“If all that survives of our fatally flawed civilization is the humble paper clip, archaeologists from some galaxy far, far away may give us more credit than we deserve. In our vast catalog of material innovation, no more perfectly conceived object exists…..with it’s bravura loop-within-a-loop, the clip corrals the most chaotic paper simply by obeying Hooke’s law.” – Elegant Solutions by Owen Edwards
I have been in awe of the paperclip for quite some time, an object so simple seeming but whose function borrows on the basics of physics and engineering. When tossing around ideas I have been known to say “Think small, remember the paperclip.” It is a testament to it’s perfect design that most of us have come to take it for granted when in reality, the paperclip has only been a common object since the late 1800’s. Before that, documents were held together by needles and thread. The invention, design and re-design of the paperclip is actually an engaging saga that involves scientists testing different metals, inventors in the industrial age coming up with machines to produce them and historians arguing about patents and a ‘who thought of it first’ race to claim title as ‘inventor of the paperclip’. It was the ‘Social Network’ of 1899! Surely a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio can’t be far behind!
The use of the paperclip has evolved in the last hundred years and in 1958, paper clips were surveyed for their uses. Some of the results of the survey included: as toothpicks, fingernail and ear cleaners, fasteners for nylon, bras and blouses, tie clasps, chips and markers in games, chains and childish weapons.
The 21st century has seen the paperclip go beyond form and function and into the art world. A 2004 documentary titled “Paper Clips” followed eighth-graders at Whitwell Middle School in Tennessee who used paper clips to illustrate the sheer magnitude of the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.
Italian artist Pietro D’Angelo uses paperclips to create his life size sculptures which depict people engaging in ordinary activities and the result is anything but ordinary! A wonderful example of the marriage between art and design. See photos of his work on page19.
This month we explore the world of design; from Mexico’s newest museums, to sustainable building to re-examining ordinary objects through the lens of art. Since Andy Warhol’s soup cans, the long running debate in the art/ design world of what is the fundamental difference between the two, has been mainstream.
Artist Maria Khan says “Art is derived from our external and internal experiences. Art is a projection of what you experience, how you view the world and what you want to vocalize. Design on the other hand, is taking a problem and finding solutions for it, and art is merely a tool in a designers mindset.”
This issue we explore not only design, but what happens when great design becomes art. As always, we hope to inspire you… perhaps even to reexamine everyday objects through the lens of creativity.
See you next month,