Categories
Grad Design Studio I

My Eight Legged Roomies

Observing other-than-humans in Vancouver #1. Daddy longlegs spiders

This project started from my curiosity about other-than-human rhythms and cycles of time that are no longer being paid attention to and don’t matter in this modern world. I grew up in Korea speaking the language which has numerous idioms and proverbs of ecological wisdom, especially to guess the climate and weather for farming; “if swallows fly low, it rains.”, “If nests of magpies are built low, typhoons will occur frequently.”, “When the starlight shakes, it’s a sign of a strong wind.” When thinking about my mother tongue, I sense a piece of strong evidence that my ancestors read complicated cycles of nature to thrive within nature. My ancestors believed we can communicate with and learn from nature if we know how to listen. And I think it’s similar in a lot of other cultures too.

My dad has an enormous amount of ecological knowledge that I’m envious of. But I shouldn’t use the word envy since it wasn’t really his choice to learn. He was born in 1961, 8 years after the Korean war. He was raised in a rural mountainous town in Korea, and it was his obligation to be responsible for what to bring to the table each day. Thanks to the ecological knowledge that shaped my dad’s childhood, I also grew up eating fresh herbs and roots he foraged from his treasure house, mountains. Pondering my projects around plural perceptions of time, I started thinking about what will happen once my dad passes away. When my dad’s generation time ends, what will happen to their knowledge that was only could be learned during the era they lived, which can’t be mimicked anymore? In Vancouver, 2022, can we still practice living the way my dad once lived, having rich conversations with nature? Can I still speak the language my ancestors used to listen to what nature has to say?

Observation and record as a method

I wanted to go to a specific park or lake frequently to observe what is happening in the non-human world every day, to be able to have a peek at their perceptions of time through my limited human sense of time. However, due to a recent swamp of deliverables, I spent a lot of time in my room, and therefore, the spiders in the corner of my ceiling became my first non-human to observe.

1. 2 Weeks time journal of the spiders on my ceiling

From March 15 to 30

Whenever I observed them from March 15th to 30th, I recorded where they were and how they moved. Squares are the sketch of my ceiling, X is the mark for the spiders, and blue messages are my comments.

From observation day three till day 10, they didn’t move for a week; more accurately, I didn’t see them moving for a week. When I finally saw them moving slightly, I was excited and somehow relieved because I started making assumptions about why they weren’t moving; Are they dead? Are they dormant? Maybe they are nocturnal?

Observing becomes caring

Going into this explorative project, I hoped to understand their day-to-day lives and may be able to get a sense of time patterns. However, now I realize in-door spiders probably don’t need to be as active as the ones in nature and instead, I developed a personal (even tho it is very one directional) relationship with them. One week of unexpected inactiveness of spiders generated questions and created a space of curiosity and care due to the lack of intellectual knowledge that arachnologists would have; why do they live in my room? what do they eat? (I don’t think there’s much to eat here) How long do they live? And my questions started becoming a little more serious; what is their ecological role? what if they are the last spiders in Canada? How would it make me feel?

Spider time

With the series of questions I developed in mind, I started researching cellar spiders and spiders in general to understand who they really are and whether some of my assumptions are true. (Ex. when I thought they were dead because they didn’t move for a week, I took a closer look and saw leftover spider legs on the web. Do they also eat other spiders and even the same species?-and the research answer is yes.)

Cellar spiders can live for about two years, and it takes one full year to reach their full maturity. And female cellar spiders produce about three eggs sacs over a lifetime, and each egg sac contains approximately 10-60 eggs.

According to The Conference Board of Canada, the average human life expectancy is 82 years in Canada. How many generations would cellar spiders repeat while we live 82 years on this planet? If I were born on the same date with a spiderling, I would die with the 41st one. What if our life expectancy was as short as theirs? Would it affect the way we live now? How would they experience time while we live the linear Euro-centric perception of time, past, present, future? Over 41 generations during 82 sun cycles around the Earth, would they be adapting to upcoming climate change and the plastic planet? Can I understand what nature is telling us as my ancestors could in the past?

Reflection

1. Avoid observing indoor non-humans.

“I want to observe urban non-humans I bump into everyday in Vancouver. Through observation, I hope to understand their day-to-day lives, life spans, and interesting features in a relationship with modern human time to bring their ecological roles visibly and hope to discover their hidden wisdom for us to learn.”

This was my intention for this project other-than-humans time in Vancouver trying to grasp their perceptions of time. From the spider time project, I learned I should avoid indoor non-humans since they live in artificial human habitats. If I were observing outdoor cellar spiders, I would’ve been able to pick up more patterns and rhythms.

2. Observing became caring-building a relationship.

I started feeling attached to the spiders in my room that I only left alone because I couldn’t be bothered dealing with them. However, observing the same spiders for 15 days with the intention to understand their daily lives & patterns changed my attitude. Learning and discovering fascinating facts about them I now understand and respect their ecological role on Earth and feel very attached to spiders.

Spiders used to be one of the creepy insects I’d scream to my mom or dad to ask to catch. Now I see what they have that humans don’t have, how temporary they live compared to ourselves and how they are essential and complicated beings as a predator and prey to a lot of territorial ecosystems. Embodying this experience and seeing other peoples’ perceptions change, I also see a value in learning and sharing the knowledge about unfavoured, not appreciated non-humans that are commonly seen in urban environments, such as rats and silverfish.

