This world has its share of accidental joys. Some are large, like the roadside misadventures of a UPS truck filled with industrial printer ink. Some are small, like balloon let go by its owner, floating up towards the clouds. These momentary surprises don’t change our lives, but they can divert our attention, reminding us of the magic in the world and calling us towards joy.
Designer Phil Cuttance seems to be a keen observer of small, accidental joys. He took inspiration from the bright swirl of oil in an urban puddle to create these Aurora Pots, which imprint the fleeting effect of oil on water on a series of hand-cast pots. Cuttance describes the process of creating the unique color effects:
A single drop of polish is dropped onto water. The beautiful, and usually momentary, slick that is created is then scooped off the water’s surface and onto the pot lid; each unique slick is captured permanently.
These pots captivated me immediately, but the design begs a question: what is the point of making our transient experiences into permanent things? As humans we have this impulse to preserve, memorialize, capture our best moments, our most joyful happenings. But should we use objects in this way?
In Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton writes about a related impulse towards possession:
Endeavoring to purchase something we think beautiful may in fact be the most unimaginative way of dealing with the longing it excites in us, just as trying to sleep with someone may be the bluntest response to a feeling of love. What we seek, at the deepest level, is inwardly to resemble, rather than physically to possess, the objects and places that touch us through their beauty.
It seems futile and naive to try to anchor our fleeting delights in objects, to pin them down in solid form. But balanced against that is the need for objects in our lives that remind us of life’s wonders, a need to bring these wonders into a place where our joy at their colors and shapes can be renewed at regular intervals. Seen this way, the Aurora Pots do have value. They also have the virtue of subtly changing with the light, so that they continue to be new to us day after day. In that sense, they defy their solid form and may become less like objects and more like a series of experiences.
What do you think? What is the value of creating objects that capture fleeting moments? Is it worth doing, or are we better off just experiencing them in the moment, and then letting them fly by?
February 27th, 2014