Project 2, Research point 2

  • What is their craft and how do they approach it in their work?

I have decided to look at the work of Marcela Rosemberg, a glass-fusion artist who lives in Cobourg, Ontario. My family and I met Marcela and had the chance to tour her studio a number of years ago when she lived on Prince Edward Island.

  • Do they adhere to the ideas of Slow Design? To what extent does this allow them to take risks, experiment and innovate?

I have not been able to find any explicit reference by Marcela to Slow Design, but some of the things she says about her own artistic practice are reminiscent of the movement's commitments and principles. The following passage from the "About" page on her website is a good example: 

Beauty, simplicity, elegance and functionality are essential components in Marcela Rosemberg’s designs. At her studio, she’s always looking for that special blend of colour and texture that leads her to each piece of art she carefully designs. She treats glass as if it were a human being, by respecting it and not pushing it. This allows her to understand its flow, displacement, behavior, and action up to its most intricate inner part… Its core. That is why Marcela always says: “Each time a piece leaves my studio I feel a little bit of my soul is going with it”.  

I remember very clearly from the studio tour that Marcela is constantly experimenting with combinations of colours and pigments to be used in her fused glass creations, as well as with new forms and purposes for the finished products. She was good enough to show us some of the less successful efforts that she still had on-hand, so it was clear that she was indeed trying new things and taking risks.  

  • Is their story or the story of their work important? Why?

Marcela's story is clearly very important to her and to the artistic identity she has established over the years. As her website explains, "[t]he ocean and her Jewish faith are the main sources of inspiration in her sculptural and functional current work."

Her website goes on to explain how when Marcela left her native Argentina she relocated in Atlantic Canada and that "her colours and designs are still standing strong on the East coast where she created a brand for herself."

Marcela Rosemberg,  Dancing Vessel

Marcela Rosemberg, Dancing Vessel

 

The importance of her Jewish heritage can be seen in the beautiful pieces that are clearly designed for the Jewish community

Marcela Rosemberg,  Miracle Menorah

Marcela Rosemberg, Miracle Menorah

Marcela's emphasis on her considered and hand-made approach to her work, as well as the emotional attachment that she has to her pieces will no doubt be a part of her story that is significant to her clientele, both those who are already clients and those who would like to feel that they are buying a unique creation directly from the designer-maker.

  • Do you value ‘craft’ and craftsmanship? Why or why not?

 Certainly. I get a great deal of pleasure from seeing the work of someone who has perfected their art or craft to a high degree -- I appreciate both the amount of work that has gone into making difficult things look effortless, as well as the finished product itself (whether that is an object or a performance). And this is not a recent thing for me: I remember being fascinated at the age of 12 by the skill of a backhoe operator who was excavating the hole for the pool that was being installed in our backyard. He operated a piece of heavy machinery like it was a surgeon's scalpel, working quickly to remove earth by following a spray-painted line on the grass, never once making a false cut. I thought of that craftsman years later when I read Aristotle's view that virtue is the practised skill of living well.

  • Is there room for craft in modern society?

 No question. Dedication to 'craft' is needed in so many areas of our society, not only in the arts, but also in the world of work more broadly. All work has value if it is approached with an attention to perfection of a craft and the pursuit of excellence. This extends from ensuring that ancient and traditional kinds of 'know-how' are not lost, to reminding us that the mass-produced may have brought us economies of scale but that there is still great value in considered, skillful and sustainable design and making. And this is true both for the maker and for the one who receives the made good. We cannot all be craftspeople in every field and inexpensive consumer goods have their place, but we are all richer when each of us has something in our life that we pursue as a craft, for our benefit and for the benefit of others.

Project 2, Exercise 1

  • Do you believe there is a demand for hand-made objects and work? Why do you think that some consumers seek out these qualities in the objects they buy?

Yes, there is certainly a demand for the hand-made. Some consumers are looking for a perceived improvement in quality; others would like to support craftspeople; and others again have a philosophical or ethical commitment to hand-made goods.

