I was recently tasked in my Digital Design Concepts class to create something that called out to be touched. There were no other limitations, except that it must fit into a seven square inch envelope of space. As a type 2 Enneagram personality, I work well with defined rules and specific guidelines. I can therefore say that this ultimate creative freedom was terrifying.
My first step was to brainstorm. I wrote down everything that I enjoy touching. This ranged from textures (concrete, grass, velvet) to more abstract ideas, like “pointy things”. Also on the list was bubble wrap, which I shall return to later. After this list was compiled, I was only slightly less lost than before. I began sketching and came up with interesting, but impractical ideas. In the end, I decided to stick with skill sets that I already have instead of trying to quickly acquire new ones. This led me to paper flowers.
I recently got married. In preparation for the wedding, I created over 500 origami flowers. I also dabbled with coffee filter roses, but was less successful with them. However, this left me with the tools and skills to quickly create paper flowers of close to professional quality. But how could I turn paper flowers into something that called out to be touched? My first idea was to glue several of varying types/sizes to foam shapes. I have no idea how this might have turned out, because due to a happy accident, my cousin had my glue gun for an extended period of time. Because of this, as I was going to class one day to present the first prototype, I tossed a few flowers into an old plastic jar that I use to hold crafts. The only way to get the larger coffee filter flower to fit into the container was to turn it upside down, then pack in the origami flowers on top of it. The stem of the rose was cut short and bent, so with the flower being upside down, it created a sort of handle. The result was instant intrigue.
The next iteration involved bubble wrap, lots of it. I decided that intrigue was great, but now the class knew what was at the end of the handle so I needed to up the ante. I took a small, blue, glass jar and wrapped it in bubble wrap. I also cut 3 long strips of bubble wrap and affixed them so that they could fall into flowing piles. I took blue LEDs and wrapped them in tissue paper and put them in the bottom of the jar, then the flowers packed on top like before. When presented to the class, it was unanimously voted that bubble wrap was cheating. However, an interesting thing happened with the longer strips. My professor began molding them in interesting ways. I was shocked to discover that they could hold multiple forms, including standing straight up. When used in this unexpected way, the bubble wrap really spoke to me.
In the final version, although everyone insisted it was cheating, I decided to keep the bubble wrap. Instead of the blue jar, I used a hurricane vase and painted the outside with pearlizing paint. This created an odd texture on the outside of the vase that was transparent, but noticeable. I kept the strips of bubble wrap, but put them inside the vase instead of outside. This was to signify that it wasn’t being used to protect the vase. I then hollowed out foam balls and put blue LEDs inside to diffuse the light more than the tissue paper had done. I packed the flowers in the same way, but arranged the bubble wrap so that 2 sides were sticking straight up and 1 was flowing out, like a petal. I also added felt petals to the outside of the vase, to add another texture and also emulate the overall flow of the piece. The great moment for me was when it was “unboxed”. The way the flowers were packed in made it so that when the larger one was pulled out, a few others tumbled out afterwards. It was a little waterfall of flowers that was unexpected and wonderful.
I think if I were to further play with this design, I would spend more time sanding the foam balls that housed the LEDs to create something that was nicer to look at and add another element to be touched. In the end, though, I was happy with the final product and glad I decided to keep the bubble wrap. The process of sharing our designs with others and experiencing their reactions certainly helped me to create a better final product than I believe I could have achieved on my own.