Inventor Spotlight: Hella Jongerius

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portrait of the artist, Hella Jongerius

Hella Jongerius is a Dutch designer, founder of JongeriusLab (1993) based in Berlin. The first time I saw Jongerius’s work was about 10 years ago at a Droog exhibit in NYC. The piece of hers that burned a new pathway in my brain was Embroidered Tablecloth in which the designer ran a red embroidery thread through a white linen cloth and porcelain table setting.

This is what Jongerius does. She mixes industrial materials and processes with traditional ones. In doing this, she questions how we use these materials so that we might expand our thinking about what they are capable of and what they mean. The mix is powerful and disruptive yet beautiful and welcoming.

At present, Jongerius is preparing for a textiles show called Interlace at Lafayette Foundation in Paris.  From what I see on instagram, the work is playful and gorgeous, simple and complex and I’d love – love – LOVE to see it in person. The show opens in June.

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via JongeriusLab instagram

Slow Design, Slow Food, Slow Fashion – It’s complicated!

Since mid-March I’ve been designing and making hand cut & sewn leather bags. My goal is to launch a small line at a few crafts shows this fall. From there I will figure out what to do next. Make more inventory? Sell online? Manufacture on demand? Time will tell.

One thing I really enjoy about the process of designing and making bags is the slowness of it. It takes 4 hours to cut, prepare, and sew a full sized bag. In those 4 hours, I know exactly what I’m doing. My focus is on craftsmanship. My hands are busy. There is no room for electronics. Those hours are meditative and when I reach the end, I’ve made something beautiful and useful.

In design, there is a concept called “Slow Design” which rejects the hyperconsumption and waste that’s baked into a lot of mainstream design. The Slow Design movement took inspiration from the Slow Food movement which started in Italy in the 1980s. One could argue Italians have always had slow food values: they love their food; they appreciate knowing who grows it and how; and they make decisions about what they buy, cook, and eat based on these values.

Slow Design practitioners extend these values to physical products. They look at the entire life cycle of a product: where materials come from; how they are processed and by whom; how far the products travel for distribution; how much energy and water they use once in the hands of users; how long these products last; and what happens to them when they are no longer useful. Examining these steps in a product life cycle helps designers make decisions about what they make and why and how.

Slow Fashion is an extension of Slow Design. It’s a response to Fast Fashion, a much hyped about trend in which clothes are designed, made, distributed, sold, then thrown away as quickly as possible. Technology enables Fast Fashion. And the market, too. But Slow Fashion takes a different approach. Clothes and accessories are built to last. They are sourced ethically. They are made slowly. They cost more and they last longer.

As good as this sounds, Slow Design comes with complexities just as mainstream design does. While Slow Design is gentle on the environment, fair to labor, and offers customers an alternative to hyperconsumption, the obvious complication is that Slow Design costs more dollars to make and sell. This means that average folks can’t afford it. I don’t know the answer to that one. Perhaps integrating “Buy One Give One” pricing into Slow Design and food can help bridge that gap. Many organic farmers around here participate in the “Healthy Food for All” program which commits a fixed percentage of what they produce to be sold at a deep discount to individuals and families with economic challenges. Another way for a slow business to bridge the gap is to integrate fair wage jobs. I’d love to, one day, hire women who struggle with economic challenges to help me make the bags I’m making. As I said, it takes four hours to make a full sized bag. I cut, prepare, and sew the leather by hand. In future, I hope to mix and apply my own dyes. I’m gonna need some extra hands, for sure.

TAKE IT FURTHER

Slow Food Pioneer, Alice Waters, on How I Built This (NPR, April 2019)

Can Fast Fashion Be Green? (Vogue, 2018)

What the heck is Vegan Leather (again, it’s complicated)

Industrial Revolution 4.0 – how smart is it?

There’s a lot of hype about it. There’s a lot of academic research about parts of it. But what is it?

The Industrial Revolution 4.0 is a part of a series. 1.0 was about manufacturing enhanced by mechanization and steam in the late eighteenth century. 2.0 was about manufacturing enhanced by the assembly line and electrical energy in the late nineteenth century. 3.0 was about manufacturing enhanced by automation and computing in the late 1960s. 4.0 is about manufacturing enhanced by cloud-connected computing today and in the early twenty-first century. 4.0 is about data. Lots of it. Analyzing and responding to events in near real time.

But as Dave Evans, CEO of fictiv points out in his recent SxSW talk, if you’ve visited a manufacturer lately, the 4.0 just isn’t there. Not only that, but you can see the problems that could be avoided if it were already in place.

So how do we get to 4.0?