  • Do you think the desire for hand-made products is based on a romantic perception of the hand-made and a sense of ‘post-industrial nostalgia for the pre-industrial’? Why or why not?

I think this is probably the case for at least some of the interest in hand-made goods. I consider that it is a similar type of attraction that some people have for music on vinyl or analogue/film photography—there is a romantic attachment to a physical artifact that is not entirely dependent on hi-tech to make it accessible or to be enjoyed. Some of the attraction may also be based on aesthetics: some people believe vinyl has a 'warmth' that digital audio does not; some believe that there is superior quality to photographic film or that it too has a warmth not available in a digital image.

  • Do you feel that hand-made products are viewed as luxury or value-added products? How do hand-made items compare with mass-produced items, in terms of their value, life cycle, cost and ethics?

Hand-made products do not necessarily have to be more expensive than mass-produced items, but they often are because of the limited scale of production and how labour-intensive the production is. So, yes, hand-made items are often viewed as luxury items—it is often less expensive to buy the mass-produced item (which is generally better marketed, too). It is hard to compare the value, life cycle, cost and ethics of hand-made goods versus the mass-produced—I think it depends largely on the item in question. I don't believe hand-made is inherently superior, but I believe it has a cachet that mass-produced items do not.

  • Reflect on any hand-made item you own (not necessarily textiles). Can you remember why you were drawn to it? Did the fact that it was hand-made make it feel ‘special’ or did you just buy it because you liked the design? How did its price compare with the industrially-produced equivalent?

When I travel with my family we often buy one or two items to bring home with us. These are not strictly 'souvenirs' but they do remind us of the place we have visited and we lean toward hand-made goods. We—rightly or wrongly—have the feeling that the hand-made item has a greater connection to the place and the people we have seen. And the hand-made item often has a uniqueness or a particularity about it that does not come through in a mass-produced piece. The price of the hand-made item may be more expensive than a factory-made 'souvenir' (usually made overseas), but this is not a factor in our choice—we always opt for the local item.

For example, when we visited Belgium for a month a number of years ago, we could have bought tourist souvenirs in any number of shops. Instead, we chose to buy a small figure made by sculptor Lut Brackx. The figure sits in our living room and reminds us of our time in Belgium and the side street in Antwerp where we came upon Ms. Brackx's shop by accident and chatted with her husband for a while. A mass-produced item would not elicit quite the same feeling for us.

Project 2, Research point: Slow design

  • What are the guiding principles of this movement?

'Slow Design' is an offshoot of the broader 'slow' movement which began with the interest in Slow Food. One description of Slow Food runs as follows:

Slow Food envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet.

Our approach is based on a concept of food that is defined by three interconnected principles: good, clean and fair.

GOOD: quality, flavorsome and healthy food
CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers
— 'Our philosophy' at slowfood.com (https://www.slowfood.com/about-us/our-philosophy/ accessed 15 July 2017)

A similar approach can be seen on the website of Slow Swiss-made Watches, where the company describes the philosophy behind its single-hand, 24-hour timepieces:

slow watches were created to shift the way people read time. So rather than focusing on the second or the minute we have produced an instrument that measures the moment.

slow does not describe a speed…. It’s a mindset that most of us somehow lost. As a result of our busy lifestyles, we often forget that we actually have a choice of how to live. The slow watch (we named it slow Jo) is a subtle reminder that time is the most precious thing we have so we should enjoy everything we do and stop chasing every minute.
— slow-watches.com (accessed 15 July 2017)

Since the advent of Slow Food, the 'slow' label has been applied to wide range of cultural practices and phenomena such as aging, religion, education, fashion, media, science, photography and travel, to name just a few.

