Slow Furniture in a Fast World

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Carl speaks to Oona Bannon and Russell Pinch, the couple behind PINCH, a London design studio famous for making furniture and lighting that combine the finest craftsmanship with a quiet aesthetic and respect for the environment. In other words, they fit into what has come to be known as the Slow Furniture Movement.


(Recorded in London on October 21, 2015)


Topics covered include:

1. How to work with wood in ways that care for the environment

2. How traditional craftspeople fit into modern manufacturing

3. Scaling up a company without losing its soul

4. The role of the internet and 3D printing in Slow design

5. Whether Slow design will always be a luxury for the affluent

6. How furniture can be designed to slow us down

7. The difference between young and older designers


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Slow Design

If you’re in New York City in the next couple of months, check out this exhibition on Slow Design.

Enough is enough

As recession bites, the excesses of the last boom look that much more absurd. Of course, many of the products sold during the largest spending spree the world has ever seen were designed to save time by speeding up even the most simple chores.

As a judge for the UK Landfill Prize, which compiles a Top Ten list of the most ridiculously unnecessary and wasteful products of the year, I saw some of these gadgets first hand. A few of the nominations were so silly I thought they were a made up. But they weren’t.

The grand winner was the motorized ice-cream cone. This is for people who are too lazy to turn the cone with their wrist. You stick out your tongue and the gadget swivels the ice-cream for you.

Third place went to the motorized fork. Yes, a fork that twirls the spaghetti for you.

One reader has just told me of another product that isn’t on the 2009 Landfill Prize list but would not have been out of place there. Give it up for: Selfy The Self-Making Bed. It was originally conceived for the infirm but its Italian inventor also hopes to sell to the able-bodied. Using a system of rails and runners, Selfy reportedly saves you 15 seconds a day. That’s a whole 105 seconds a week.

I think I’ll stick to Slow bed-making. Which means rearranging the pillows and pulling the duvet back up by hand.

Or not bothering to make the bed at all…



Visualizing time

One of the drivers of the speedaholic culture is our vexed relationship with time itself. Why is there never enough time? What is the best way to use time? Can we slow it down? Or speed it up? What exactly is time? An Italian graphic designer has now launched an intriguing project that tackles some of these questions visually. She is inviting people of all ages from around the world to submit a drawing that depicts the passage of time. Already hundreds have submitted their vision of time’s winged chariot in motion. Some are easy enough to deciper: a watch on a wrist; a cafeti√®re pouring coffee into a cup; an arrow flying through the air. Others are more enigmatic: undulating waves; a series of bubbles; lines coiled into the shape of a wind-sock. The site really gets you thinking about time and how to relate to it. It’s also fun to see other people’s take on it. Check out the site by clickingVisualization of Time Project. And while you’re there, why not take a little time to send in your own portrait?

Iceland takes the plunge

I’m in Iceland at the moment singing the praises of slow. This may be a small country – the population is about 300,000 – but the virus of hurry has entered the bloodstream here, too. In Reykjavik people race around in their cars jabbering into mobile phones. Everyone has a packed schedules and the working day is long. But at least Icelanders have an antidote: soaking in the outdoor pools that dot the country. In one complex near my hotel in Reykjavik, people of all ages, shapes, sizes and income-brackets come to soak in the warm water underneath the northern sky. There are no Plasma screens showing CNN, no speakers pumping out muzak or MTV and everyone leaves their mobile and Blackberry at the door. You just relax, let the mind wander or chat quietly. The best kind of slow.