3. plural versions of time

I visited Mon’s apartment the other day to watch crows commuting in her building. Organizing what time to meet was a hilarious experience since none of us didn’t know what time they would head back to their nests. Mon told me that as the sunset gets later, their commuting time has been getting later as well. (Aren’t these already fascinating factors to continue this project?) As she recommended, I arrived at her place around 530pm and we stayed on the rooftop until 730pm. Our attempt to watch crows commute didn’t work out that day, but it was an eye-opening experience imagining the speculative space of measuring time through different perspectives.

I want to continue observing other non-humans in Vancouver, but I’m wondering if there is a way to do it together with others. As my next observation, my candidates are crows, bees, geese and maybe cedar trees…

Handmade cellar spider infographic

Categories
Grad Design Studio I

In-season fruit and vegetable calendar in Southwest BC

“Live in each season as it passes—breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, & resign yourself to the influence of each.” Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 23 August 1853

Starting my first studio project regarding my research question with the Korean lunisolar calendar generated much self-awareness. The most significant lesson was learned by realizing that being in contact with nature meant so much to my ancestors. As part of the multispecies seasonal cycles, humans had to notice changes in wind, trees, air and earth and translate them to live within nature instead of with nature. I became aware that although I am far away from the land I was raised in, I now stand in a different land that I need to learn and understand. Speaking of land, I have been buying and eating almost the same produce since I was in Korea after moving to a different continent across the Pacific ocean. I already have lists of meals that I cook in rotation; my main focus was mostly on what ingredients I can find here. In fact, since I could get a multitude of spices and a wide variety of rice and tropical fruit anytime, I didn’t need to adjust my habitual cooking. There was no need to learn new recipes and locally and seasonally grown fruits and vegetables. To continue my journey of experiencing different times for sustainable living, I decided to make a calendar for in-season fruit and vegetables in South West British Columbia.

How should I make it?

I knew I wanted to make a calendar that I can share the design with other people but I wasn’t sure about what method and medium to use. I didn’t want the information to be just printed on flat paper by a machine, looking nice on the wall but not being used.

As a first step, I started gathering information about seasonal vegetables from online resources like 👩‍🌾 BC Farmers Market, Buy BC, and Farm Folk City Folk. The information was already accessible to the public, however, the way the data was visualized appeared challenging to digest. I realize now this was the moment I started slipping into a conventional problem-solving-oriented graphic design approach. I noticed the information was represented overwhelmingly and confusingly so I impatiently started visualizing the calendar into something more consumable. What does it mean to design this calendar that already exists on multiple platforms? How can I create the calendar so that seasonal shopping and eating become easier? What will be the most effective way of achieving a
a behavioural shift in my mundane grocery shopping which often becomes a burden?

What if it’s on my grocery bag?

I once bought way too many groceries from a supermarket chain and purchased their branded groceries bag. I don’t particularly like how corporate the bag looks with their well-designed brand identity, however, it is a handy size bag for heavy and bulky groceries. I started imagining a calendar that could be printed on groceries bags, not only mine but others so that people how are also interested in the idea can try to shop accordingly.

Visualizing the seasonal fruit and vegetable data

🥗 Top 20 Fruits and Vegetables Sold in the U.S.

Before I explain the images above, I want to emphasize that I was under many time constraint obligations while working on this project. In the inescapable cycle of exchanging time and labour for money and achievements, I felt internally and externally obligated
to show evidence of my progress. I rushed to wrap up my visual exploration to present the project to the class. I transferred my graph to a nicely polished mock-up image that I always depend on when I’m not happy with the outcome. I decided to spend another two weeks reflecting on my design process and the result by reminding myself why I had started this project. The main purpose was to motivate me, hopefully, others too, to eat more seasonally and locally and be more physically connected to the land I live in
now. I began to realize I barely made myself remember any of the vegetable information while designing the layout more practical and less time-consuming to comprehend.

I visited farmers markets and organic local grocery shops which also serve seasonal food. For the first time during the project, I felt seasonal changes through eating freshly made nutritional meals, smelling flowers and vegetables, and drinking locally grown
crisp apple cider. It wasn’t the most student-friendly priced experience, however, it granted me an opportunity to reconsider what other ways of exploring this mission are possible. The linear, rigid, and structured table chart didn’t contain the circularity
of seasonal vegetables and each seasons’ inter-connectedness. The more I thought of the seasons and time, my body wanted to grab needles and threads again, further away from convenient and efficient design methods I am familiar with. I decided to change
my method from screen to fabric, mouse to hand.

I bought secondhand scraps of fabrics which remind me of each season. Touching and cutting my winter sock that had a hole in it, feeling each of the stitched letters of vegetables with my fingers, I was able to slow down and immerse myself in what I was making.
Other questions naturally began to appear: I’m not familiar with a lot of vegetables on this chart, how can I expand my recipes to practice seasonal eating? Are the vegetables I’m stitching actually from this part of the world? They are locally growable vegetables you can purchase seasonally, yet what other plants, roots and fungi have been used in indigenous cuisines?

By having a glimpse of seasonal living, and using my hands to embody the knowledge, I started to see what I wasn’t able to see through screens. When stitching the calendar, I intentionally chose thread colours for legibility. For instance, I chose the pink thread for vegetables that are widely available throughout summer, fall and winter, and the white thread for black winter fabric. While trying my best to prioritize legibility, letters that are stitched in the same colours still require more attention to interpret. Irregular spaces and text sizes make the diagram difficult to read as well. However, choosing a slow and unpolished making method to visualize data opened a different internal discussion around the practicality of my graphic design practice. Through these unified colours of hand stitched words, the vegetables reveal their possible relations between
each of them to the potentiality of transforming one’s meal. By making people take more time to understand a design outcome, it allows both designer and design-consumer to slow down, and open a space for hidden dialogues. If information contains so much depth
of knowledge, is it the right thing to make it easy to read? Does every graphic design language have to be clear, coherent and precise? The focal question is whether we can afford the time to understand this unevenly hand stitched seasonal vegetable calendar.

