Fast dirty serendipity


This morning, the scalpels were out again. Becky was putting the finishing touches to a rather brutalist apartment block, and I was making a fence out of strips of cardboard.

Cardboard’s a brilliant material to work with, especially if you want to make something quickly and cheaply, and you’re more interested in the general shape than the perfection of the finish. Working quickly is especially fun with a cheap material: it doesn’t matter so much if things go wrong.

One of the themes of this project – for me, at least – is that excitiment and liberation which I was feeling as I worked this morning, scalpel flying, glue gun at the ready beside me. Working fast and dirty, with minimal risk (apart from the scalpel blade, of course) but a big reward as my work took shape before me.

It’s something I should do more of – make a regular practise of fast dirty experimentation. Low risk, but with the chance of a big reward. And maybe not just in cardboard, but transferred to other media and making too. The reward might just be that the thing I’ve made, or written, or whatever… or it might be the discovery of an idea for something else. Exciting.


We’ve got a bit of a pattern emerging for our days this week. Coffee, review of yesterdays work, and then the rest of the morning making and preparing new stuff. Then in the afternoon, the digital pin-hole cameras appear, and we start making images.

Working with low-fi techniques like this is kind of where the magic lies. The simplicity of the pin-hole camera takes away a lot of the control that a regular camera offers, but at the same time, it gives us serendipity. We’re never quite sure how an image will turn out until we’ve taken it, but, then eventually (with patience, luck, experimentationm skill) we find the serendipitous image that somehow works, and it feels great.

But, let’s be clear, trying to engender serendipity several times a day feels a lot like hard work!