Slow Design has many practitioners and descriptions, but it shares commitments with the broader Slow movement around simple living, work-life balance, concern for time-poverty, and sustainability of materials and process. The ever-growing manifesto of just one Slow Design company, Deep Craft, is a useful illustration of how 'Slow' can be applied in design and fabrication. The first 11 principles (out of a list of 67 on 15 July 2017) from the manifesto are:

  1. Market = Material Provenance
  2. Maintenance = Improvement
  3. The functional lifespan of a constructed thing should mimic the lifecycle of its principle material.
  4. Entropy adds value: The functionality of a thing by definition incorporates/embodies its decomposition.
  5. Handwork may be the bedrock of innovation, but nostalgia for handwork is quicksand.
  6. Prepare for unintended consequences.
  7. Optimize beneficial end use.
  8. All vessels originate with an imagined voyage.
  9. Perfection is impossible to maintain.
  10. The tool shapes us as much as we shape the tool.
  11. Craft practices and products simultaneously preserve knowledge and resources.
  • Do you believe this approach to design and making could have a positive impact on our consumption of products?

Yes, I do believe this, but I expect that the impact will be relatively limited. From what I have observed, the Slow approach is most often promoted by people who are fairly well-heeled. It might be nice to know exactly where the wood for a new piece of furniture was sourced, that the piece itself was hand-carved and that a new tree was planted to replace the one that was felled, but this is production by the few, for the few. The Slow movement may wear humble clothing, but it is currently an indulgence for the wealthy, largely because hand-crafted items are usually much more expensive than those mass-produced. For Slow to have a real impact on the consumption of products, it would need to touch all sectors of society, be affordable to a broader range of people, and transfer more of its profits back down the production chain to the source.

  • Would you place more value on a product that has been created with this principle in mind? Why or why not?

I might, but it would depend on a calculation of 'value' to me and to my family. I would love to be able to buy beautiful, practical hand-crafted goods (although hand-crafting is not an immediate guarantee of superior quality), but sometimes we just need something 'good enough' that we can afford within our overall household budget.

I am sympathetic to the commitments of the Slow movement, but there are numerous factors to take into account.

Project 2, Exercise 3: The image as document

Why do you think that photographs are such a significant part of our lives? Write down how you feel about photos – or videos – from your family’s past.

  • Photographs are tangible artifacts that promise to preserve memories intact and changeless across time. Faces and places are of particular importance to us, so anything that can channel their likenesses to us is meaningful. We can preserve other kinds of keepsakes like letters or personal possessions, but they don't seem to have quite the same power. Perhaps this is because relate to people is more important than relating to inanimate objects, and to relate to a person most often means reading his or her face where we look for recognition, what is familiar and loved, and characteristic expressions and signs of mood.
  • I look at pictures and videos of my family's past to remember how people and things were. Sometimes they help me to recall a particular, mood or feeling, but it is hard to view them without adding on a layer of everything that has happened since the time the picture was taken. I also find that I feel differently about pictures taken of family members that I know than those that I have never known. Pictures of family members from generations that went before me are interesting in a curious (are those eyes like mine?) or historical (so that's where and how our family lived) way, but they do not have the same personal appeal—they both are and are not part of my story.

Will this archiving be affected by the digital revolution?

  • Digital photography has many advantages over film-based photography, but one of its downsides is the fact that I print so few images now. I realize that none of my children has probably had the experience of poring over a family album because there isn't one. There are now thousands more images in the house but they are not as easily available and we are not likely to sit looking at them together. (Although we did happen to do this recently and it occurred to me how much I missed looking at family pictures together, even those taken just a few years ago.)
  • Looking at screen-based imagery is not the same as looking at a photographic print: we are used to digital images being transitory and are more likely to browse rather than contemplate them. If we need to research or consume images, digital is much faster. If we want to take time over a picture there is no substitute for a print you can hold in your hand. I wouldn't call one approach better than the other—it is more a question of being appropriate to the task.

Project 2, Exercise 2

Does this make photography a medium uniquely suited to portraying time and the passage of time?

Yes, I think it does. Whether we look at images that allow for a longer passage of time than the eye can record (Trillo and Lartigue in the last exercise) or a shorter passage (Edgerton and Muybridge), photography has been uniquely able to extend the boundaries of the way we perceive, record and portray time.