Categories
Grad Design Studio I

Investigating my relationship with time

After gaining so much knowledge about the lunisolar calendar and seasonal customs, I was motivated to find my way to experience different perceptions of time in an urban environment. So I decided to write a time journal for a week to investigate my relationship with time.

How many times do I check the time during one day? When do I check the time, and why do I do so? And how does that make me feel?

I covered little corners of the screens on my laptop and my phone to bring this unconscious habit of checking the time to the conscious level. I knew it was going to be a challenging experiment since I’m in the middle of my semester and under a lot of obligations of attending classes and deliverables for my work. But at the same time, I was equally excited to see what I’ll come out of it and what this activity will teach me.

My week long time journal

On the first day of the investigation, I felt pretty lifted. Being conscious about checking the time naturally made me check the time less often, and consciously deciding not to check the time made me feel somehow I have more time in my hand.

I realized how much pressure I was under from the notion of time, and following urge to be productive and efficient all the time. After starting my masters, I’ve always felt like I need to micromanage my time and minimize any chance to “waste” time even when I don’t have anything to do urgently. As a result, I was constantly thinking about what I should be doing instead of what I wanted to do and be present with the moment.

After a couple of days into this experiment, I noticed how difficult it is to avoid looking at the time wherever I go. Microwave, oven, and screens at subway stations kept showing me what time it was. I was planning my everyday commute perfectly, so I didn’t “waste” my time on the street waiting for my bus and my train. When I felt hungry, I wanted to check the time to see whether it was an appropriate time to eat. When I went to bed, I checked the time to know whether I could sleep 6~8 hours which I heard as a proper amount of sleep. From the moment I woke up until I went to sleep, my whole day was structured by time, and I couldn’t separate myself from it.

Ironically, I also realized I was expecting to see how I use my limited time every day from this investigation to see whether there is any room to squeeze in more daily making practice for low-impact living.

Constantly feeling like I need to be productive made me consider what productivity means to me. Wouldn’t we be more “productive” when we don’t always think about productivity? And be more intentional about doing what we are doing and slow down the process?

Cross stitching to mark and visualize the time journal data

After documenting my relationship with time, I wanted to visualize the data I collected. Without knowing why I remembered I used to cross stitch a lot with my mom when I was young. I wanted to transfer the data and visualize it on a cross stitch fabric and place it on a second hand clock. So I went to Value Village (one of my favourite places in Canada now) and found this clock that seemed easy to disassemble.

I bought 7 different colours of threads to mark each day separately. I chose colours based on the traditional Korean colour spectrum, known as 오방색 Obangsaek (means five-orientation-colour). Obangsaek is the colour scheme of the five colours of white, black, blue, yellow and red. In Korean traditional arts and traditional textile patterns, the colours of Obangsaek represent five cardinal directions. Obangsaek theory is a combination of Five Elements and Five Colours theory and originated in China.

  • Blue: East, wood
  • Red: South, fire
  • Yellow: Centre, Earth
  • White: West, metal
  • Black: North, water

I started stitching on the fabric to mark the number of times that I checked the time each day. Each stitch is aligned with ordinary clock time divisions to show how many times I checked the time within each hour. (If I checked the time at 11:30 am, 11 pm I’d stitch twice on 11 clock line.)

I started my time journal on Wednesday so I began stitching with the red colour thread from the centre of the clock, blue for Thursday, yellow for Friday, and so on.

Reflection

This project of self-investigation with time somehow made me travel back in time. I remembered how much I enjoyed cross stitching as a little kid. I stitched flowers, characters, numbers and many other things and gave them as gifts to my family. Last time when I cross stitched was probably back in my middle school. I don’t know when and why I stopped, but getting back to this practice after so many years brought a lot of nostalgia, and lost memories of my childhood.

When I was sharing this work in the studio class, we had interesting discussions around productivity as one of the major modern values that influence our day-to-day lives. Louise asked us a question: When was the last time that you forgot about the time?

To answer this question, the first thing that came up to my mind was camping. When I spend time in nature camping, I wake up when the sun rises and go to bed when the sun goes down. Far away from obligations and artificial surroundings, I put my phone on silent and try to live present moment as much as possible. I also lose the track of time when I’m really immersed in the way I’m spending my time, just like when I was cross stitching for this project. Things that I enjoy doing eliminates the notion of time in my head, and all the to-do-lists disappear…

Categories
Grad Design Studio I

The Use of Lunisolar Calendar and traditional seasonal customs in Korea

These are the examples of the calendar that I’ve used my whole life growing up in Korea. We use the Gregorian calendar, but most holidays and traditional customs are based on the lunar calendar. This was pretty much all I knew, and I’ve never paid attention to why and how this works. Since my research inquiry is focused on exploring the relationship between the use of time and sustainable living, I decided to return to my root and dive deep into the usage of the lunar calendar and traditional Korean culture interacting with the natural environment.

Lunisolar Calendar

Little did I know, our traditional calendar was actually a lunisolar calendar. The date of lunisolar calendars indicates both the Moon phase and the time of the solar year, which is the Sun’s position in the Earth’s sky. A solar term is a period of approximately fifteen days that takes the sun to travel along 15 degrees of its annual circuit around the zodiac. That was why we had two dates marked in each month to indicate these seasonal divisions.

