Sunday, December 13, 2015

responsible design thinking.

Richard's concept models
Parts being formed for a miniature chair
Richard Bazeley sent photos of his current design project for 11th year students. They are taking sticks and dowels and making model chairs with the idea in mind of making larger chairs when the models are complete. The tools used are coping saws, knives, and a mini Veritas tenoner.

I like Richard's project because it is using materials from the local environment. Many design courses are dependent on foam core, a paper product with foam core, that inevitably ends up in landfills or floating  in an ocean gyre. Taking sticks from the natural environment, and making use of them, removes carbon from the ecosystem instead of adding to the damage excess carbon is doing to the atmosphere.

Years ago, publisher Robert Rodale had described the way handsomely made wood objects might serve as a carbon sink, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. Design thinking should take all things into consideration and lead students to directly engage in consideration of the natural environment and to consider the consequences of their actions.

At Clear Spring School, some of my students have begun work on cigar box guitars, by deciding on the shape box they will make for the body. It is easy to design things that can never be made. Designers have notebooks full of things that even the finest craftsmen would scoff at. To test your ideas in real materials should be an essential part of design thinking, and where those materials have physical attributes that offer additional challenges to the design process greater value is offered. To take sticks with all their inherent irregularities and make a chair is a good example.

I have ordered 10 new rasps for my Clear Spring School classroom, so that students can shape the necks on their guitars. The last time we made cigar box guitars we used a router to shape the necks. This time, rasps will give the students more opportunity to mess up, but also more opportunity to learn from the materials, and to shape their necks in a more personalized  and hand friendly manner. Shaping the necks will also be useful training for the hands in the perception of form. I'll start them by drawing lines on the neck and have them rasp flat planes between. These flat planes can then be rounded using a shoe rasp and sand paper, making the neck both symmetrical and comfortable to the hands.

I marvel at Donald Trump's sense of superiority, and his display of egotism. Craftsmen, in stark contrast, are rarely enabled to go so far off the deep end. If we were to ever get carried away with our own sense of self-importance, some form of failure in the processes in which we are routinely involved will bring us safely back to earth without damaging the lives of others.

On a positive note this week, scientists and citizens in almost 200 countries agreed on new measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as a number of political and economic entities in the US continue to obfuscate the issue. It is time for that obfuscation to end if we are to deal with the real problems associated with global warming. At this point, nearly anyone who takes the time to observe nature can see that global warming is real and that it is having adverse effects on local climate. Here in Arkansas for example, we are suffering from the most beautiful days that could be imagined in December. Delight in warm temperatures is moderated by an awareness of the damages that are impacting the whole world and every species of plant and animal life within it. Donald Trump noted that he was against the Environmental Protection Agency because they mandated reduced flow shower heads that require him to spend more time washing his hair. Is it not time for such comb-over foolishness to be brushed aside from consideration?

Make, fix, create, and serve the planet by helping others to learn likewise.

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