimensional designer”

“Everyone is a butcher”

“Everyone is a post man”

“Everyone is an agent”

“Everyone is a sculptor”

“Everyone is a prison guard”

“Everyone is an actor”

“Everyone is jokey”

“Everyone is a meteorologist”

“Everyone is a coroner”

“Everyone is a brewer”

“Everyone is a PR intern”

“Everyone is a surgeon”

“Everyone is a wood carver”

“Everyone is a publisher”

“Everyone is a scientist”

“Everyone is an illustrator”

“Everyone is a farmer”

[Hmmm, I thought so ] To be able or refer to oneself as, let’s say’ an architect, one has to fulfil certain criteria, undergo a lengthy study, be recognised and registered. So no, not everyone is an architect. Similar principles apply to becoming a doctor, scientist, pilot and police officer. So no, not everyone can be one.  Even if it all made sense I our childhood dreams and fantasies – we could be anyone just by imagining so- and don’t tell me otherwise or I tell mum / dad/ uncle /______________ (insert any primary caregiver)  – , we grew up. Or are still growing up…well, let’s just say once being faced with daily life (routine) we tend to realise that we cannot be anyone we wish to be. It starts with school and which GCSE subjects one should keep, which ones to ditch,  which A-Levels will propel the career, which university to choose, or would an apprenticeship be more appropriate, take the job offer or carry one with a research degree… the list never ends, does it?! Well, it is always possible to change once course, after all I’m not really sure when I’ ever going to use my A Level in Economics, so one doesn’t signs one’s death when choosing to open a different or new door.
Don’t get me wrong though, I have nothing against Joseph Beuys or his work, on the contrary! I even considered studying for an MA in Social Sculpture, a postgraduate course which is informed by refection on the social sculpture ideas and work of the man himself.

“My objects are seen as stimulants for the transformation of ideas of sculpture, or of art in general. They should provoke thoughts about what sculpture an be and how the concept of sculpting can be extended to the invisible materials used by everyone:

Thinking Forms – how we mould our thoughts or

Spoken Forms – how we shape our thoughts into words or

SOCIAL SCULPTURE  how we mould and shape the world we live in: Sculpture as an evolutionary  process; everyone is an artist.

That is why the nature of my sculpture is not fixed and finished. Processes continue in most of them: chemical reactions, fermentations, colour changes, decay, drying up. Everything is in a state of change.”[i]

Flux. Instability. Fluidity. Unpredictability. Change.  Impulsiveness. Spontaneity. Suddenness. Unrest.

Context is the key concept: Take anything out of it and its meaning can change.

“Everyone is an artist” as a quote on the cover of a unrelated book “Everyone is an artist”as part of a statement by the artist
 “Everyone is a cook”“Everyone is a manger”

“Everyone is an athlete”

“Everyone is a teacher”

“Everyone is an engineer”

“Everyone is a baker”

“Everyone is a plumber”

“Everyone is a psychiatrist”

 “SOCIAL SCULPTURE  how we mould and shape the world we live in: Sculpture as an evolutionary  process; everyone is an artist.”

 

I honour flux highly and my own (reflective) practise is influence by the instability of my surrounding. I’m very interested in the constant change and one’s own interactions, but personally I would not “go as far” as saying that everyone is an artist. The following quote is in German, but I shall translate and summarize loosely (if you don’t trust me, select a search engine of your preference and let it translate the words, or even better, go over to your book shelf and get the old and dusty dictionary out – will do you good):

„Jeder Mensch ist ein Träger von Fähigkeiten, ein sich selbst bestimmendes Wesen, der Souverän schlechthin in unserer Zeit. Er ist ein Künstler, ob er nun bei der Müllabfuhr ist, Krankenpfleger, Arzt, Ingenieur oder Landwirt. Da, wo er seine Fähigkeiten entfaltet, ist er Künstler. Ich sage nicht, daß dies bei der Malerei eher zur Kunst führt als beim Maschinenbau …”[ii]

