Matthew Hastings: What's Your 'Local'?
Take a moment to look around you. What are the objects that you see? What are they made of? Who made them? Do they say anything about the place they are from? Do they tell you anything about the place where you are?
All alone, an object can be an amazingly ambiguous thing. However it can be imbued with meaning far beyond its inherent material qualities. rough use it becomes part of the fabric of our lives. Look at your cell phone. What do its form and materials say about it? Not much. But pick it up, turn it on, and it becomes an extension of your identity. We literally fill them up with meaning: photos, videos, music, friends, etc.
Let’s set the phone aside and look for something else. Something that was made by hand, possibly even close to where you live. Maybe it’s some pottery or a piece of furniture. What does that object mean to you? It’s different, isn’t it? I think this, too, has to do with use, but there’s also something more going on here: the life of that object began before you possessed it. When we acquire something made by another person, just like when we inherit something from family, we become a part of its story just as much as it becomes a part of ours. And part of that story is the spirit of the maker. Who are they? Where is their studio? Do they work with materials we could find in the woods out back, or in the riverbed? Does its form relate to the vernacular of other objects that come from this place?
When an object is both beautiful and filled with deep personal and cultural meaning, it is more likely to be something that we carry with us. There are so many wonderful things about this. First, we are more likely to care for it and thus less likely to need another. Second, we are able to feel this connection each time we use it. It becomes a cherished piece, and its use can be a ritual of reverence that brings deeper meaning to our everyday life. Most importantly that object becomes a source of joy.
As a furniture designer here in Vermont, I try to create work imbued with this spirit. Work that tells the story of this place through materials and form, that grows better with age and use, something a little wear and tear can only make more beautiful, that becomes a joyful part of your dai- ly life, and that can be lovingly passed on to become a cherished part of someone else’s story.
That is my local.