I also discovered the names and explanations of seasonal divisions are based on the climate of the Zhou dynasty, which is Huábei region (Northern part of China,) and Korea has been using the Gregorian calendar since 1896.

24 Seasonal Divisions

In the lunisolar calendar, spring starts in January and winter ends in December (You can compare the equivalent dates of the Gregorian calendar in the table chart). Each of the 24 seasonal divisions holds meanings that convey rich interaction with nature. As I mentioned briefly, these seasonal divisions are based in Huáběi region (Northern part of China) so the dates and meanings don’t exactly match with the climate in Korea. Translating the original meanings of the Chinese names and exploring how they’ve been used in Korean was quite an eye-opening experience. I realized adapting this calendar system into the Korean environment also influenced our language and created numerous idioms and proverbs.

Natural changes in climate were significant in traditional agricultural societies like Korea, which is why 24 seasons were utilized. Compared to the lunar calendar, using the position of the sun to divide the seasons allowed people to know the exact trend of climate. We have a saying called “철이 들다 chori deulda which means you are matured and grown up as an adult. I’ve been using this phrase in my entire life without comprehending that chor is another term to call season and -이 들다 i deulda means being coloured, influenced. Back in the day, the true indication of being a grown-up person was being influenced by the seasons to understand the land and the cyclical flow of farming.

#6 Spring Seasons

I started collecting traditional customs for each seasonal division to understand how people interacted with the lunisolar calendar in the past. I also wanted to find a historical reference of the climate of seasons to get a better sense of the natural environment at that time.

  • 입춘 Ip-chun (Start of spring) Ip-chun is one of the seasonal divisions that it’s still commonly used and referenced in Korean culture up to this date. All I knew about Ip-chun was this is when the weather starts to warm up. Since it is the first season of the new year, one of the traditional customs that still happens on Ip-chun is writing good phrases on paper and attachting them on doors, wishing good luck to come.
  • 우수 U-su (Rain water) U-su means that snow melts and becomes rain water, which indicates the cold winter has gone and the spring has come.
  • 경칩 Gyeong-chip (The awakening of hibernating insects) Gyeong-chip means that hibernating insects under the ground come out surprised by the sound of thunder and lightning. In Korea, due to the climate difference, it is known to be the time that frogs wake up from hibernation because people could start to hear them crying. People also believed eating frog eggs will keep them healthy. Drinking Mono maple tree sap is another traditional custom in the southern region of Korea during this season. People thought they could receive new energy of the year by drinking the first early spring sap that starts to rise in the trees.
  • 춘분 Chun-bun (Spring equinox) Chun-bun is when the Sun is exactly above the Equator and day and night are of equal length. This is the time the year’s farming officially begins. Farmers start to plant spring barley and collect wild leaves and herbs to eat.
  • 청명 Cheong-myeong (Blue sky) Cheong-myeong is the season that means the sky gradually clears up. People start plowing fields and paddies to grow grains and vegetables easily. There are also many weather-related myths in various regions since it is an important time to plan farming.
  • 곡우 Go-gu (Spring rain makes 100 grains rich) By the time of Go-gu, the farming season begins in earnest by preparing rice seeds. There are various proverbs related to farming around Go-gu, such as “All grains wake up on Go-gu,” and “When it rains on Go-gu, there is a good harvest in the year.”

#6 Summer Seasons

  • 입하 Ip-ha (Start of summer) Ip-ha is the beginning of summer. This is the time when earthworms wriggle in the yard, oriental melon flowers begin to bloom, and the sprouts of rice seeds grow in full swing. People are in the midst of silkworming inside of the house, and busy pulling out weeds in fields and paddies.
  • 소만 So-man (Everything grows and fills the world) So-man means that the sun is abundant and everything grows in full. Around So-man, people are busy preparing rice transplanting. This is the season when barley sprouts grow, and wild plants bloom, bear fruit.
  • 망종 Mang-jong (The right season to scatter grains) Mangjong means it is the right time to sow seeds of grain with beards like rice. Around the time of Mangjong, people harvest barley and plant rice in paddies.
  • 하지 Ha-ji (The extreme of summer) Summer solstice Ha-ji means the extreme of summer since it is the day of summer solstice. The sun rises highest and the length of the day is the longest so the surface of the northern hemisphere receives the most heat from the sun. In Korea, this is when the monsoon season usually starts hence drought often continue until before and after Ha-ji. The central part of Korean agriculture is rice farming, so rain is what determines the success or failure of farming. Therefore if it doesn’t rain until the summer solstice passes, rain rituals were held and various indigenous methods were mobilized.
  • 소서 So-seo (Small heat) So-seo means small heat which connotates the summer heat begins around this time. Meanwhile it’s still the rainy season in Korea so humidity is still very high. Transplanted rice take root in the ground so people pull out weeds and look after the paddies.
  • 대서 Dae-seo (Big heat) Dae-seo means big heat. The rainy season is over in Korea and the weather starts to get really hot around this time. There is an old proverb that says “Goat horns also melt because of the heat.” There is a custom that people visit valleys or mountains to drink alcohol and eat nutritious food to avoid the heat and stay energetic. Around Dae-seo, late July and early August, is still the peak of summer holiday seasons in Korea up to this date.