Everyone is an artist. Duh! One could have guessed, but here Beuys weaves peoples professions into the mix. According to him, it doesn’t matter whether one collects bins for a living or works as a farmer , as long as one engages to one’s fullest potential in such activities.
[Hmmm….]  I am only at the very beginning of my journey through the “wonderful world of Oz”[iii] even though I have been drawing ever since I could hold a wax crayon, or a piece of red brick -creates beautiful red lines on a tarmacked or concreted ground, give it a try sometime, it is fun!  Moving on: I cannot agree with “everyone is an artist”. Without sounding like a snob or similar, I try not to, believe me, I don’t think picking up a paintbrush and oils and replicating the poppy field across the road, or attending a life drawing class makes one an artist. Some people have a fantastic talent, be it in creating two dimensional masterpieces or chiselling an updated version of Rodin’s “The Kiss” out of the most beautiful marble, but not everyone with talent is an artist. I studied art, design and culture now for several years, but I’m still taking baby steps. I will be graduating top of my class with a degree in Three Dimensional Design this year; does this make ma a designer?
If one visited my degree exhibition last month, one would have come across the following few words:

Design is not a movement;

Design is an outlook on life.

 

Design was not made, but came into being,

one cannot become a Designer,

one can only be one.

 

(After Van Doesburg, 1923)

What do you think: can anyone be an artist??

If you would like to find out what I think, drop me a line and employ me – I am currently looking ofr a position in the design environment – I’m sure we would have a blast!


[i] Harlan, V. (2007) What is Art? Joseph Beuys Forest Row: Clairview, page 9

[ii] Spiegel Online [WWW] http://wissen.spiegel.de/wissen/image/show.html?did=13508033&aref=image036/2006/06/13/cq-sp198402301780186.pdf&thumb=lse  [Accessed 08 July 2010]

[iii] Substitute for the world of art ,design and culture – everyone needs to listen to the voice behind the curtain from time to time, bearing in mind however the possible fraud factor

How very true this is…

After several extremely engaging, sometimes frustrating, sometimes pleasing months, and very quick and challenging final weeks, it has come to an end. And somehow, I have seemed to miss this point in time – or am I still holding on to something that has long gone – one does wonder sometimes… occasionally more and occasionally less… Anyway, the current phase seems to fizzle out and I’m slowly moving towards a yet unknown state.
This morning, I decided to start my day with some light housework and carried a huge (let’s call it) cargo of washing down the stairs, not very designer’y one might think. Well, one might be very true here, but after the sense of accomplishment of loading the machine and pressing the specially designed button to start the thing, I can now sit in my garden and consider the finer things in life. Plus, I have just actively engaged with the world of design and can now draw upon my experiences, reflect and possibly one day re’collected this morning’s activities whilst sitting behind my drawing board. After all, in the words of Dai Fujiwara: “I sometimes feel that my process is digging, but other times it’s swimming and other times it falls from the sky.”[i] Well, I feel like hiking today.

It is now the fifth day I have been without phone service, which in today’s life, is rather a long time! And I’m almost ready for writing letter in open and ink… Not too sure how the phone company can make such huge mistakes, but apparently it wasn’t them, or something like that, and things shouldn’t have happened, that did indeed happen and blah blah blah… the end results is: I have no phone service and am very likely missing out on some massive / sad / intriguing / shocking / loving / hating / gossiping / ______________ news right about now. And now. And probably now! … Welcome to the wonderful world of design one might say! If someone hadn’t designed the mobile phone all those years ago, I would not have to be part of this consumer’y world and would probably be very happy sitting in a garden on a bench with a notebook and pen writing lovely letters to the world. But hey, someone did and probably made loads of money out of it… or didn’t…who cares, I’m in a dreadful situation right now, and all I care about at the moment is to get my life/live -line back. And yes, I am aware of how terrible this sounds, but then it is 2010 and it all feels appropriate.

Moving on. Well, to what actually?
Today has been the first day I didn’t do anything with a specific university-course-driven –motif behind it, and quite frankly, I believe I will have to re’learn the sweet’ness of doing nothing “planned or planning”, because I did struggle a bit to start with… I’m not a massive geek who just cannot wait until the next assignment or projects pours in, nor do I get over-excited with work. It’s just that I was deeply immersed in my work over the last few months; and … let’s just call it post-hand-in-empty’ness . So there I was, and still am, sitting in my garden, staring at the blue skies, wearing my most summery kit (yes, we actually have a summer in England), drinking tonnes of coffee, both hot and cold, and begin to wonder what this is all about. Big words like internship and MA studies, London and Ibiza, holidays, regattas, festivals and hay fever buzzing around in my head, and I’m getting slightly uncomfortable with the fact that an army of ants has just decided to walk across my deckchair… well as long as they don’t take me hostage I guess I’m ok, for now anyway. Even if they did, I would helpless, as my mobile is still “Searching / Limited Service”. Grrrrrr….!

