Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Slow Design: Veneer Pendant Lamps

I'm obsessed right now with pendant lamps made of wood veneers. Not only are they gorgeous, they're sustainable - they are designed for use with low-wattage LED and CFL lamps, the production of veneer is extremely resource-efficient (imagine putting a log into a pencil sharpener and using the shavings), and FSC-certified versions are widely available. Here are a few of my current favourites:

David Trubridge's stunning flat-pack bamboo ply Coral pendant. Via Design Within Reach.

Propellor Design's magnificent Meridian pendant, a Canadian design,
which is available in birch or walnut veneer or ecoresin. Via Remodelista.

Another Canadian design, Atelier Cocotte's Gladys pendant in birch veneer. Via Etsy.

Transfigure's Trinity suspension lamp in cork veneer. Via Etsy.

Flaco lamp by Casper Madsens. Via 79Ideas.

7Gods' Puku lamp, via 42 Concepts. Out of production but Tom Raffield makes a similar one.

Tom Raffield's gorgeous steam-bent veneer globes (Pendant No.1) make me weak-kneed. 

Most of these beauties are in the $500+ range, which is not in the budget right now. However, I do have some prior experience in creating pendant lamps from scratch. So I'm planning to make something myself to replace the yawn over our dining table. The raw materials are affordable, although finding long veneer strips that haven't been backed with paper or glue is more challenging, and ideally I'd like to find a local, sustainable veneer source (I might even need to work with a local mill or woodturner to have something custom-made.).  I figure, I want to try crossing the instructions for a string pendant lamp (I need a ball at least 28 inches in diameter for it to be the right scale for the room, by my calculations), with the instructions for the woven wood veneer lamp (also seen here), throw in some wood bending techniques, and see what the grain of the wood will allow me to do. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Good Hundred Experiment

On Saturday, I had the great privilege to attend the Good Hundred Experiment and the party afterward. The event was an unsectored, invitation-only gathering of Edmonton change-makers organized by Nadine Riopel and Tad Hargrave with the support of The Local Good. The idea was to put amazing people doing inspiring projects into the same room, get them talking about the work they're doing and providing feedback to each other, and to watch the magic happen. The hope was that new friendships, new collaborations, and new insights would be created, to help smooth the attendees' paths and make even more good things happen in Edmonton.
"We trust that if we bring good people together in a good way, good things will happen."
(click to see the full-size panoramic image)
From the feedback on Twitter, I'd say that goal has already been more than accomplished. You can see the response on Twitter and in attendees' blogs summarized in this Storify by Tamara Stecyk.

I had to leave for a couple of hours mid-afternoon, but I got to participate in the small circle introductions, Tad's Islands Interview exercise, and have lunch (catered by Under The High Wheel) and drinks (at Kasbar that night - also Storified by Tamara) with some of the most inspiring people in Edmonton.

The ideas we wanted to explore in the afternoon sessions were jotted on the wall
over the course of the morning sessions, then our mediator Michelle Riopel pulled out what we'd brainstorm about in the afternoon. I can't wait to see a summary of what came out of those sessions.

I'm told that some of what we wrote here actually belonged on the burning questions sheet. Oops.
Music Is A Weapon's Lucas Coffey
energizing the crowd after lunch. SO fun.
Kaz Mega and Solidario (VladiG) rock their spoken-word piece "Edmonton". 
I learned so much at the daytime workshops, and finished the afterparty feeling energized, inspired, and deeply impressed with the city that I call home. I also got some great feedback and constructive criticism on the projects I'm involved in, and I'm delighted to have been able to introduce a few people who needed to meet, and sit and brainstorm with others on ways to collaborate. It'll take me a few days to process it all.

There will be another Good Hundred Experiment event in the Spring. If you're interested in attending - or you'd like to organize a similar event in your city and you'd like some advice on how to proceed - Tad & Nadine are the people to talk to.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The ABCs of Slow Design

Alphabet Letterpress Print by 1canoe2 on Etsy.

I've been giving a lot of thought to a simple, graphical way to explain the principles of slow design to people who have never heard of it. It occurred to me that, since slow design is collaborative, the best way to achieve that would be to reach out to the slow home, slow design, and slow craft communities to brainstorm a list of adjectives that could then be used to create a typographic poster, or a short message (like SLOW DESIGN) vertically down the back of our business cards.

