Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I suppose it was inevitable - like many others in the blogging world, I have become a bit obsessed with Pinterest. (I blame Zoe from SlowMama for introducing me to it.) Who knew that collecting bookmarks could be so sticky and addictive? Part of the appeal is that it's so visual - it really is a digital inspiration board - and part of it is the ability to file things by category. Seeing what your friends are reading is always pretty nifty, but you can also browse through the feed of everything being pinned - handy if you like to trend-spot. It can also be a form of self-exploration to create a pinboard full of random things that inspire you, then look for themes among them.

For instance, I've found that I have an incredible soft-spot for cottagey whitewashed timber walls, nautical decor, and floor-to-ceiling gallery walls.

Of course I've also created some great pinboards on aspects of the slow movement, and a Slow Home inspiration board.

There are some downsides to plugging in to the hive-mind on sites like Pinterest, though. It's easy to spend too much time on it, and ABC Dragoo has written previously about how easily bloggers can lose their unique voice if they do a lot of reblogging - and the same is true with your visual input in many other fields. If you are a creative, you'll reach a point where you need to disconnect from all the other great work happening out there in the wide world in order to make things that are original and unique.

However. I think if you use it with awareness, manage your time a bit, and install a 'pin this' button on your browser so you can bookmark the inspirational stuff you find on the rest of the Internet and keep your boards fresh, it can be a really useful site. As an exercise to prove this, I created a pinboard for coolness emerging from the many tweets and blog posts from the London Design Festival this week - mostly things that weren't yet on Pinterest (or at least not easily findable with their keyword search). It will be interesting to see whether anyone else finds that pinboard useful (I guess I'd measure that by looking at the number of repins). It has already helped me to focus on what is new in design and inspired me to push myself in my own work.

I'd also suggest that if you blog about topics that are of interest to Pinterest users, you should look at your sites stats. You may be delighted to see (as I was) that a couple of your older blog posts are getting more visits than usual, thanks to a reader pinning them. It'll be interesting to see if Pinterest use becomes part of the standard advice on website promotion in the not-too-distant future.

As it happens, Pinterest also just launched their new look today. I was going to show you a couple of before-and-after-the-redesign screenshots, but I didn't get anything screencapped in time (whoops). You'll just have to take my word for it that it looks a bit cleaner and prettier now.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Slow Making, Slow Craft, and Slow Cloth

There are a growing number of artisans who are applying the slow movement's principles to the world of crafts, and I'd like to draw a little attention to their work and their writing.

Australian blog Slow Making have been intermittently publishing in-depth posts since 2006 on topics from sourcing wood to printmaking to philosophical musings on the withered role of the seamstress in our society - it's a truly fascinating read. Their Manifesto is:
"1. To strive for appropriate excellence in the making process.2. To make objects that enhance the life of the user.3. To know the origins of our materials, ensuring that they respect the country and the communities who produced or harvested them, and are from sustainable sources.4. To make objects that will last, can be easily repaired when necessary and are made using materials and processes that do not harm the makers, the community or the environment.5. To deal with our co-workers, clients, suppliers and sellers in an ethical and fair manner.6. To foster, utilise and pass on skills that enhance the making process.7. To enjoy and relish the way of slow making."
The travelling exhibit Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution at their last venue,
via Making A Slow Revolution.
Other Slow proponents from the world of fine craft are more explicit (as per the principles of slow design) in discussing the mindfulness, localness, interactiveness, and community-building aspects of their work, in addition to the temporal and qualitative aspects of their process. All of these figured in a travelling exhibit from Birmingham's Craftspace entitled Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution, curated by Helen Carnac, which wrapped in June 2011 and was followed in July by a Slow Summit with slowLab's Alastair Fuad-Luke in July. The blog that chronicles the exhibit proposal and the reflections of several of the contributing artists is well worth reading. Everyone associated with that project seem to use the term "slow craft" preferentially.

There is also a community of slow makers in the textile world who have adopted the term "slow cloth" for their work; Elaine Lipson of Red Thread Studio has a fantastic definition in her "10 Qualities Of Slow Cloth" in her sidebar. I won't quote it here, but she definitely speaks my language: joy, contemplation, skill, history, community, diversity, quality. I also recommend you check out her article on slow cloth for HandEye magazine, and the Slow Cloth group on Facebook for ongoing discussions.

The slow movement seems like a natural fit for anyone who is immersed in a life where process and product are intimately connected - so I'm actually a little surprised that I didn't find more artisans talking about the slow movement in connection to their work when I went looking. Did I miss a term that's being used instead?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Slow Living: A Cardboard Rocketship In 12 Easy Steps

Although there are (fairly expensive) cardboard rocketship playhouse kits you can buy online, there's really only one good DIY post. (There are also a couple of cool make-your-own recycled rocketship toy tutorials, and a ridonkulously awesome photo on DeviantArt.) So I thought I'd better take a few photos and write up our modest improvised attempt. It was a bit time-consuming, but both super fun and really fairly easy...