What is it all about really? Time? Money? Family? Sex? Drugs? Rock’n’Roll? For the moment I think I go with a rather large bottle of water, a peach and a straw hat, but this might differ immensely in an hour, tomorrow or even in ten years. Should Design therefore predict what will happen in the future and act accordingly? Or should Design make the everyday, the here and now a more pleasant experience? Should or could Design do both or neither? Should one follow Javier Mariscal’s approach of “I want to be a rock’n’roll star.”[ii] Or exists along the lines of “I want to make bright peace world.” Nobumichi Tosa[iii]? One very current and personal question is :should Design remain in the background or be right in the front line of all the happenings?
“There are a lot of choices that as designers we can make alone, but there are also a lot of choices that that we can’t do alone.” Anthony Lebossé[iv] How very true this is…


[i]Design Indaba What can your creativity do? [WWW] http://www.designindaba.com/article/what-can-your-creativity-do [Accessed 28.06.2010]

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid

The In/Visible

Sight – How much do we rely on our eyes?

Explorations into the role of vision and its potential hierarchy over our other senses, including the possibility of Braille being a three- dimensional representation of the spoken and written voice.

If we walk into a room we have been present in before, we recognise, we store, we categorise and we re/connect.
If we walk into a room we have been living in, we recognise, we store, we categorise and we re/connect.
If we walk into a room we have never been in before, we recognise, we store, we categorise and we re/connect.

I enter the room through a wooden door, after climbing a flight of stairs and see the space in front of me – grey, like a rainy day in November; the interior of the space is dark grey – just grey. After a few seconds, I can see shadows developing; I begin to find myself again. I confirm my place through my vision. Ah, yes, I can “see” where I am now, I can distinguish between objects, I can see the space between the objects – a grey galaxy filled with grey artefacts and shadows. I step further into the room and stop again to settle my experience. I have now fully arrived in “the Shadows”. Without them, the sea of grey’ness would just flood me, swallow me whole, but the grounding shadows hold each artefact, each being in its place and help me, the reader and explorer, to engage. I look down and see my own shadow on the floor. Without it, I would be absorbed – I would not be “seen” as individual being, but part of the greater grey background of existence. After co-ordinating my thoughts with my visual input, I proceed further into the room and stop at the dinner table near the windows. Almost peaceful, the table is set and is waiting for interaction. Every single object on the table top is the same grey as rest of the interior, every single surface is grey. I pick up a grey apple from the bowl. Can I be sure it is apple?
I recognise the “image” of an apple – it is round’ish, bears the signs of growing on tree, out of a flower, the weight feel about right for an apple, I would say it is an apple. Except for the fact that it is grey, and not the otherwise welcomed green’, red’ or yellow’ish appearance of an apple – even though, with the missing visual colour information, I can still assume it is an apple. I have learned that apples look like this years ago, I know how they taste, how they fell in my hand, how they grow, how they look on the insight, what happens to them if you heat them up, cook or bake them, mix them with other ingredients, I am aware of historical, religious and everyday connections– I have a working knowledge of an apple. I can draw an apple from observation as much as I could draw one form memory. However, this understanding is largely based on visual engagement – I see it, I touch it. How would the world have been, if I had explored with without vision, if I had learned to read through touch first, if I had developed a tactile exploration over my visual engagement with the world?

If I walk into a room I have been present in before, I recognise, I store, I categorise and I re/connect.
If I walk into a room I have been living in, I recognise, I store, I categorise and I re/connect.
If I walk into a room I have never been in before, I recognise, I store, I categorise and I re/connect.

I close my eyes and just feel the fruit in my hand. Still feels the same “apple’ish’ness” to me. The surface feels warm and I begin to engage with the object to a different level – I become aware of the small raised dots on the surface. I haven’t paid much attention to them before, possible due to the way I recognised categories, stored and re/connected the visual information, but now, I am aware. With both hands, I begin to “read” the object and realise that the little dots actually spell out “apple” in Braille, something that had almost gone unnoticed to me before – information in/visible.

