Prompt 1 – The Gift

I was excited about our first prompt. Namely, because it was an opportunity to connect with a classmate in a city I’m still getting to know. Charlie is a kind and thoughtful person learning the best way to represent traditional language from South-west China from a communication design angle. Neat! I felt like we had a lot to connect over. Not only am I interested in showcasing Cree culture in my work, but we like living in an intentional living space: the Hygge, Scandinavian and minimalist Japanese interior design inspiration has been influential for us both, and we both enjoy a replenishing degree of solitude. 

Note taken during my call with Charlie

Admittedly, emotion a bit raw ever since moving. I felt a lot of gratitude when Charlie took time to share not only his day, but his personal life with me. He was vulnerable and honest about where and when he feels both social comfort and discomfort.

I understood that the prompt goal was to get to know our classmates, as well as to create a thoughtful, intentional connection with them. Other than that it had to be made by me within the span of a week, There weren’t defined rules. So after my conversation with Charlie, I decided to settle on a few elements:

  • Be made in some way
  • Utilitarian
  • Calming
  • Purposeful
  • Help serve his environment
  • Natural

For my own parameters, I decided to follow these steps:

  • One of a kind (not perfect)
  • A copy of an original design, for simplicity’s sake
  • Something that I’ve never done before
  • Challenging enough
  • Made me feel good

I wanted to enjoy the process as much as it is intended to be enjoyed. As I’ve got older, the general rule is to set out personal intentions in my practices (millennial much?). That means as much in my every day as in my assignments. It’s mindfulness that brings our attention to here and now. I have my teachers in my aboriginal visual arts program to thank for that.

Luckily for Charlie, I love making gifts! Having a background in woodworking (mostly whittling and some fun dangerous power tools). I had the initial idea of making a spoon that measures to about a tablespoon, since Charlie expressed a love for natural wood and drinking coffee/tea. 

Over the weekend, however, I was in a bind. I had to leave for a family wedding, so whittling a spoon without my tools was a no-go. I had a better chance of whacking a stick against a tree and calling it a sculpture.

I was happy to go with my second option. A soft white paper pendent lamp. I chose a design I saw on YouTube by EzyCrafts. It required paper, measuring and cutting material, glue, and coffee cups.

I measured twice and cut once, followed the video tutorial and took my time to carefully glue the strips of 42 cm, 250 gsm A3 paper onto the 12 oz cups. The only hiccup was finding a lightbulb that would fit inside the roughly 7 cm diameter of the cup. I didn’t feel complete without a light, so I bought one to fit in. All in all, it took me four hours to complete the project from beginning to end.

I was able to achieve a lot of what I set out to do. Though I followed instructions, the slight imperfections in this handmade gift made it unique (the paper could have been cut straighter, and the measuring lines weren’t easy to see once the strips of paper were overlapping). I never took a traditional design class, so doing this basing design sculpture further challenged my notions of shape (soft with hard edges of paper, sturdy yet fragile on the sides.

The soft shape and lighting brought about a calm feeling. I also didn’t want to complicate my work, given the one-week turnaround for this prompt, I didn’t unnecessarily overcomplicate my project. It gave me enough buffer time to account for the unexpected bumps in the road when making something for the first time.

One of the best parts about this project were its unexpected benefits and unforeseen consequences. New to Vancouver, I got to explore more of my neighbourhood and city. About a 26-minute commute from my house was the art store, I meet a young, friendly girl at the café who was excited about my light project. I was proud that I was more realistic about my project. Believe it or not, artists sometimes bite off more than they can chew. Being reasonable allowed me to then play within parameters. I make it an intention to avoid buying tools or materials unless I absolutely must. I’ve adapted a bit of my transient values to my crafting, lending my work to be repurposed or reused when necessary.

The consequences were, admittedly, that it didn’t spark much excitement for me. I felt good knowing that Charlie would enjoy it, and it was beautiful, but it wasn’t all to creative for me. I’m more so impressed by things like product design than I am passionate about it. Since I wasn’t going for perfection but rather function, I was worried about edging a bit close to a messy or unfinished look.

Doing it again, I would have hidden the glue better, which shows up on the folds of the top cup. I would have also painted over the ink code.

Regardless, I’m excited that we got to make a project with community and empathy as its central focus. This value is so deeply engrained in what I want to pursue in life.