Step 1: Gather your supplies. You'll need one huge cardboard box, a bunch of smaller cardboard boxes, and miscellaneous stuff from your recycling bin (or the reuse centre, if your city has one) for decorating the thing. We collected ours over the course of a couple of months. You'll also need scissors and a box-cutter, industrial-strength glue, 2 (or more) cans of silver spray paint, and 3 (or more) rolls of silver duct tape... as I discovered after I had already started.

Step 2: Use the duct tape to tape up the bottom for a solid base, repair any tears, and tape the top flaps of the box to each other in the open position. Start to construct roof; run out of duct tape.

Step 3: Box-cutter time, for grownups only. Slice an upward-opening hatch door into one side of the box. Cut the flat lip off a round clear-plastic cover (from premade graham-cracker-crumb crusts and the like) and trace around it where you'll be placing portholes, then cut the cardboard out with the boxcutter. Ditto with any other openings you'll be making.

Step 4: Now that you have an opening you can get through, add duct tape to the inside of your giant box to make the 'floor' stronger and more tear-resistant. Also, glue a handle onto your hatch at this time to make the door easier to open. Ours is a square block of styrofoam with a larger flat square of high-density foam glued to the top.

Step 5: Spray paint the cardboard silver, inside and out. (You'll notice I did this in an area where our lawn was already mostly dead from drought and in dire need of repair.) Realize that the styrofoam you used for part of the hatch door handle melts when the solvent from the spray paint touches it. Run out of spray paint. Let dry at least 30 minutes - preferably much longer since it will reek to high heaven of the solvents in the spray paint.


Step 6: Since it's looking like rain, move the whole thing into the garage, and head to the store for more duct tape and spray paint so you can complete the project later.

Step 7: Rain stopped? Great, move back outside and resume roof construction. Basically the idea is to cut cardboard into triangles, like the segments of an umbrella, and attach them to each other with duct tape, to create a cone or dome for the roof. I'm not entirely happy with how ours turned out - it looks more like a house roof than anything - but the kids are thrilled regardless.

Step 8: Make it look more rocket-like. Add cardboard fins (my kids decided against these) or 'thrusters' (ramen soup bowls) to the exterior of the rocket, and a 'control panel' (egg carton) and other widgets that will need spray paint to the interior of the rocket. Let any glue used dry thoroughly.

Step 9: Finish spray painting outside and inside. (Since the kids will be adding lots more colour themselves inside, we decided not to worry about the fact that we ran out of spray paint again before it was done.) Let dry at least 30 minutes - or in our case, overnight in the garage.

Step 10: Fancy windows! Clear plastic 'portholes' (graham-wafer pie shell covers) and 'viewscreens' (plastic from a large box a toy was sold in) can be glued and duct taped into place at this point.

Step 11: Add the details. Draw on rivets, identification numbers, and so on using black permanent marker acrylic paint. Paste on printouts of space agency logos (NASA's meatball is via Wikipedia). Red and orange paper can be glued to the thrusters to make 'flames' now - or if you have a mouthy puppy like we do, red and orange paint. If you're really clever you might be able to add moveable dials inside the rocket as well - if you do figure out how to do that, leave me a comment so I can add one to mine, mmkay?

(DARS = Boychild Girlchild Rocket Service)
Before we painted the rivets and thruster flames.
Also, notice how it's leaving glittery dust on everybody's clothes, presumably spray paint dust? Give it a quick vacuum or wipedown. Preferably before adding the details, instead of afterward like I did.

Since markers weren't showing up,
we went with stickers for the numbers on our buttons.
Painted rivets and knob instructions.
The more detail you add the better it looks!
Step 12: Set up in its permanent (indoor) location and let playtime commence!

Boychild couldn't wait for me to finish painting the rivets and move it.
"Mummy, clone troopers wear their helmets in outer space." Alrighty then.
The adorable astronaut costume was a gift a couple of years ago.
PS: I'll add another photo in a couple of days to show the results of further customization by the kids with acrylics and puffy paint, and repairs since while I have been writing this two thrusters have already come unglued!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Monthly Slow News Summary: September 2011

On Slow Food:
Bethan Laura Wood's Stain ceramic cups are treated with a pattern
that is revealed with time and use as the material becomes tea-stained.
Not new (from 2007), but such a brilliant example of Slow Design that I had to share.
More recently she has used the slow design principles to create
handmade lace Confetti and a chandelier made of ice.
On Slow Design, Slow Home, and Eco Products:

Missoni's line of fashions and homewares for Target was introduced early this week
and has probably already sold out.
I wonder whether their legendary Italian-made quality was diluted for the mass market.
Someone do a proper analysis of whether those items are actually slow-fashion or fast-fashion, mmkay?
Artwork via Gabriela Romero on Pinterest - please let me know the artist if you recognize it!
On Slow Fashion:
On Slow Living:
Starting September 17th, an exhibit of Slow Tech concepts will be part of this year's London Design Festival.
via Protein.
On Slow Travel:
On Sustainability and Environment:

Monday, September 12, 2011