I am a visual person, I cannot deny that. I like pictures. I like my world full of colours and moving images, I am intrigued by cameras and how they record the world, I like being able to “see” – to explore the world through my eyes. It is impossible for me to understand how the world is without vision having such a high priority in my life, I can only assume, but never fully understand – until I stop relying on my vision. However, I do believe that through all the visual noise surrounding us, it is important to close one’s eyes from time to time. The noise that surrounds us is not only acoustic or visual noise, our world is flooded with objects and their stories, our interactions and rewritten stories, our surrounding environment is over saturated with being. And even without vision, we can gain an insight into this. Should one consider Braille to be the three-dimensional representation of the written and spoken voices surrounding us?
I have recently used my Valentine typewriter to record some hi/stories. The surface of the paper becomes three-dimensional once the keys hit it. I am physically engaging with the information to be recorded, the keys become extensions of my own being, my arms, my fingers. My laptop represents a diluted version of this engagement – I am less aware of the happenings of writing, I am less involved in the making.
A result of the fast-paced life and environment in today’s world, one wonders?
I can almost make out the mark the typewriter created on the surface; I am almost able to “read” the information – almost. I recognise the letter on the paper as I have learned how they look like. Back in primary school, I have drawn each letter of the alphabet in wax crayon large scale on wallpaper rolled out on the floor, every time I trace over the round curves of the “s” or the straight and lines and harsh corners of the “k”, the letter became more and more solid, more and more recognisable, more and more me.

Should one consider Braille to be the three-dimensional representation of the written and spoken voices surrounding us?

Small round dots, universally recognisable, perfect to tell the stories of everyday happenings. Just round dots, raised from the surface they sit on, be it paper, metal, concrete or wood. Small round dots. Once learned, they offer a great vastness of informational input – they tell the world’s tales in three- dimensions, with or without a reliance on sight and visual participation.
Eternally round –  do they have a beginning? A middle? An ending?  Are they just part of a phase or phases we go through? Is it a question of beginning – middle – beginning?

They are .
Design is.  
I am.

Objects of Desire: Light switch

Light switches, you know those common small things that decorate your wall, no, not picture frames (digital or analogue that is), no, and not your TV, and no, not that cobweb that you just can’t be bothered cleaning up. No, I mean those often plastic or wooden objects, some have a metal skin, others a rubbery one, flattish, clinging to the wall, things that seem to make the world a brighter place (oh yeah, sorry – that was cheesy…hmmm…. moving on!) Yes, those little gadgets that we people use rather regularly during a day on this planet. They come in all different variations, sizes, colours, materials, but all serve one main purpose, to let us work and play when the sun is set, a time that is referred to as night (or :the opposite of day) – or on those days when it is just absolutely throwing down with rain and the world is covered in this bleak grey’ness, then we might use them as well. With a flick of a switch we bring light into any space, any dark office, any bedroom, anywhere we need it, well, with the help of electricians and other professionals that take care of the wiring, but ignoring that, all we have to do is: flick the switch. Although these days a simple switch comes loaded with a vast amount of suggestions, be they positive or negative. Eco-friendly design, sustainability, saving energy, money and the environment, convenience and happiness are just a few ideas that come to mind, and there are others. Let’s talk green design for a minute, although I won’t be spending too much time on this subject as I do believe that certain aspects of certain issues are taken a step or two too far, but back to “being green” and two interesting points for conversation:  first of all, we want to save money and consequently the environment – or is it the other way around?- whatever the case, they both go hand in hand. Secondly, we don’t want to lose the convenience we have grown fond of. Falling over people in the crowed train station after sunset? Coming home to a dark house? Back to candle light? Well?! Didn’t think so.  So why don’t we leave issues like the outlined to the bright minds that are working on such tasks, and getting paid for it, –a big shout-out to all of you! Keep up the good work – and move on. Take a look at Switch Me! by Josselin Zaïgouche.  What do you see? A new way of reducing energy use or a beautifully executed piece of design that brings a smile to your face? Or even something else? How practical would that switch be? Would you use it? Does it make sense? Or is it all just a game in which we can be certain, that, someone will get rather annoyed or frustrated, knocks the board and all the playing figures over?  Just like your best friend when you had to play Ludo that one afternoon when his cousin was over and the street had a power cut and they couldn’t find the problem that caused it?? Oh the irony…
I actually have a favourite light switch. It lives in my mum’s kitchen back in my home’land, and everyone who has ever been in that kitchen will know which switch I am talking about – I am certain.
Everything about that switch is wrong. If you had the misfortune of stumbling into the kitchen when it was dark you were in for a treat as the thing isn’t where you would expect it – located next to the door handle on the wall. Nope, it is actually on the other side and considering it as an inwards opening door, you basically, open the door and either have to close it or walk around it before you can see anything. And even though I considered it a challenge when I was a child, it wasn’t always what one needed.  When I move to the UK I came across another kind of light switch: a string. Huh? It hangs from the ceiling in the bathroom and you pull it instead of flicking it. Now what is the point in that? Sorry, I’m not trying to offend anyone here, hang on…  To me, it is almost as pointless as two taps… or the perfectly formed queue at a bus stop….or the lobster-coloured holiday-makers at the beach…  But I guess I’m digging here, I shall leave the stereotypes to one side for now.
Ever counted how often you touch a light switch in a day? A week? A year?  Nope, me neither, but this would be something to do. You could draw a line of chalk next to the switch in question whenever you touch it, add a bit of prison-cell cheek to your living room or kitchen. And you would find out which switch is operated the most – a switch-spotters dream. 