I'd also love to use this list as the basis for a slow design blog hop! More details on that in a sec.

Sound good? I thought so. Let's get to it.

Slow Design is...
  • Antique, Artisan, Activist, Affordable, Authentic, Adaptive
  • Better, Bespoke, Beautiful
  • Cherished, Covetable, Cradle-to-Cradle, Creative, Collaborative, Community-centred, Charette, ComfortableCaring, Conversational, Curious
  • DIY, Desirable, Durable, Diverse, Democratic
  • Enduring, Ethical, Eco-friendly, Evocative, Engaging
  • Fixable, Found
  • Good, Green
  • Heirloom, Handmade, Healthy, Honest
  • Intelligent, Ingenious, Inclusive, Interactive, Intuitive, Inviting
  • Just
  • Kept
  • Local, Limited-edition, Luxurious
  • Modern, Meaningful, Mindful
  • Nondisposable, Now, NaturalNeighbourly
  • Original, Open-source, Observative
  • Precious, Preservation, Personalized, Participatory, Playful, Process-drivenPlace-making
  • Quality
  • Reuseable, Recycled, Repairable, Relaxing, RealResourceful, Reliable, Responsive
  • Sustainable, Simple, Shareable, Social, Smart, Soulful, Skill-building, SeasonalSensual
  • Timeless, Traditional, Thoughtful, Transparent, Terroir
  • Upcycled, Useful, Uncluttered
  • Vintage, Values-based
  • Well-made, Wabi-sabi
  • eXtraordinary
  • Youthful
  • Z

I have no idea what we will use for the missing letters, especially X and Z. ;-)

What would you add to this list? What terms would you leave out because they need too much explanation or are too politically freighted for some clients? I'll update this list based on your comments, with new ideas (highlighted) and crossouts (like 'Charette' above), as we go.

As for that blog hop! I am so excited to see how you all will interpret this topic, and so honoured to showcase your thoughts on slow design. Let's get started. (If you are participating in the blog hop, please also get the InLinkz code to add the list of posts to the bottom of your blog post.)

(If you are participating in the blog hop, please also get the InLinkz code to add the list of posts to the bottom of your blog post.)

Update: The month-long blog hop experiment is now closed! Thanks to everyone who participated, in the comments, on your blogs, and through twitter. I've added the highlighted words above, and a couple of cross-outs, thanks to your input.

I thought it would be interesting to compare our list with the words used in the text tags from slowLab's SlowLloyd project (seen above), and from the SlowLloyd project's website. Here's a partial list (they have not released a complete list at this time): adaptive, alternative, attentive, caring, commonality, connections, conversational, creativity, curious, deliberate, engaging, gestation, guardians, history, local, memory, mindful, mysterious, neighborhood, open, place-making, playful, possible, public, reliable, responsive, reuse, sensual, sharing, sincere, transparent, and witnesses. Naturally we'd already included some of these words, but I have added and highlighted a few of the missing adjectives.

What a fascinating and inspiring list we have compiled! Please leave a comment if you think of any other adjectives we should add to this open-source list.

Now comes the hard work of turning that into an appealing design that can be used to explain slow design to people who have never heard of it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Slow News Summary: Autumn 2012

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!

I'm switching to a seasonal schedule for the slow news summaries, to give me more time for other projects. If you'd like more frequent updates, you might want to check out the Slow Weekly on paper.li - although it's difficult to set that up so that it catches all the relevant news without having a lot of peripheral material.

These might be my favourite slow design seen in photos from London Design Festival: orphaned drawers in new chests of salvaged plywood by Rupert Blanchard (via Inhabitat), which were shown in his studio space in the Shoreditch Design Triangle. He also has photos of fascinating furniture made from a patchwork of damaged wooden packaging crates on his blog.

