Meaning in the Everyday

December 27, 2019 - Kerikeri, Northland, New Zealand

On a recent trip to South East Asia, I was struck by the abundance of meaningful symbols adorning everyday objects.  

In an unpretentious way, meaningful imagery decorated items we may consider purely utilitarian or mundane.

The prevalence of symbolism is related to human's need to try and express the inexpressible. Not confined to purely visual representation, they can be found lurking in every area of human existence.

As put by Carl Jung: "Every psychological expression is a symbol if we assume that it states or signifies something more and other than itself which eludes our present knowledge."

How can this prevalence of meaningful symbolism in traditional culture, inform, what is generally a stark and commonly clinical, minimalist design movement?  

How could a simple, well-made piece of furniture carry meaning?

Fine bespoke furniture in New Zealand

I am reminded of Paul Sellers, a popular proponent of the hand tool movement, and his often-repeated adage: "It's not what you make, but how you make it."

Perhaps a focus on process, personal interaction, collaboration with the maker and sustainable sourcing of material could provide this sought after meaning.

Maybe it could be taken further by combining clean lines of minimalist work with powerful symbolism.

Where can we find meaningful symbols in our current, consumerist culture?


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