I’ve recently finished my first “Book of Shadows” , a  journal in which I sketched all the light switches in my house over the course of two days. I located all the switches (apart from those stringy versions…) and drew each one several times during the forty-eight hour period, ending up with an accurate record switch usage in terms of the movement of the switch itself. Apart from sounding slightly obsessive, I created an artefact of human interaction with objects, actions that often fall below our radar, simply because we do them automatically or so often that we have just lost the curiosity of spotting them.
As often as we switch the light on, we switch it off (ok, this was kind of obvious…). A ritual that can be funny as much as it can be annoying, as power-saving as much as it can be power-consuming (in mental and physical terms).  All those days you leave a light on even when the sun is shining brightly through the window, or the times you walk into a room you tend not to spend much time in and you leave the light on, or the times you walk out of a room and switch the light off, even though there are still people in the same room, now sitting in darkness…all the times you have been told off for leaving he lights on, or switching them off or for not changing a bulb… Considering this small box-like thing on your wall isn’t much of a beauty-queen or technological genius, it gets used and abused a lot. I stuck a sticker on the switch in my room back home at my mum’s place. This first form of self-expressionistic art-making and personality building may go unnoticed to some people, but why where stickers invented if they weren’t meant to be stuck somewhere? Plus, the switches back home look somewhat different to the ones I’m encountering around me here in the UK, being slightly bigger and therefore looking rather lonely without any customisation (or at least in my eyes they do).  I’m not really sure whether or not my sister stuck something on her switch, I would say yes at the moment, but I might confuse her own actions with other people’s actions. Spongebob is the word. Next time you’re in one of those DIY shops, walk over to the light switch section and let the vast product- saturation take over: there are light switches for children’s rooms, in pink, green, yellow, blue, with frogs and cars and robots, trains, and planes, strawberries and unicorns and there are wooden ones in birch and chestnut , and cherry and mahogany , there are stainless steel ones and bright florescent green ones, there are polished metal and glow-glow-in-the-dark ones that serve as nightlight, there are simple white ones, plasticy and rubbery, smooth and textured ones, ones that one has to flick and others one has to press, there are ones that react to a simple touch, while others have to be turned…. There is a gazillion of switches on those shelves and all one has to do is select the one that will complete one’s life and home.
We have come a long way since 1884 and John Holmes’ invention of the said object. Many millions of times have out fingers flicked the light switches of this world – the planet will never be dark again – unless we want it to. I’m not trying to say that we should reconsider our everyday engagements with the little light boxes (and in some cases light strings) or should come up with a different solution to those relationships, all I’m writing here is an invitation to let this common object tell you it’s story sometime in the future. And why not, I’m almost certain they are here to stay.