#6 Fall Seasons

  • 입추 Ip-chu (Start of autumn) Ip-chu means the beginning of autumn and it’s a time when rice is in full swing. Farmers hoped for continuous clear weather and they thought they can predict the success of the harvest based on the weather on this day. Cool winds begin to blow at night after Ip-chu so people start getting ready for autumn. In particular, radish and cabbage are planted around this time to prepare making Kimchi in November.
  • 처서 Cheo-seo (Heat stops) Cheo-seo means the heat goes away and fresh autumn comes. After this season, the scorching sun softens and weeds no longer grow, so people mow grass in the rice paddies and ancestors’ graves. People used to dry damp clothes and books since the rainy season is over. The air starts to feel cool and fresh in the early morning and late night, so there is a proverb that goes “Mosquitoes’ mouths become crooked after Cheo-seo.” Just like it says, flies and mosquitoes start to disappear, and crickets begin to appear one by one due to the coolness of Cheo-seo.
  • 백로 Baek-ro (White dew) Baek-ro means white due since you start to see dew forming on leaves at night around this time. Rice should be ripened before Baek-ro at the latest because when winds become cold and frost begins to fall, it’ll affect the yield of rice. Therefore, especially around this time farmers carefully observe the way wind blows to predict the success of the harvest.
  • 추분 Chu-bun (Autumn equinox) Chu-bun is when the length of the day and night become the same again. People were aware of this day as a turning point of the season because after the autumn equinox the night gradually gets longer. Autumn equinox and spring equinox are both the same length of day and night, but when it comes to temperature, the autumn equinox is about 10 degrees higher. This is because the heat of summer still lingers. 
  • 한로 Han-ro (Cold dew) Han-ro means cold dew since it’s the season the dew meets cold air and turns into frost as the air gradually cools down. The harvest must be completed before the temperature drops further, so rural areas are in full swing of harvesting. Around the time of Han-ro and Sang-gang, people also enjoy a loach soup called chu-eo-tang around this season, which translates to autumn fish soup.
  • 상강 Sang-gang (Frost falls) Sang-gang is the season when the temperature at night drops quite low in contrast to sunny autumn weather during the daytime. This is the late autumn season so colourful autumn leaves reach their peak and chrysanthemums are in full bloom. Sang-gang is also the end time of the harvest of the year, so people slowly start getting prepared for the winter.

#6 Winter Seasons

  • 입동 Ip-dong (Start of winter) Ip-dong means winter begins from this day. People cut rice straws and make them into porridge to feed cows since the grass dries up in winter. People also pull out radishes and cabbages from the field to make kimchi. It is said that the kimchi made around five days before and after Ip-dong tastes the best. However, kim-jang-chul (kimchi-making season) is now almost the end of November, perhaps due to climate change.
  • 소설 So-seol (Small snow) So-seol means small snow since the first snow falls around this season. This is the time when proper cold begins so people used to rush making kimchi before So-seol.
  • 대설 Dae-seol (Big snow) Dae-seol means big snow since it starts to snow heavily. We don’t necessarily have a lot of snowfall during this season due to the climate difference from China’s Huáběi region. People start fermenting soybeans to make Meju. Soybeans are boiled, shaped into squares, tied with rice straws and placed in a warm place so microorganisms that are beneficial to our body can grow. Meju makes fermented soybean paste, red chilli paste, and soy sauce which are key ingredients of many Korean dishes.
  • 동지 Dong-ji (The extreme of winter) Winter solstice Dong-ji is winter solstice when the night is the longest and the day is the shortest. After Dong-ji, the day starts getting longer little by little so people thought the sun cheers up and used to call Dong-ji the little new year. I also learned that early Christianity commemorated the birth of Jesus by using the day of the Persian Mithra religion’s festival of sun worship, which is around winter solstice. The Saturnneria Festival of Saturn which is an agricultural god of the Roman people was held from December 21st to 31st, of which 25th was especially celebrated as the solar revival day after the winter solstice.
  • 소한 So-han (Small cold) So-han means small cold based on the weather in China but it’s actually the coldest time in Korea. Farmers are fully prepared for the freezing cold weather until the beginning of spring. In snowy regions of Korea, people stock up for firewood and food for about a month since it gets difficult to leave the house.
  • 대한 Dae-han (Big cold) Dae-han is the last season of the 24 lunisolar seasons, which translates to big cold. Like I mentioned above So-han is colder than Dae-han so people start preparing for spring by repairing houses and organizing house moving.

Reflection

Learning about the Korean calendar that I’ve used my whole life gave me a lot of insight into the aboriginal knowledge in Korea, and its ecological sense of knowing. Paying attention to something that was always in my background helped me recognize how connected Korean people were with the land and other non-human beings in the past. It showed me there is so much dept in my language and culture that I’ve been unconsciously influenced by. It was also interesting how being far away from home allowed me this time and space to reflect on my life experience growing up in Korea. I told my parents about this project and my dad, who grew up farming in a rural area (he is still very connected to the land and natural environment around him), told me these seasonal divisions are still widely used to plan farming throughout the year. However, I’m living in an urban environment of Vancouver, Canada far away from the land I was raised. I don’t own a piece of land where I can practice this knowledge. Now, what are the options for me to experience different perceptions of time?

