Since retirement from paid employment 2 years ago, my meditation practice has become more regular. And due to my yoga practice, my knees have become more flexible.
In the past, I meditated in a nice comfy chair. Lately, I have been assuming the more traditional posture of half lotus position. I thought about creating a more structured meditation space with a floating shelf with flowers and a candle on it.
But the minimalist in me loves for spaces to be mostly empty and flexible and (let’s be real here) easy to clean. So I have created this meditation corner out of objects that also serve at least one other purpose in my home.
One of my pandemic routines (can I say that?) is to go for a weekly walk in Forest Park with son Patrick, who lives in the same town where I live. We talk about what has happened in the past week and we admire the flora and fauna and architecture of the park and wax philosophical about whatever moves us. It involves many of my favorite activities: walking, observing beauty, discussing human nature, laughing (Patrick is one of the funniest people I know.)
This last week, we had several occasions to discuss good/bad design, starting with the mustache mask. I made this mask for Patrick as soon as the CDC recommended that everyone wear them while out in public. He requested the cheeky mustache and I was happy to comply. But when he wore the mask and spoke, it would drift down his face until his nose was exposed and he would have to yank it back up. So, while it was charming, it was NOT functional, and he didn’t wear it. Therefore no one got to see how charming it was. Fortunately, a small adjustment of reworking the 2 pleats into 3, was all it took to make the mask both cute and functional.
As we were strolling around the park this past week, we had occasion to use one of it’s many restrooms. And we encountered this sink (for some reason I feel obligated to assure readers that I photographed the sink in the women’s restroom, and had merely verbal confirmation from Patrick that his sink was equally egregious.)
Which led Patrick to say that this design is so bad, that it would be better to have no sink in the bathroom. That is, one would encounter fewer public germs by using the restroom and leaving without washing one’s hands then by touching the wet sink that has been touched by hundreds of other persons between sanitation during a pandemic.
I went to art school a life time ago (I was still a teenager) and while there, was introduced to the argument between form vs. function. And it has always seemed to me that there are so many ways to design a thing that one should start with “Does it work?” and then move into “Is it esthetically pleasing?” A purely functional tool can be beautiful (think of an antique hammer) but something that doesn’t work and is pretty will be tossed as soon as the fashion of that object has passed.
This got Patrick and I to talking about good and bad design we have encountered. A few that we discussed: my mom has a blown-glass water/juice pitcher that cracked the first time that she put water and ice in it. She still finds it beautiful, and has it on display in a prominent place in her dining area. More than once, helpful guests have tried to fill it with water for a meal and she has to let them know it is purely decorative now.
I like this design for my dish soap bottle:
Although, I note, that it took me awhile to notice that it didn’t dribble. And Patrick states that this is one of the battles that good design fights–when it functions well, without irritating the user, it goes unnoticed.
And that brought up one more area of good design/bad design: websites. Patrick has a degree in computer science and engineering. I asked for him to give me examples of good and bad website design. He gave me the addresses of two websites (both are for items that I have no interest in purchasing.)
This one was fun and I enjoyed watching the actors depict the stories (which had little to do with the product.) The video was engaging and enjoyable as its own art form, that is, if the video was being posted in a park or movie theatre without the Pepsi logo, it would be just (maybe more) enjoyable.
Son Patrick is also involved in the design and marketing of board games and he gave me this website, which is the premiere website for learning about all things board game. He also gave me the following reflection. People play board games because they are fun. But to learn more about the board games that they love to play, they have to negotiate this:
And I immediately understood what he was trying to tell me. Upon entering this website, I thought “Ick!” Too much work!” “I’m going to get a computer virus here!” I made myself click around to various parts of the site, to learn a bit about it and check how it functioned. And at a bare bones level it does function. (And my fellow minimalists will be excited to learn that I read on one of the forums of a person offering for free unwanted games and pieces that he had decided to declutter after dealing with the collections of his recently deceased mother.)
But I took home Patrick’s message: if you work in an entertainment industry, then all places where you engage with the public should also be entertaining.
My personal evaluation of good design starts with: Does it work/function? And then is it esthetically pleasing? There is no solid reason that design can not do both.
Think of the function of a chair. It is to support a human (or pet, or decorative object) off the floor in a way that respects human anatomy and gravity. And then think of all the variety of expressions of that function. From floor cushions to Ming dynasty chairs to cardboard chairs to Louis XVI chairs to Eames chairs to Target/IKEA chairs…..
But in my mind, the function always comes first.