Objects of Desire: Your favourite glass

Your favourite glass – when I was a child, there was always the one glass that one just needed to hold in one’s hands to enjoy cold drinks.  I had several of those favourite glasses, depending on where I was or how I felt. After all, a child’s world is full of new and important adventures and stories, and I’m sure if we think about it, we all know how much that teddy bear or pillow case helped us through those rough and scary times, as well as making hose special days just a bit brighter.  And once grown-up, we still built these relationships with objects, not necessarily to the same extent as we once loved (and possibly still love) “Muuh” , “Landrover Ted” or “Muschel”, but we form a bond with every day-things. My grandparents lived on a small farm in the same village I grew up in and when I visited them, my grandmother would cut an extra thick piece of the most beautifully baked German bread and make the best snack in my entire child world (although I couldn’t possibly eat it now…kind of freaky combination….anyhoo, I’m digressing…) and serve it on one of those small wooden chopping boards, the kind that becomes more and more attractive as an object the more use it has seen it its life.  And I would get a glass of lemonade with it (and again, I’m not sure how I actually managed to consume so many things I don’t actually like (anymore)…), but the point is, I had a special glass. It lived on the shelf, next to my sister’s and cousins’ ones, and would only be used when I was there – at least that’s what I told myself back then , and I still kind of believe it. It was a chunky tumbler with white lines and hearts printed on. The lines formed a sort of net or grid-like textures on the otherwise smooth surface and there was a small red heart printed on every other square. I loved this glass, and the lemonade or even water used to taste so much better when drunk out of this glass. My other grandmother lived a 30 minute car journey away, which took twenty minutes if my dad was driving (which, as a kid seems like magic) in a completely different world. Until you learn how distance and time works, being somewhere different to where you wake up every morning, is special and just different, even if it’s just down the road and you could be home in less than five minutes. And because my gran lived in what seemed to be a different world, I had a completely different glass when I was visiting: a small glass tankard and instead of lemonade, I would always drink apple juice with cinnamon. And once again, I loved the glass. Just seeing it meant being there, away from home, playing with fabric swatches and hearing stories. The glass symbolised a different part of me, compared to the much loved tumbler back at the farm, which was just another personality-trade I was developing.  Both objects were equally as important to me and back then I connected each glass with an individual scenario or visit – I created a token symbol for an activity in my life. To be very honest, I didn’t really have a special glass at home, I had several not-so-special ones – I just used any one of them. To me, being away from home was being somewhere almost out of my control, so having a reminder and emergency-comforter that I knew belonged to me, helped getting over those first anxiety-ridden but important journeys into the world. Once again, I used an object to help me cope and feel happy – a glassy  base camp for explorations, something I could return to when I needed it the most, although back then, I wasn’t conscious of why I needed the lead crystal helper, I might not even be fully aware  now – Analyse this Sigmund…
As much as the objects signified  a place and a situation, a feeling and different activities, the glasses had their personality, fed with notions and curiosities, tactile experiences, well, actually many sensorial information and personal , well, Lisa’ness. They were part of me; as much as I was part of them – they are characters in my story and without me, they wouldn’t exist to the same extent in terms of their own being as they do now.  Fast-forward a few years and we’re on one of our family holidays in a small wooden cottage in the forest, sitting on one of the large tables in living room, which was covered in sketchbooks, pencils, glasses and plates with half eaten biscuits. And guess what, jep, I did have a favourite glass there. The cottages became more like second residence for my family. We went there at least twice a year and usually with the same people – another family who had children around about the same ages as my sister and me. And all of us had a special glass when we were there – and you wouldn’t want to be the one using one of them while we were there, it wasn’t pretty, but again that’s is a different story. Take any self-catering family holiday and there was a special glass to connect the memories, and even now, when I open the corner cabinet to get a glass out, I favour some over others, just not quite to the same extent.
We choose objects to express ourselves and our personality; our houses and flats are filled with belongings that either we or others close to us choose, often for reasons that are not easily pinned down. After all, as a design student I am not going to write “I chose this because it’s nice or beautiful” or “I like it!” (Please bear with me here), but we often have this feeling of connection with something. As much as we unconsciously decide whether or not we like a person when meeting them for the first time, we do the same for objects. We want to play with objects as much as objects want to be played with – take a common ballpoint pen for example. I’m sure, if you haven’t done it yourself, you witnessed it at least once in your lifetime: the often very annoying clicking sounds of a pen top being presses repeatedly for no obvious reason whatsoever – just like an urge – “The top must be pushed recurrently – I cannot stop myself” [please read with a low toned in voice for maximum effect!] And the same applies to any other common objects that surround us. We use them to express our own personality, they help us cope in stressful, scary or boring times, and they are part of us as much as we are part of them.  Our story would be less interesting if they didn’t contain our favourite mug that we got given as a birthday present by an old school friend, or the old and rusty nail that holds an old picture frame together, or the almost ugly green plastic train that we used to play with, the squeaky chair in the corner of the garage that has a broken leg… there are millions of objects and stories surrounding us every day. Take a look around, I’m sure you’ll find one object you haven’t paid much attention to recently, but deep down you know you would miss it if it wasn’t there anymore. Or think of the second hand shop in the next village, how many great stories are sold there every day? Objects that meant a lot to someone getting another chance to impress a new owner, dining room chairs become kitchen chairs, an old radio become an ornament, the mismatched set of knives and forks become the latest addition to the hip café around the corner, old books hand out stories to a new generation. Old objects and old stories become new objects and new stories – and somewhere amongst all those things are my childhood heroes:  my tumbler and tankard. I wonder which chapter they are on…

