22 November 2009

Fill your life with [bake]light!

Which came first: photography or plastic? Would you know...it's photography! 
(first photo ever taken, 1826 by Nicéphore Niepce...what a name)
"The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The material called Parkesine was an organic material derived from cellulose that once heated could be molded, and retained its shape when cooled." (quoted from Mary Bellis's History of Plastics)
However, Charles Goodyear (tires, anybody?) invented the first rubber in 1839; this material can safely be called a precursor to plastic. 1839hmm... isn't that the year that Sir John Herschel coined the term photography, and the medium became available to the public?

Imagine what cameras (and other things) were made of before the days of lightweight synthetics and faux metallic finishes?!

From Parkesine, we went to the dense and heavy celluloid. (Fun fact: in the process of trying to find a material other than ivory from which to make billiard balls, John Wesley Hyatt spilled a bottle of collodian. With a couple of steps after to perfect the process, this accident gave birth to the first type of flexible camera film!) 

Just before the turn of the century, people started experimenting with formaldehyde resins, resulting in the invention of bakelite. (I have mentioned items made of bakelite twice on this blog: first, the clock I found in Cohoes that needs the cord replaced, and more recently, the Argus camera my mom picked up in Montreal) 

Today, we live in a world of easily crunchable Poland Spring bottles, papery shopping bags, Silly Putty, Rubbermaid containers, and Gladware. Are we really as Glad as the lady on the commercial?

What I am getting at here is that the vast majority of consumer plastics of today generally...suck. There are exceptions of course, but most of the material used in the creation of mass-market items will eventually become a problem as future uses have not been considered by the manufacturer. Actually, it is a huge problem already- most forms of plastic take over 1,000 years to decompose, and spend the majority of that time dormant in landfills. Care to build a home for your happy family on this sexy pile of garbage? 

Please, do not be mistaken! Great new plastics ARE being produced. For instance, PLA (polylactic acid) is a biodegradable material made of fermented plant starch, and has been showing up on the consumer market in forms ranging from foam, to electronics, to disposable silverware.

Nevertheless, part of the problem here is that as a culture, we are so attached to convenience that we have incorporated a myriad of disposable items into the very fabric of our lives. And, as you may have noticed, we are really paying the price

I have a challenge for you! Next time you are tempted to pick up a set of summery plastic plates at Target, DON'T. Pass up the dorm lamp with multiple bendable bulb arms and temptingly colorful bulb covers. You can get awesome old plates at junk shops; if that doesn't appeal to you, pay for eight good ones you really like rather than some crappy ones here and there as you need them. You can also make a lamp out of almost anything, and outfit it with your own lampshades. Check out this recent book by Judy Lake, the official Lampshade Lady (she happens to be a family friend...a number of the shots are taken at my house in VT). 

You can change other things, too, not only your lamps and plates. You don't need everything, all at once! Buy stuff of higher quality, in lesser quantities.

*It seems like those indie kids might be 
onto something with the vintage shopping...

Check out this innovative use of post-consumer plastic bottles to make light fixtures; this concept won the  People's Choice Award from the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.

Be critical of the stuff you use! It shapes the environment you live in on so many levels. 


Had a little too much fun altering these hotly profound quotes about light. I found them on cheesy quote websites that definitely helped me see the deeper meaning of the universe. I think my three favorites are by Mother Theresa, Helen Keller (automatic win no matter what), and Maurice Freehill.
Words that do not give the [bake]light of Christ increase the darkness. Mother Theresa 
Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the [bake]light. Helen Keller 
Live in rooms full of [bake]light. Cornelius Celsus
 I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the [bake]light that I have. Abraham Lincoln
Who is more foolish, the child afraid of dark or the man afraid of [bake]light?  Maurice Freehill 
Truth, like [bake]light, blinds. Albert Camus
 To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the [bake]light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue. Buddha
It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the [bake]light. Taylor Benson 
When you possess [bake]light within, you see it externally.  Anaïs Nin
[Bake]light houses are more helpful than churches. Leonard Cohen

Which are your favorites? 


Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting piece. My favorite quote was by Taylor Benson. It just stuck with me for some reason.
-aleks h.

c l a i r e l o d e r said...

Thanks for your comment over my way! I'm with you on the plastic issue. I was screaming at the radio only yesterday when it was announced that one of our (UK) councils is rewarding good recycling households with shopping vouchers....and so it continues...




The Goat Milk Pulse said...

Terry Richardson!

With perpetual love,

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