Can other creative art forms deal with the concept of time to the same extent?

Other forms of art are able to portray or capture time in different ways, but few of them are able to do it with the flexibility of photography. Furthermore, I think that artists working in different forms and media recognize this themselves—and it is why so many conventions for portraying time in the other arts have been influenced by both still photography and moving images.

Project 2, Exercise 1: It's about time

Derek Trillo, Passing Place, Manchester, 2006

  • Conveys movement by using a slow shutter speed to capture two figures walking toward one another on a staircase. The resulting blur is effective, particularly because it works well with the silhouetted figures and the background colours—I think I can see some multicoloured fringing that gives the impression of speed.

Harold Edgerton, Bullet and Apple, c.1964

  • A high-speed flash has been used to freeze a bullet as it exits an apple stuck on a shell casing. This is also effective not because it allows movement to blur, but because it freezes an event that the eye cannot possibly see (the previous image also used a camera to portray an event in a way that the eye cannot naturally perceive). The entry and exit 'wounds' to the apple have only just been made and show the bullet's explosive speed and power.

Harold Edgerton, Multiflash tennis serve, 1949

  • Edgerton used a stroboscopic effect to slice up a moment that would have been visible to the eye (a tennis serve). Again, the technical properties of photography are effective in allowing us to 'see' an event in a way that would otherwise be impossible: this time a single, fluid movement portrayed as a series of discrete steps.

Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Ma cousine Bichonnade, 1905

  • Lartigue's picture of his cousin is also effective in showing movement through a relatively short exposure, although it gives the impression that the subject is flying. In that sense, though, it is no more unnatural than any of the other images—each one of them portrays movement in a way that is foreign to us, but that tells us something interesting about movement and the passage of time.

 

Project 2, Exercise 3: Film posters

Sing Street poster, 2016.

I have chosen to discuss the poster for the 2016 film Sing Street because it is a relatively recent movie and because of the stylized artwork.

The film is a coming-of-age story set in Dublin of the 1980s. The protagonist has a crush on a young woman and decides that being in a band is the best way to get her attention. As a result, a lot of the movie is taken up with those two themes: the development of the relationship and the influence of the popular music of the time.

The poster captures both themes well. The two main characters dominate the artwork and their fashion sense and hairstyles recall the 1980s. They are clearly young—both from the way they are dressed and the pinkness of their skin and lips. The lead is playing a guitar and singing, although the young woman is looking off somewhere else—the future? perhaps she has ambitions—and is dressed much like Madonna in the 1985 film, Desperately Seeking Susan.

Madonna in a production still image from  Desperately Seeking Susan , 1985. Orion Pictures.

Madonna in a production still image from Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985. Orion Pictures.

The image is not straight photography but has been posterized, with reduced tones, heightened contrast and saturated colours. In this way it references the look, colour palette and blocks of colour of the music imagery of the same period, as can be seen in the picture of The Cure, below. The type and typefaces are simple and bold, and are also in keeping with poster art from the 1980s.

The Cure

The Cure

Taken as a whole, the different elements of this poster for Sing Street combine to make an effective visual communication. They telegraph the major themes of the movie while evoking the spirit of the period in which it is set.

 

Project 2, Exercise 2: archetypes

Archetypes

The word archetype, "original pattern from which copies are made", first entered into English usage in the 1540s[1] and derives from the Latin noun archetypum, latinisation of the Greek noun ἀρχέτυπον (archetupon), whose adjective form is ἀρχέτυπος (archetupos), which means "first-molded",[2] which is a compound of ἀρχή archē, "beginning, origin",[3] and τύπος tupos, which can mean, amongst other things, "pattern," "model," or "type."[4]

Usage of archetypes in specific pieces of writing is a holistic approach, which can help the writing win universal acceptance. This is because readers can relate to and identify with the characters and situation, both socially and culturally. By deploying common archetypes contextually, a writer aims to impart realism[5] to his work. According to many literary critics, archetypes have a standard and recurring depiction in a particular human culture and/or the whole human race that ultimately lays concrete pillars and can shape the whole structure in a literary work.