On Slow Design, Slow Home, and Eco-Products:
  • LifeEdited drew our attention to Saul Griffith's "Heirloom Design" philosophy, whose principles are interchangeable with slow design (except perhaps in that locavorism isn't an explicit requirement, although sustainability is).
  • My new favourite blog Slow It Down explored the fleeting pleasures of street art with examples of the scenes in Bristol, England and Melbourne, Australia. (Locally it is chronicled on the Foundmonton tumblr. I've found a few pieces of graffiti near my home on a stretch of abandoned road, but the bored teenagers tagging crumbling asphalt in my suburban neighborhood need to seriously up their game if they ever want to be considered street artists.)
  • Treehugger put together a great, up-to-date explanation of how to lower your home's carbon footprint without breaking the bank.
  • Laura from Simple Design wrote about the interior decor trends she's still not over - several of which I'd argue have achieved classic status. (Me? I'll never be over ikat.)
  • LifeEdited shared the story of McMansions being used as an intentional communities, artists' colonies, and cohousing space - and mused about how sprawling Victorian homes turned into apartments during the Great Depression are a model for the repurposing and right-sizing of huge modern homes.
  • An indoor hydroponic system that's an Ikea hack? I remember when the only people who talked hydroponics were, ahem, weed enthusiasts. This is a different sort of beast, coming from a fusion of permaculture and slow design principles, with one of the stated goals being to allow consumers to themselves become makers and designers.
  • Assemble Papers explored the slow-design ethos of furniture designer Daniel Barbera.
  • The London Design Festival showcased lots of sustainable and flat-pack design this year, but what interested me most were the handmade pieces and the ones designed using slow principles. I've already shown you Rupert Blanchard's work above. Chile's Bravo! showed their beautiful furniture at Tent London, made of copper and native wood species using "rescued local carpentry traditions". Roland Hunt showed stools made of recycled paper and hand-carved resin-coated logs at Designersblock. Naomi Paul showed her gorgeous hand-crocheted Omi Pendant lamps (the photos of the 'Gluck' shape make me weak-kneed). Breaded Escalope showed their Love Me Bender project, which turns creating steam-bent additions to broken mass-market chairs into performance art. English designers also played with the Anglepoise lamp form: Degross Design & Innovation created one from a discarded amber glass jug, while Jason Lloyd Fletcher used salvaged furniture parts for the lamp that was part of his Third Generation Furniture collection (I'm also loving his Genevieve chair woven from upcycled leather belts, which is so much better-executed than 99% of the belt-recycling projects I've noticed on Pinterest).
Jason Lloyd Fletcher's Genevieve chair and stool with marble top. Beautiful work! 
On Slow Fashion:

I'm coveting State's reconstructed smocks. Found via I Am The Lab.

On Slow Food:
  • Here in Edmonton, the draft Food and Agriculture strategy has been released, with only an 8-day comment period (to comment online go here before Monday!) which promises to be followed by a raucous public meeting fuelled in part by a war of words between opposing groups and the emerging public interest in food security and urban agriculture. Those in the know are complaining about how rushed the process has been (possibly as a result of behind-the-scenes pressure from developers), how generic and watered-down the resulting 'toolkit' feels, and how little of the comments provided at various points by local experts have actually been incorporated. Those local experts who were part of the consultation process are not allowed to discuss it publicly. Certainly the report looks to me like very much like what was presented at the Food & Ag conference at the start of summer, which leaves the impression that the consultants were not really listening to the feedback from attendees. (I'll understand if those of you not in Edmonton want to mute my twitter feed until after October 26th - I'll also be doing a lot of retweeting in my role with The Local Good).
  • I'm also a bit obsessed right now with the idea of public urban orchard projects like the ones in London, Chicago, and even Calgary (I wonder how Ralph Klein would have felt about his name being attached to an urban agriculture project?).
  • Also upcoming in Edmonton: Food Secure Canada's annual conference.
  • Slow Money in Canada: http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/blogs/insight/slow-money-movement-spreads-north-canada-160857764.html

It's canning season, and Treehugger shared some brilliant vintage posters promoting food preservation. This one is part of the Preserve series by illustrator Carter Housh, which also included images of Uncle Sam rolling up his sleeves in the kitchen.

On Slow Travel:
On Sustainability: 

George Lakey penned a thought-provoking post for Yes! Magazine on why consumer choices aren't enough to address the bigger issue of climate change, which makes a slightly uncomfortable read about how the sociology of different socioeconomic groups are being wielded by the wealthy and the petroleum industry to maintain the status quo. Read in combination with this post about design thinking (which I found via Treehugger), it'll make you think hard about the narratives behind products, and how best to make a better world. 