Objects of Desire: Schnellhefter

A basic, simple tool for gathering, keeping safe and in order of appearances / importance / [insert any chosen word here] – a coloured plastic sheet, folded and paired with a clear front and metal clips: the common A4 folder. Any pupil, student or, well everyone who had to keep things collected and safe will have come across one of them in their life time, and if they haven’t, they will at some point during their time on this planet – I’m almost certain. In design terms, a simple yet practical piece of material, user-friendly,can be recycled or even made from recycled stuff, ease of storage, well, I think you get the drift.
My story begins with my time back in primary school. I chose this point in time as entering primary school is often seen as a big step in a child’s world – but it is not necessarily the first time I came across one of these covet plastic keep- sakes. My school was a beautiful old building, with really high ceilings, a marble staircase, big heavy wooden doors and awesome large windows. So when you sit in one of these rooms on a small creaky wooden chair, at a pond green Formica covered table with loads of other kids you’ve never really seen, you really wonder why you are there and not in a massive sandbox playing or finger painting a large roll of wallpaper…well, at least I did… but the teachers have a rather clever way of engaging you (or basically ripping you away from your fantasy world and dropping you in this cold and results-driven daily life) : they give you homework.
Yes, homework – the stuff of (almost) every first grader’s dreams and every older pupil’s nightmares… not really sure when this switch happens, but it does and it’s painful, very painful!
You first tasks might have included colouring in a picture of a teddy bear holding a pen in its paw or painting a bunch of flowers in the brightest colours your acrylics will generate, but you feel like you’re actually learning things you didn’t know before. And then comes the reading, writing and counting…and now you either fall into the “I’m very keen” or the “I can handle this without anything new” category. If you fall into the latter, by now you begin to think that you don’t really need to know all this stuff. I mean, why would you, you survived up to now not being able to read or write and you can continue this life style.  And well, if you fall into the first category, you just cannot wait to get started. But my point being, that whatever group you choose, the grown-ups are there with their teaching. At my school, we had a colour system to teach us order, organisation and very, very possibly annoyance. Each lesson was associated with a colour:  red for German, blue for Maths, yellow for religion, green for geography and so on, if there are anymore lessons… If I remember correctly, you were allowed to choose the colour for art education….so I think loads of girls had pink or purple while the boys had black or silver or whatever was available. And this is where it gets annoying:  all your notebooks and workbooks for each lesson had to be wrapped in the specific associated colour and you had to have a plastic folder for all your hand-outs and loose leafed informations. Seriously? Seriously. Those teachers created a colour coordinated system of information and threw all of us into this rather disturbing new world. And at this point I began to dislike blue and red and favour green and yellow…. I can however see now where all these nation stereotypes come into play…And you made sure that you and your newly acquired knowledge fitted into this colour system, because if you had a green folder for let’s say Maths (let me remind you the colour is blue – and a dark blue, not one of these fancy lighter blues, no a dark and depressing blue), you received a lecture on how you cannot learn anything from being sloppy and you will need to be organised for the rest of your life and blah blah blah and if it happened more than once, you were handed  a polite note to take home to your parents. Cold German primary school reality. And the economy benefited from this categorising as well: what started each autumn and continued until spring time the following year was a mass-flooding, over-populating of coloured plastic folders. Every shop you could buy writing equipment or stationery items, you would find (not too sure how it is these days, but will check next time I’m back in Home’land) you would find a table or corner of shelf specifically designated to the common plastic folders.  All kinds, colours and qualities whatever you could imagine… but the most common purchased versions must have been the multi-pack:  the dream of very mother/father/primary caregiver. Usually twelve flimsy, but not too cheap looking plastic folders:  four red, three blue, three yellow and two green Schnellhefter. I did however once wonder why there would always be an almost overload of red folders, but then conclude it must be because we all write load in our German lesson and hence we needed four red folders in one of these multi-packs. My idea held up until I found out that in other schools they would use yellow for German lessons and red for Maths and purple for geography and who knew what else  … but by then the cold and harsh school routine had gotten hold of me with those icy and long fingers and I had lost my inspiration to investigate this colour situation further. Thankfully, I got hold of my motivational drives later on in my school career and took charge of situations and explorations again.
However, once the folders where introduced into my life, they stayed with me. Let’s talk GSCE’s and A-Levels (well , the German equivalent) , actual A-Levels (once I moved to the UK), various coursework, general collections of information, undergraduate essays on art and gender, Saussure and Derrida, recipes and notes, well anything in paper form actually. Once you are old and knowledgeable enough, you go to secondary school and quite often, you are allowed to choose your own lesson-organisation-system, as long you can provide evidence of administrational talents, well mostly homework.  And once again, the crowds split: you get the rebels that completely  throw all the colours out of the window and mix them up, so Maths now is green and German blue and the colour for the new and eagerly awaited lesson: English, become pink and religion white and no one really is able to keep track of them as they often change depending on the mood or the shopping situation on the open market and the spending behaviour of the primary caregiver (if they still give a damn at this point) and you get the nerds that stay with the system “because it works”.  You might even find a rebel that comes back to Geek’land because they lost any form of organisation, but that is rare, which does not say it never happens, or a nerd that discovers new found radical behaviour, but who are we kidding here….this is just life now and one’s own position in the daily routines.
But back to those thin layers of plastic covering piles of paper, holding them together for easier transport, storage or just because, seem to be a powerful part of (my) daily life, even though the mental connection of a red folder and German grammar still exists, or the dislike of blue folders and the disturbing thought of calculators and numbers seems to haunt one form time to time.
And while those boring looking plastic have become filled with knowledge and paper goods, they also have become loaded with stories and histories, both in the physical and mental worlds.  Everyone who has come into contact with one of them will have some form of opinion, story, memory or connection to tell and share, be it a long and detailed monologue, a heated debate or a quick comment, any recollection, written down or verbal, “every object has a story”.
So next time you see one of these hi/story-loaded things, sit back, stand up, roll around , … and let it tell its tale.