[material downloaded from Wikipedia article "Archetype," 15 October 2016]

 

Character archetypes, their roles in a narrative and examples:

  • the hero: is generally virtuous, admirable and has the power to save or put things to right (example: Odysseus; Hercules)
  • the anti-hero: is not the antagonist to the hero, sharing many of the hero's characteristics but with flaws (example: characters played by Clint Eastwood in virtually every one of his roles; the title character in the book/movie Shane)
  • the artist: imagines, dreams and creates things that do not exist (example: the classical figure Achilles and a very long list thereafter)
  • the Christ figure: is a hero who suffers for heroism, sometimes to the point of offering/sacrificing his/her life for the person rescued (example:  most obviously the character Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but also Simon in The Lord of the Flies, Neo in The Matrix Trilogy, Dr. Who, others)
  • the trickster / joker: a useful character who can change the direction of the plot by introducing the unexpected or capricious (example: Loki in Norse mythology)
  • the fool: takes shelter behind humour and/or simple-mindedness to speak truth in situations when no one else would dare (example: Fool in King Lear)
  • the sage: a figure who can be consulted to provide insight or wisdom not possessed to others (example: Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings)
  • the king / the queen: the figure who holds ultimate power or authority, for good or for ill (example: Neptune in mythology; Mufasa in The Lion King; the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland)
  • the villain: usually the antagonist, helps drive the plot by opposing the hero or by making it necessary for a hero to arise (example: see any Bond movie... Goldfinger, Hugo Drax, Le Chiffre, Rosa Klebb, Scaramanga, Dr. No...)
  • the maiden: represents virtue, youth and/or innocence that usually need to be protected (example: Athena, Rapunzel, Snow White)
  • the crone / witch: an older woman who has some kind of power, whether of knowledge/experience or magic; could be good or evil, depending upon the story (example: the witches in The Wizard of Oz)
  • the hunter: one who pursues and thereby helps to drive the narrative (example: Diana / Artemis of Greco-Roman mythology)
  • the patriarch: the father-figure, with all the potential for love, protection, wisdom or control that that might entail (example: Zeus in mythology; Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird)
  • the matriarch: the mother-figure, with all the potential for love, protection, wisdom or control that that might entail (example: Hera of mythology)
  • the teacher / mentor: one who guides and imparts knowledge, wisdom or know-how that enables the hero or others in the narrative (example: Yoda in Star Wars)
  • the rich man / woman: has the power to reward, inspire envy and/or demonstrate the advantages and dangers of wealth and privilege (example: Croesus in Greek history / mythology)
  • the mastermind / architect: one who plans and builds and/or has practical wisdom that can be applied to problems (example: Sherlock Holmes)
  • the rebel: one who bucks the established order, whether for good or for ill (example: Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator; Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451)

  • the traitor: a disguised antagonist who undermines the hero or others (example: Fredo Corleone in The Godfather, Part II; Peter Pettigrew in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

  • the beauty: one whose attractive appearance can mirror inward virtue or demonstrate the deceptive nature of outward form (example: Helen of Troy; Sleeping Beauty)
  • the orphan: the child alone in the world, vulnerable without love or resources (example: Dickens' character, Oliver Twist)
  • the coward: in contrast to the hero, demonstrates the less-admirable side of being human (example: the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz; Count Rugen in The Princess Bride; Ichabod Crane in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
  • the innocent / ingenue: sometimes a demonstration of vulnerability that must be protected, but can also be a warning about the dangers of failing to learn and mature (example: Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol; Ophelia in Hamlet)

 

Archetype versus stereotype

The tidiest description I found of the difference between the two "types" runs as follows: "Although both archetype and stereotype draw from a "type" of person to create character, the difference is that the archetype will use the template as a starting place, and the stereotype uses it as the end point." ["Archetype versus Sterotype," consulted online 15 October 2016]

Following this line of thinking, the archetype draws upon shared cultural or mythical knowledge that the reader already has to help move character and plot development along. There should be a sense of recognition about the function of the character in the story but that function could play out in many different ways -- or may even play against type. To be a true stereotype, however, the character can never be anything but a stock set of exaggerated and fixed attributes that will also spark recognition but will not allow for exploration, novelty or growth.