On Slow Living and Slow Work:
  • My brilliant twitter friend Stacey has a little permaculture side project going on, that started with a passion for plants, a few fallen trees from a hurricane, and a willingness to dive in and learn on the fly. I've been thinking a lot about that approach to creativity lately - which this post calls "the creative power of the outsider" - maybe because as an over-educated ex-scientist I have an outsider's approach to the worlds of design and fine craft. Or maybe because I share Stacey's impulse to jump in with both feet and immerse myself in a subject. Or maybe both. Of course it has its drawbacks, like a steeper learning curve or not doing things in the most efficient way. However, the reward can be enormous. The most interesting work in any field emerges at the intersections between disciplines, where people with differing perspectives collaborate.
  • The case for spending more on less.
  • Why schools should help students find their passion.
  • A back-to-school kids' clothes and books swap held at a local school? What a lovely idea.
  • Turn off your smart phone and live in the moment.
  • London's RSA hosted a panel discussion on October 4th entitled The Slow Revolution - click through to the link to download an audio file.
  • Shareable on why sharing on a neighborhood scale is a tough sell, and how using tribes as the basis for sharing communities could sidestep those issues.
  • GOOD explained bokashi composting and gave some tips I've not seen before. That reminds me, I need to figure out where my bokashi setup got packed when we moved (oops).
  • I kind of love what New Dawn Traders are doing. Check out the Guardian's explanation from February of their inaugural slow-food-by-slow-cargo voyage, then go browse their blog. Their goals also include supporting and revitalizing the traditional skillsets of the age of sail, and treating each port-of-call as a pop-up opportunity to promote the ideas of the slow movement. How can anyone not want to run away to sea with them?
  • Stop overscheduling yourself and your children.
  • Brooke from Slow Your Home (who is writing a novel *and* an e-book! Go Brooke!) suggested trying single-tasking instead of multitasking, wrote about finding your passion through experimentation, and made a wonderful list of 21 quick ways to simplify that makes a brilliant supplement to her bootcamp posts.
  • Here's a book on slow democracy. What will we attach that adjective to next?
  • Shedworking drew our attention to a brilliant article on how the London Olympics have catalyzed a conversation about presenteeism versus working from home. Meanwhile Treehugger reported on a trade-show talk exploring the future of workspace design, which is leaning toward the creation of flexible team-use or co-working spaces given trends in technology, homeworking, and employees who need to be present at their clients' offices instead of their own.
  • Is it practical to switch back to not answering emails during our off hours?
  • David McCann wrote the terrific "Work Slower, Produce More?" about results-only work environments from a managerial perspective for CFO. The comments largely miss the point, which brings home to me that a lot of organizations are not remotely ready for the way disruptive technologies will change the nature of office work.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Edmonton Waste Management

Last week I went on a field trip with my fourth-grader to the impressive Edmonton Waste Management Centre (you can take a photo tour at the link; the photo is one I snapped with my phone of beautifully-designed posters inside their theatre where the tour begins). It used to be the Cloverbar landfill site, but over the years has morphed into a collection of buildings that includes North America's largest composter, a facility for sorting and baling recyclables from Edmonton's widely-admired recycling program, a paper recycling plant, and an electronics recycling facility beside the rapidly-shrinking former TV-henge. The sorting facility where organics are separated from the rest of the garbage bound from landfill will soon also boast a machine that crushes most of the debris into fluff to be used for gasification, with the ethanol and methanol from that process to be used to run the garbage trucks and the amount going to landfill to be reduced to about 10% of what comes in. The landfill itself, now closed, is being prepared to become a park, and items for landfill are currently shipped about 80km outside city limits. Time constraints meant we missed out on seeing the construction debris recycling facility.

On the whole, the tour was fascinating, and mostly conducted from the safety of enclosed overhead walkways. I was dumbfounded that the piles of stuff still being sent to landfill at this point looked like they were about half plastic that should have been recyclable, even with our city's enviable participation rate in the recycling program. I imagine it's much worse in other municipalities. The other thing that sticks with me is the worker at the electronics recycling plant starting decontamination before he left the floor of the warehouse at a shoe-washing station beside the door into the locker rooms. The hazardous-materials safety protocols also require them to wear a double layer of jumpsuit, helmet, gloves, eye protection, and heavy-duty dust masks.

The whole experience left me feeling conflicted - I am proud of our city for going to such lengths to keep things out of landfill and recover useful resources, but at the same time, I wonder if residents subconsciously use that to justify continuing to buy disposable items that in the long run are trashing the planet in other ways. I'm even more determined to consume less stuff now - especially since most of the machinery involved in sorting and disposing of our waste is pretty energy-intensive, and will become even more so once the gasification facility opens.