Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Function and Use

Shortly before my parents married, while my father worked in a chemical laboratory, he brought home from work a crate used to hold bottles of sulphuric acid. Over the next thirty five years he has used this crate as a stool on which to stand whilst performing jobs around the house, most notably in the hanging of wallpaper.

I have known this item throughout my life not as a crate, but as a stool. Recently upon looking at the object in its typical orientation, i.e. as it was intended to be used, I have struggled to see it as a crate - instead it will always be my fathers stool stood on it’s head, upside-down.

Early this year my mother returned from work with a  new stool. She had asked a technician friend to make a new stool based on the dimensions of my fathers 35 year old one. While retaining many of the characteristics of the old object, this item is now most definitely a stool. Constructed from MDF sheets, the new stool is noticeably much heavier, requiring two hands to lift (the earlier crate, made from thin panels of wood required only one) yet is also much more stable, a design alteration which makes it much more suitable for its function, particularly in the hanging of wallpaper.

Perversely, my father has not yet used the new stool, instead preferring his old, rickety and quite dangerous crate to do the wallpapering. I imagine he feels, as I do, an attachment to the age and character of this crate, which performs its adapted function in an inappropriate manner when compared to the new stool.

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