Of teapots, coffee stains and thoughts

“Once again”, the owl thought, and flew off into the darkness.

There are hours in the student design studio you typically spend sitting around. You do, of course, engage with challenges – be they mighty or small – but, you do, a considered amount of time, just sit there. You arrive in the morning, unpack your stuff, or scatter it across the table so it might look like you actually worked for hours already (I am not going to give names here – not for now anyway), you might even get yourself a coffee or a bite to eat, but you come back in the room and you sit down. There are, of course, mechanisms a design student will employ in order to not be caught just sitting around, let’s call them “the catch-up”, “the sharing thoughts”, “the creative exchange” and “the fault-finding” – a favoured one amongst a few… but even though some talk (and they talk a lot!) nothing special comes of it, no great aural concept or calculated image, no visual pattern or tactile solution. Let’s face it, some display such a pathetic attitude towards something they should enjoy, it would get a sloth running a mile in under 10 minutes. Seriously, and I mean seriously. Re’cycling may be the way forward, but there is only so much one can re’use without running out of matter, be it physical or mental. Like I said, one spends a considered amount of time sitting around during a typical day in the studio. Don’t get me wrong, great things came and will come from sitting. After all chairs have been invented with specific purposes (or have they? …) and tables serve their purpose as much the technical drawing helps to investigate the concepts. We were considering the change – while you were out. But it’s not all about sitting down – let’s talk workshop, specifically the pottery. Amazing space to be in! There is something fascinating about playing with mud, making objects from such a versatile and history-loaded substance. The main goal: flux.
We are all (aware of it or not) in search for the instability that lives within us, that makes us, that holds us in a welcoming cuddle, that hits us in the face, just to hand us a lollypop in the end. Clay is un/predictable, glazes challenge the un/expected – fire. Like the pure ash on the ground, clean and untouched, new becomes alive, gains energy from the once-have-been.

Can one see what was there once without reading?

Abwarten und Tee trinken comes to mind – “put the kettle on luv” – Sometimes I miss Leeds.

Have you ever counted the circular coffee stains on the table surface?

I guess it is not so much about filling books with ideas, boxes with models and maquettes, memory cards with digital images and folders with drawings, but more about the exchange. The switch of flux – within and surrounding – the yellow Brick Road or was it the yellow tea pot…?!

“Come on Toto. We’ve got a man to see.
We’re off to see the Wizard – the wonderful Wizard of Oz!”