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Grad Design Studio I

Waste Time to Reduce Waste

Prompt 4: Inquiry

About four years ago, I started learning the environmental impact that a modern human individual causes. I got deeply engaged with low-impact lifestyles and started educating myself to reduce my waste in day-to-day life. I minimized using mass-produced products and started making my toothpaste, hair products, food. During this personal transition, especially after becoming a vegan, my friends and family also began to change their attitudes and practice sustainability on their level. Seeing the impacts I made on other people has motivated me to continue my sustainability journey. However, after moving to Canada for my master’s degree, I noticed how quickly my behaviour has changed. I was consuming things mindlessly. Due to the lack of time management and financial stability, my priority had to be changed. The convenience and efficiency of consumption became more “valuable” to me. This reflection on my personal experience instinctively birthed my research question: What can design do to help people engage with daily making practice rather than short-sighted quick consumption? How can we bring back the good old way of living, where we pay attention to surroundings and make things from scratch with natural materials around us, for individual pursuit of sustainability?

My research questions tie strongly around the relationship between modern capitalistic society and its perception of time. Time is quantified and measured as resources, just like money. The overflow of digital productivity tools shows our fear of wasting time. Increased obsession with efficiency and productivity constantly pressures us to not waste time. But is it such a bad thing to waste time? Are we wasting the Earth’s time by saving our time? Then what is the true meaning of a “waste” of time?

To identify a small project that begins this larger journey, I decided to make my own toiletry.

I tried to purchase the ingredients from a zerowaste store in Vancouver called The Soap Dispensary and Kitchen Staples on Main street. This store is Vancouver’s first dedicated refill shop, so you can bring your own containers to shop without packaging.

1. How to make your own toothpaste

My recipe is based on a YouTube video by Trash is for Tossers.

1-1. Gather Ingredients

🥣 Ingredients

  • 2 Tsp of Xylitol
  • 2 Tbs of Baking Soda
  • 7 Tbs of Coconut Oil
  • 30~40 Drops of Peppermint Essential Oil
  • A Bowl and Spoons to Mix
  • A Jar for Your Toothpaste

Time

10 minutes

🦷 Benefits of Xylitol

Xylitol is found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol can starve the harmful bacteria in your mouth, reducing plaque buildup and tooth decay. This can help prevent dental cavities and inflammatory gum diseases. Therefore, it is also a common ingredient in sugar-free chewing gums, candies, mints, diabetes-friendly foods and oral-care products.

🥥 Benefits of Coconut Oil

Current research shows that coconut oil may help to decrease plaque buildup on your teeth and reduce inflammation to fight gum disease. In one pilot study, oil pulling with coconut oil for 30 days significantly decreased plaque buildup and signs of gingivitis in 60 participants with plaque-induced gum disease.

1-2. Mix Everything

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix everything. Coconut oil has a melting point of 78 ℉ (25.56 ℃). To stir everything thoroughly, pop the bowl in the microwave for 30 secs or put it into a bowl of hot water to melt.

1-3. Voilà! All-natural DIY Toothpaste

You can run it through hot water or microwave it for 30 seconds to soften and keep it in the fridge in summer to harden.

2. How to make your own shampoo

My recipe is based on a YouTube video by Sewing Lara.

2-1. Gather Ingredients

🥣 Ingredients

  • 3~4 Cups of Water
  • 2~3 Tbs Flaxseeds (1/4 Cup)
  • 13~15 Soap Nuts
  • 10 Drops of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
  • A pot
  • A Strainer
  • A Potato Masher
  • An Empty Bottle (I used a recycled pasta jar)

Time

40 minutes

2-2. Boil the nuts and seeds

Boil the soap nuts & flaxseeds with water for 10 minutes, reduce heat and simmer for 20 more minutes.

🥜 Benefits of Soap Nuts

The shells of the soap nut contain a natural soap, called Saponin. When the nutshells absorb water, the saponin is released, which creates a soaping effect. Soap nuts are known to be antimicrobial which makes them an excellent alternative to chemical detergents. Soap nuts are also rich in Vitamin A and D. The nutrients in soap nuts provide strength to the roots of your hair which foster hair growth.

🌱 Benefits of Flaxseeds

Flaxseed creates a gelatine texture when it is boiled. This gel helps hair grow faster and longer by providing nourishment to the hair follicles. The presence of Vitamin E provides nutrition to the scalp and reduces free radical damage. Track your hair growth before and after using the natural shampoo to see the difference yourself!

You can mash the nuts with a potato masher to bring out the most saponin while they are simmering.

Once it is simmered for 20 minutes, check if the liquid is thickened up enough. You can also add extra water while boiling if the consistency is too thick.

2-3. Drain the mixture

Use a strainer to drain the liquid. Soap nuts can be reused up to 6 times, so I kept them in the freezer for the next use.

I squeezed more juice out of the strainer with a spoon and poured the shampoo into a jar. Once it cools down, add 10 drops of essential oil of your choice. I added Ylang Ylang to mine.

2-4. Store the shampoo jar in the fridge

Your all-natural DIY shampoo is ready to go! Store the jar in the fridge until use.

3. How to make your own soap

My recipe is based on a Youtube tutorial by Bottega Zero Waste.

3-1. Gather Ingredients

🥣 Ingredients for making 2 soaps

  • 150g of Coconut Oil
  • 22g of Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)
  • 44.64g of Water
  • 2g of Essential Oil of Your Choice
  • Soap Molds
  • A Spatula
  • Measuring Cups
  • A Bowl to Melt Coconut Oil
  • 2 Stainless Bowls for Mixing
  • A Thermometer
  • A Scale
  • A Blender (Preferably hand blender)
  • Safety Gears 👩‍🔬 Gloves, A Mask, Goggles (I used swimming goggles)

Time

2 ½ hours to make 6 soaps with 2 different additives + 4~6 weeks to cure

3-2. 🦺 Safety Guide: Working With Lye

In order to make soap, oils must emulsify with lye, which begins the saponification process. During this process, it’s important to make safety a top priority. Sodium hydroxide lye is highly caustic and has the potential to burn the skin. Like driving a car, sodium hydroxide is safe when handled properly. But because lye has the potential to be extremely dangerous,  it’s important to take every safety precaution.