Project 2, Exercise 1: The Hero's Journey

A. Mapping the Stages of the Hero's Journey

For this exercise I've chosen to apply Vogler's grid of the stages of the hero's journey to the Norman Jewison 1987 film Moonstruck. Written by playwright John Patrick Shanley, the movie straddles several genres -- romance, comedy and drama -- and I thought it would be interesting to analyse the film through the lens of a heroic quest, since that is almost certainly not the way it would normally be viewed.

Act I (Beginning = the hero’s decision to act)

1. Ordinary World — Loretta Castorini is a widow working in her family's store and engaged to Johnny Cammerari. Her life is predictable and lackluster. Johnny tells Loretta he must visit his dying mother in Sicily; while he is gone he wants Loretta to invite his estranged brother Ronny to their wedding.

2. Call to Adventure — Loretta meets Ronny and is caught up in his passion. Ronny tells Loretta that he loves her.

3. Refusal of the Call — Loretta rejects Ronny's declaration of love by slapping him and telling him to "Snap out of it!"

4. Meeting with the Mentor — Ronny agrees to leave Loretta alone if she will come with him to the opera, his other love.

5. Crossing the First Threshold — Loretta agrees to see Ronny again and attend the opera with him.

Act II (Middle = the action)

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies — Loretta feels guilt for her relationship with Ronny behind Johnny's back, so she goes to confession. She meets her mother there, who tells Loretta that he father is also having an affair.

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave — Loretta and Ronny go to a production of Puccini's La bohème at New York's Lincoln Center. Loretta is deeply moved by the love story.

8. Ordeal — During intermission at the opera, Loretta bumps into her father and realizes her mother is correct: her father is having an affair. Both Loretta and her father are exposed. Nevertheless, Loretta spends the night with Ronny at his place after the opera.

9. Reward — Loretta leaves Ronny's early in the morning and realizes that she has found love.

Act III (End = the consequences of action)

10. The Road Back — The family gathers in the kitchen of the Castorini household, where Loretta's and her father's secrets come to light.

11. Resurrection — Johnny Cammerari's mother has made a miraculous recovery from her deathbed (a resurrection!) and Johnny, superstitiously fearing that his mother might have a relapse, ends his engagement with Loretta.

12. Return with the Elixir — Now that Loretta has been released, Ronny proposes to her in front of the family and she accepts. Loretta has found love, the family is reunited and its traditions continue (as seen in the closing shots of framed portraits of the Castorini ancestors).

 

B. Using the Hero's Journey as a Template

Refuge

Act I (Beginning = the hero’s decision to act)

1. Ordinary World — orphaned teen in an African refugee camp

2. Call to Adventure — hero witnesses a young man being beaten by a gang in the camp

3. Refusal of the Call — won’t speak up for fear of reprisal and is afraid to leave the camp

4. Meeting with the Mentor — meets an older teen in the camp who tells him that orphans are being sold as child soldiers

5. Crossing the First Threshold — the two decide to flee the camp but the mentor is captured and the hero escapes alone at night as the slavers pursue

Act II (Middle = the action)

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies — others are callous or take advantage of him as he continues his flight, hungry and penniless

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave — the hero learns where the slavers camp is and seeks out the place

8. Ordeal — the hero is discovered and is wounded as escapes with stolen papers

9. Reward — the hero is able to identify those leading the slave trade

Act III (End = the consequences of action)

10. The Road Back — threats are made against the hero's life and efforts made to discredit him, but he produces the evidence of the slavers’ identities

11. Resurrection — the child soldiers are released, including the mentor

12. Return with the Elixir — the two are taken to safety, where they are able to draw more attention to the plight of children orphaned by war