Beloved readers-I would love to hear your encounters with good and bad design.
To my American readers– Happy Mother’s Day! And virtually the rest of the post has nothing to do with Mother’s Day…
Earlier in the week, a property came on the market that is an excellent candidate for the Net-Zero-Energy-Use Home conversion project. It is in an ideal location. It is a good shape and size for my project. It is distressed, so has a low asking price. I made an appointment to tour the property. And while I was waiting, I read a news story that unemployment in the United States is nearing 15%. While I was touring the property, my real estate agent got a text from the listing agent that she had already received multiple offers for the property over the asking price and that if I was interested, to submit my best offer by midnight.
I thought about how I had counselled all of you, just last week-that this is not the time to make big changes. I thought about how the housing market may change drastically in the next 12-18 months due to the large amount of unemployment. I thought about how eager I am to get started with this project……and then I let the property go.
I’m a little sad about it, but overall think it is the best decision for now.
Then, I went for a walk in the park to cheer me up.
It is almost a proverb that Thou Shalt Not Make Big Decisions During a Big Loss (or grieving a big loss.) The Covid-19 virus has placed all of us in a “big loss.” So, this is the time for staying home and taking in information about this huge change and only making small changes, if at all possible.
So, my efforts are local and my posts are about small changes. Here goes:
And then into masks.
In the past, I have worked on these larger projects while beloved son, Mike, was out of town working at his dad’s farm. But he has secured a local job at a local grocery and is home every evening. (Yay!!!) So this is my workaround to letting him know what floor space I am working on and that is “foots off.”
And here are just a few random photos from my walks in Forest Park this past week.
Can you see the purple Iris on the bank on the right?
Must remind you all–this is in the middle of a big city (think of Central Park in NY.)
So my beloved readers- Stay safe. Take care of your immediate physical needs. Begin to think about what we all will want in the new world that is evoling. Do Not make big changes just yet.
And if you have lost a person or something else that is precious to you: Rest. And grieve. And rest. What ever that means for you. Rest. And Grieve. And Rest.
No big projects this week. But a few small joys to share!
From the vegan blog ConnoisseurVeg –on the blog, Alissa serves it with chips as a dipping sauce….but my friends, just think about all the things that you love that have cheese sauce…
I have made it with macaroni for my son. (Sorry, no photo, because it disappeared so fast!)
I have been going for a walk every day. Sometimes my walk is in Forest Park, which has so many lovely places. I’ve discovered some new trails. Some days I just walk to the post office to mail something. Some days I walk to one of the family-owned, local eateries in my neighborhood that I want to support during this challenging time.
And when I am sheltering at home, sometimes I am working on fabric masks for myself and friends. Here is an example of one for a friend…who is a redhead and requested a ginger mustache.
And I am working on a couple of projects that might not have bloggable results for some time. So it goes.
Beloved readers-please share how you are spending your shelter at home time.
My son’s bedroom has two closets and he uses only one of them. This closet has become the place where I store the “bed in a box” and painting supplies and just random stuff I had not yet found a home for.
The pool noodles and the lawn chairs (which we use for outdoor music concerts) may not get used this summer, but eventually we will be able to gather again. We will save them for that time.
The stuff that I will donate to Habitat for Humanity and a charity shop have to go back in the closet for now. But at least it is organized.
And here are a couple of bonus photos from our walk in the park this week.
As soon as the CDC recommended that everyone wear a face mask while out in public I started making them for myself and my family. By the time the CDC made their recommendation, the fabric shops had closed due to being non-essential businesses.
I did a bit of research online, and found a site where the efficacy of various types of cloth masks were compared with disposable ones. (I can’t find the link now, sorry.) Basically, it said that tightly woven fabric (think 180 percale sheets or finer) that was arranged with two layers was more effective that a paper mask. So that became the basis for my pattern.
I did not have any elastic for the ear loops, so I decided to use the T-shirt material there.
I cut the T-shirt material into 1″ x 7″ strips and then folded them in fourths, tucking the raw edges in and finished them with a “X” stitch for maximum stretch ability.
My son, Patrick, wanted his customized with an embroidered mustache.
The dimensions I am working with now are 9″ x 6.5″ for the mask with just 2 pleats. And the ear loops are 5″. That seems to fit us pretty well.
As these fabric masks should be laundered after each wearing, I will continue to make more, until we have a good supply. I have ordered some elastic, which is due to arrive in mid-June, which will speed up the process a bit.
How about you all? What are you using for face masks?