19 Sep The Brabantia Tangent
Sometimes – most times – I am incapacitated by the thought even of writing. How does one pull down one strain of thought from the chaos of observations and narrative that is constantly going on in one’s head? Or is that just my head? Meditate, you say. Bah. Don’t get me off-track when I haven’t even set a track!
This morning my Googling led me to the subject of ironing boards. I have been without ironing board for all my years – generally I’ve rebelled against the whole concept of ironing. Who has time to iron? Let’s reframe the question… who makes time to iron? These are a special breed of people – like my uncle John and mother, who gains some perverse peace at the board. From sheets to underwear, she’ll stand above that particular nostalgic smell of Tide clean and hot metal, with strains of frizzling electric cord as the Sunbeam grows old fifty years later. What a sense of productivity, to see the colourful piles of pressed items set to land in individual rooms. Worn clothes are set up with dignity again. Why iron linen when it’s set to wrinkle in seconds? Did you know that a linen skirt when ironed falls like a caress and swishes around one’s legs like silk? Now that is a simple luxury and it’s an insight only the ironer (or compulsive dry-clean aficionado) knows and it gives them secret pleasure, like fancy underclothes. Here is an occasion for pleasure that’s free – or nearly so – the price of ironing time, a decent iron (I’ve just acquired a sweet old Sunbeam from the thrift for $4) and ironing board. Oh and a washing machine. But that’s another story.
Which brings me back to my search. I’ve been waiting for the thrift store to offer up a retro board, made in North America, with some funky worn colour, orange spirals, still life with apples or the like. No luck and for years I’ve been waiting. The local hardware stores have standard imported fare – quickly made in factories of uncertain condition – made to break within a year or two of open-close. Google, sir, what have you got for me today? Ah the endearing Google Suggest comes up and tosses out “ironing boards made in Italy”. Being an Italophile I had to pursue the search awhile. A review of quality boards led me to Williams-Sonoma and an FSC certified ironing board, family business – a beech board. Its neighbour on the page hails from Latvia and I much prefer its spare metal aesthetic and regal name – The Brabantia. My proclivity to deliberateness in language and design gets the best of me, often!
And that devil Google Suggest also intimated “ironing boards – made in the USA”. Lemming, I had to follow. Well did you know that there’s only one ironing board producer left in the US? In Seymour Indiana, the birthplace of John Mellencamp (whom I saw in Montreal 23 years ago, if you’d believe it and aside). This ironing board trivia dates back to a Washington Post article from 2010 so I’m not sure if the Seymour Housewares Corporation serves up ironing boards anymore – they couldn’t compete with their offshore competitors, though their production model has it sounding like they tried.
And here we hit that thorny topic of differentiation that we all face in the global marketplace today – do we try to compete with cheapest? Or do we fight for market ground based on quality and value(s)?* Every purchase we make impacts our world – and we all need to weigh in on our values – country of origin, manufacturing conditions, distance travelled and the energy consumed to get into our hands, economics. I say economics, not budget, because the real cost of our purchases is far greater than the tag we see. What are we doing to our world when we make the decision we want therefore we acquire because it fits into our household budget? We the consumer form the consumer electorate and we’re shaping our local economies and the world with our choices. We all bend our values at times to accommodate our own take on reality. But conscious purchasing is a fascinating thing: it’s interesting, it’s powerful, it takes time and by its very definition – makes you think. As a designer, I see every purchase as an addition or a welt on my own moral and physical aesthetic. Even buying into a service like Google (whose facelift on September 1st is still jarring to me and barely explained on their official blog. G.) is a decision we should be making consciously. That Google suggest… is a whole treatise unto itself on the bald power of sorting troughs. Treatise thereon hopefully coming to this blog one day soon. Then planned obsolescence. And manufacturing in Canada. And what it means to be in business.
And and and this is why I don’t write often. I close with more milling thoughts and a thousand more threads I’d like to follow. This entry is dedicated to Carol Gordon and her Colours of Energy exhibit. When you advise someone to take pen to watercolour paper, it probably means you yourself should too. The show stirred up my artistic sensibilities again and led me to artists Ingrid Vincent, Rita Rankin, Donna Deschenes, Stan Lukasiewicz, Jim Lawrence art. Thank you for reminding me to look. And thank you always to the indomitable arts champion Jami Scheffer. I didn’t know art shows were DJd now – the mood at Pynelogs was euphoric last night. The show’s on til September 29th. GO see art!
*The thread on conscious consumption (and the act of writing itself) has definitely and infinitely been inspired by perpetual conversation around fair trade and economics with my sister and talented blogger Maddie Bennett. Maddie ensures Kicking Horse Coffee’s deeper story is told – check out her latest post referencing recent her recent experience with cooperatives in Peru.