  • ALWAYS wear goggles, gloves, masks, and protective clothing when handling lye.
  • NO short sleeved shirts, short pants, or sandals. Wrap yourself up to prevent any situation getting lye on your skin.
  • ALWAYS work with lye in a well ventilated area.
  • Remove contaminated clothing immediately.
  • Clean up spills immediately.

Find more information about the safety guidelines in this YouTube video LYE 101: Everything A Beginner Soap Maker Needs To Know by Royalty Soaps

3-3. Melt coconut oil & Make lye solution

Once you have the correct amounts for your recipe, start melting the coconut oil. I put the coconut oil bowl into a bowl of hot water to melt but you can pop it in the microwave as well.

Whilst wearing safety gears, add the lye to the water in a heat safe Pyrex, or stainless steel or heavy duty plastic bowl. Remember, always add lye to water, never water to lye! Doing so can cause the lye to expand, or erupt, out of the container.

3-4. Wait till the temperature drops to 110℉

When the lye solution and coconut oil are at about 110℉ (43℃), we can slowly pour the lye onto the coconut oil, stir with a spatula, and start blending. It’s better to use a stick blender but I used a normal blender I have at home. You can also use a cream whipper to manually mix the oil and lye, it will just take more time and effort.

3-5. Add additives & Blend until the soap starts to trace

Blend the mixture with additives of your choice (I used ylang ylang essential oil) until it achieves “trace.” Trace is when the mixture leaves a trail when dripped, which means the soap has thickened and blended enough to form a stable emulsion.

3-6. Mould & Cure the soap

Once we’ve achieved trace, it’s time to mould! Pour the soap into the mould, let it rest for 24 hours before you unmould it. After removing soap from the mould, the soap needs to cure for four to six weeks. Soap should be stored in a cool, dry and well ventilated space for curing and during this time the water and lye used in the recipe evaporate.

One of the main reasons to cure homemade soaps is that when they are first made, they tend to be on the softer side. A soft soap will dissolve away more quickly as it’s used, meaning that your uncured soap won’t last as long as one that has been allowed to dry and harden.

The two dark soaps on the top left are based on coconut oil with dried chai tea leaves and ylang ylang oil, and the white soaps are without the tea leaves.

This is just a friendly reminder for people who are new to DIY zerowaste toiletry products: Don’t expect them to be the same as conventional items. Most of the ingredients are from nature, and there is a limit to resemble the chemical effects of factory-made toiletries.

For me, the main motivations for making my own zerowaste products are the value of sustainability, the benefits of natural ingredients, and how they make me feel. Using my handmade toiletries makes me feel self-cared, mindful in my mundane activities of washing myself. It’ll take time to get used to their natural textures, fragrances, and how they work, so explore different methods and experiment with various ingredients you want to try.

Categories
Grad Design Studio I

Making Paper at Home with Locally Sourced Items

Prompt 3: Discourse

When I started working on prompt three, choosing a reading from our syllabi was pretty easy. Since my interest has been mainly focused on sustainability, I picked Resilient Systems by Manzini right away. However, I didn’t see how much I would struggle to find a connection between my making practice and the article for my prompt.

After reading renowned scholars’ established opinions on sustainability, I felt so inspired but also overwhelmed and helpless at the same time. Is there something NEW I can contribute to this discourse? Will I ever be able to design something that is truly “sustainable”? My practice in sustainability design felt so tiny and unimportant, especially considering the open studio event with possible thesis supervisors.

During one of our studio practice sessions, Cameron gave me important reminders / helpful questions, which helped me navigate the process immensely. Everything started falling into my lap shortly after the conversation. He said, “Your making should be fun! You are not in a working environment. You are a student, and probably for the last time in your life. What does being small, local, open and connected mean to you? What does extreme locality mean to you?”

I started drawing this mindmap to explore my connections between the article and myself trying to answer his questions. As you can guess from the mindmap scribble above, I decided to make my own paper at home inspired by my childhood memory of making Hanji(Korean traditional paper). I found this excellent tutorial on making paper at home, and I sourced most of the materials that I needed practicing the SLOC(small, local, open and connected) model from Manzini’s article. https://www.instructables.com/Homemade-Paper

1. Resources

  1. Paper waste produced at home
  2. A picture frame as a mould, mixing spatula, blanket from Value Village
  3. A dishwashing sponge and blender from home, the scrap of Teflon sheet from Warren, my housemate
  4. A secondhand window screen from Sharon, who I met from Vancouver Facebook Marketplace
Receipt from Value Village

2. Making

2-1. Preparing Paper Pulp

I cut paper box scraps into little pieces, soaked them into water overnight, and then blended them until the mix had the consistency of a thick soup.

2-2. Molding the Paper

I put the frame on top of the window screen and started pouring the mix inside the frame. I used the spatula to even out the pulp. The pictures above are from my first attempt, so the pulp is more bumpy and rough than it should be.

2-3. Pressing Out the Water

The original article says the best material to squeeze the water out is using a nylon mesh, but instead, I used a scrap of Teflon sheet that my housemate had. Anything that the pulp wouldn’t stick to is fine. I gently squeezed the water out using the sponge until I couldn’t hear the water draining from the mixture.

