Friday, August 01, 2008


click photo to enlarge
There seems to be a general feeling that "hand-made" objects are individual, high quality and expensive. And often they are. However, in many cases a better description is individual, shoddy and expensive. Conversely, mass-produced objects are frequently looked down on for their ubiquity, uniformity, low cost and low quality. Sometimes that's the case. However, it isn't always so!

Take cars. The very best examples of automotive design are invariably the less expensive, mass-produced small vehicles - the VW Beetle and Golf, Mini, Fiat 500, Toyota Corolla, Citroen 2CV, etc. These are the innovative and "different" designs that moved car construction forwards. The low volume Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Aston Martins, etc, that so many drivers lust after, may have a larger proportion of hand-assembly and finishing, and are certainly lavishly styled, but they are rarely good examples of design. What's more their reliability is usually considerably worse than that of their diminutive brethren. It's a fact that much of the best design of today is produced by designers working for industrial companies that make mass-produced objects - from hair-dryers to cafe chairs.

I was reminded of this when an indoor watering can costing 35 pence came into my home recently. It is made of a single piece of moulded plastic. The spout is simply an elongated groove, and the handle is part groove, part tapering tube. It's a design that is stackable, and is remarkably strong, its rigidity coming from the curves and folds that give it a very sensuous shape. More to the point, it performs its primary task wonderfully well - a great example of inexpensive, thoughtful, mass-produced design! As I looked at it the other day I saw a photograph in its swelling curves and tight folds, and gave it a shadowy, high contrast black and white treatment to emphasise these elegant and seductive qualities. The other reason I chose black and white is that I can't stand its lime-green colour!!!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/80
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off