Evans points to a framework developed by Michael Mandel at Progressive Policy in DC. Mandel proposes that we need to invest in technology that enhances three areas of manufacturing:

  1. Digital Machines – how might putting sensors right on the tooling enhance operations?
  2. Digital Distribution – how might we change distribution to maximize locations of connected factories?
  3. Digital Networks – how might we make the most out of manufacturing ecosystems by building networks that allow us to see them more clearly?

Seems like more investment in these areas would be great for the manufacturing sector. Plus, what’s exciting to me as a person interested in Industrial Ecology, is how these technologies might also be used to measure and respond to the environmental and social impacts of Industrialization 4.0.

Now that would be a smart use of tech.

TAKE IT FURTHER

The 4th Industrial Revolution – Kemp Technologies

Michael Mandel’s work at Progressive Policy

Studio Snap Shot – little baskets

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I’ve never understood why people make jokes about basket weaving. Think about it: What skill could be more useful than making an object that carries things from one place to another, using materials that you have lying around? I happen to have a lot of tyvek and a little bit of leather, so I’ve been designing tyvek baskets with leather handles (at half scale for now). I think these vessels are sweet and I like imagining filling them up with fruit in summer.

I love all kinds of baskets and if I had the right studio space (which would have to include a sink), I’d definitely take up weaving.

TAKE IT FURTHER

Swamp Road Baskets are the most beautiful baskets, made here in The Finger Lakes

I love this modern spin on Shaker Baskets by Studio Gorm

My BASKETS board on pinterest

 

Inventor Spotlight: Takuma Yamazaki

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a pencil that amplifies the sound of writing

If you use Twitter, then you’ll see that I have the following statement pinned to the top of my feed:

“Technology is an effective amplifier. We need to decide, and then design, what it is we want to amplify.”

So I was delighted when I came across this project, The Sound of Drawing, from young Japanese designer Takuma Yamazaki in which he literally amplifies the action of making marks with a pencil. With this project, he draws attention to an age-old method for writing notes or poetry or drawing lines and images. If you are the type who gets pleasure from moving a piece of graphite across a sheet of toothy paper, then you will appreciate what this project does to heighten that sensation.

Here’s Yamazaki’s statement about the piece: By amplifying the faint noises created by the friction between pencil and paper, this project represents a new way of communicating with stationery. I reflected on the meaning of drawing, and discovered that stationery can be not only writing instruments, with the purpose of leaving visual information, but also musical instruments. By redefining stationery as creative tools for drawing sounds, this pencil offers a fresh creative experience for both people who are sighted and those who are not.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Check out Yamazaki’s portfolio here

Originally posted on Spoon & Tamago

Artist Spotlight: Irene Posch & Ebru Kurbak

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Irene Posch and Edru Kurbak are artists and designers who that integrate handmade textile making with computing. They refer to their work “Macro Electronics” in that their technology isn’t hidden in a black box, but rather, visible and with stories to tell. Their hope is to inspire their viewers to explore computing themselves and ultimately to diversify who makes technology.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Posch and Kurbak in DesignBoom

Interview with Irene Posch

Safety, Satisfaction, and Connection

I’ve recently recommitted to the habit of listening to one or two chapters of Rick Hansen’s Hardwiring Happiness each morning. In the (audio)book Hansen offers 21 focal points for mindfulness practice. As the title suggests, he argues that if you practice these meditations, you can carve new pathways in your brain so that when you are experiencing a challenging emotion, like fear, for example, your brain will make a connection to a positive emotion that will ease that fear. This theory that you can rewire your brain is called neuroplasticity. While I’m not a 100% believer, I do find this book very helpful.

The focal points are organized into three categories that target three different parts of our brain:

  • SAFETY  – Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm (reptilian)
  • SATISFACTION – Subcortex, focused on approaching rewards (mammalian)
  • CONNECTION – Neocortex, focused on attaching to “us” (primate/human)

All 21 focal points listed out below:

SAFETY

  1. PROTECTION
  2. STRENGTH
  3. RELAXATION
  4. REFUGE
  5. SEEING THREATS & RESOURCES CLEARLY
  6. FEELING ALRIGHT RIGHT NOW
  7. PEACE

 

SATISFACTION

  1. PLEASURE
  2. GRATITUDE & GLADNESS
  3. POSITIVE EMOTION
  4. ACCOMPLISHMENT & AGENCY
  5. ENTHUSIASM
  6. FEELING THE FULLNESS OF THIS MOMENT
  7. CONTENTMENT

 

CONNECTION

  1. FEELING CARED ABOUT
  2. FEELING VALUED
  3. COMPASSION & KINDNESS
  4. SELF COMPASSION
  5. FEELING LIKE A GOOD PERSON
  6. COMPASSIONATE ASSERTIVENESS
  7. LOVE