2-4. Drying

I put the paper underneath heavy books for a couple of hours to weigh down the edges of the sheet and squeeze extra moisture out. Then I put them around the house where it’s warm and dry.

If you don’t spread out the pulp thin enough, it takes quite a bit of time to dry out. But if it’s thin enough(like the picture from my fourth attempt above), it takes about a day to dry.

3. Playing

After I got comfortable with the process, I started playing with the pulp batch and mixing different materials around the house.

Turmeric Powder

Ground Coffee

Chilli Powder

Autumn Leaves

4. Outcome

I was pretty happy with how the paper turned out, especially those with turmeric’s colour. The one that is the roughest at the bottom left is my first sheet, and the ground coffee one at the top right is the latest.

I loved the organic aesthetic of the stems of leaves that left marks on the paper as well. Creating something this beautiful out of waste made my eyes open towards the possibility of material things.

Embroidery Credit Thanks to everyone who contributed to this project!

Categories
Grad Design Studio I

Visual Interpretations of Words with Typographic Material

Prompt 2: Material

Working as a graphic designer, I developed this fear around typography, such as not using the right typeface will make me look unprofessional. As the description of the second prompt says, I wanted to use this daily making practice to help me get out of my comfort zone and confront whatever fear I have towards my general design practice.

After discussing this idea with Cameron, I decided to pick a random word and create a poster each day, exclusively using typographic elements only. I already had so many words floating around my head from a recent challenge in my life, so I immediately made a list of words and started creating.

Considering the context of origin, the origin of my words, and why these words mattered to me in the ways I expressed is how my brain works around difficult times. I always seek meaning in my feelings from life experiences. I am currently processing a type of loss, and throughout this particular prompt, I found this activity quite therapeutic. I can see myself continue the prompt, and I am excited about where this practice will lead me next.

#1. Love

Love is a stream—it’s continuous. but love often does the opposite of stream—it stops. If it comes; let it. If it goes; let it.

Love feels very fluid for me right now. It feels like it has its vitality and life span that no one can guess or control, but that is the beauty of love. It flows, comes and goes, and I cherish as the way it is.

#2. New&Old

New things get old. Just like the old things did. -Take this waltz(Toronto international film festival, 2011)

This line is from one of my favourite movies that I watched more than ten times. Ever since, the concept and relationship of New&old is something I always try to be aware of, especially around people and emotions. New things are shiny, but new things eventually get old too.

#3. Transformation

Allow yourself to transform as many times as you need.

Butterfly is a dominant image of the word “transformation” to me. It feels warm, feminine and somewhat magical. While I was working on this, I thought of Sailor Moon. Whenever she turns into a superpower being, sparkling stars surround her, and I wanted to capture that image in the expression of the word.

#4. Forgive

The root of “forgive” is the Latin word “perdonare,” meaning “to give completely, without reservation.”

Luckily, I don’t need to think or use the word “forgive” often. However, I believe it is important to remind ourselves about self-forgiveness every now and then. The word feels like it lays at the bottom of all the layers of other feelings, and sometimes I don’t realize forgiveness needs a place inside me.

#5. Peace

You can find it within yourself.

A lot of my thinking process centers around finding inner peace. Peace has to come from inside me, and sometimes it may seem challenging to manage. But at the same time, I know it is always there, and all I need to do is look for it.

#6. Possibility

When there is nothing, there is the possibility of everything.

Possibility brings excitement into my life. I never know where it will lead me, and that is the beauty of it. I wanted to find a way to express its liveness through the typography, and I ended up making each letter almost look like an alien or some creature.

#7. Growth

Growth and comfort don’t coexist.

The word “growth” reminds me of trees and leaves. I love looking at a leaf’s skeleton when I walk in the woods, and that image came to my mind while I was working on this word.
Growth can be painful because it usually occurs when you step out of your comfort zone. However, I know I will look back at it and be grateful that I allowed it to happen.

#8. Freedom

That is what I want to feel every day.

#8. Freedom

Deep understanding requires active listening.

Categories
Grad Design Studio I

Gifting a Sense of Home

Prompt 1: Gift

Gifting A Sense of Home

As someone who has moved around a lot, a sense of home became quite significant to my physical and mental well-being. So when I move somewhere new, I always try to take a few things with me that will make me feel grounded.

I met Aamir for the first time when I went on a campus tour before the semester started. I remember him telling me he is still looking for a place, and he almost got scammed once from organizing house viewings. After getting matched as a pair for this prompt, I got to know him more in-depth, but I could not stop thinking that he is still looking for a place to call home. I understand how it could add another layer of stress to your day-to-day life, especially when you are also in a new country for the first time.

To me, home is where you can unwind, rest, and recharge. Home is where your day starts and ends, and you come back whenever you need to. Home is your sanctuary. I started brainstorming about the types of gifts that could give him a sense of home, also as a housewarming gift.

During the prompt, I went to Burnaby mountain for a hike with some of my housemates. We were looking for a washroom, so we had to get off the track for a bit.

And I saw this quote, “You are exactly where you should be.” written on the path. I know it is one of those cliche quotes everyone must have seen somewhere, including myself, but this sentence resonated with me during the whole hike.

On the same day, I came home and decided to draw Aamir’s face, write the quote at the bottom, and frame it as a gift. However, since I have met Aamir recently, I struggled a little to get the image I wanted to capture from his face.

While I was thinking and making this gift, I realized how important it is to have someone going through a similar situation. I am still experiencing some significant life changes like every other new international student here. From this prompt, I learned to remind myself and others that we are exactly where we are meant to be!