Metaphor Organic

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The Toaster Project

Errol DavisComment

At Metaphor Organic we think a lot about small scale production. How do you run a factory out of your basement, apartment kitchen, or even less space?  At the beginning we decided to focus on rustic production methods to produce a rustic product. The soap would be handmade. We even made the soap molds by hand!

Poetry teachers say that form should match content. In industrial design, this is less an aesthetic imperative and more an inescapable law of the universe. In the book, The Toaster Project, Thomas Thwaites says it's almost impossible to create a perfect product using handmade tools, but at the same time, it's also equally impossible to create an imperfect product with state-of-the-art tools such as CAD software and a CNC milling machine.

If you haven't read The Toaster Project, it chronicles one fellow's attempt to build functional but very ugly toaster from scratch. That is, he begins with mining the iron ore for the frame, the smelting it in his parking lot, etc. The passage about production methods comes in the chapter about pouring the plastic housing using a mold carved out of a tree trunk. Deja vu.

I'm going to insert a paragraph of disclaimer here reflecting my opinion, anyway, that neither rough nor precise methods have greater potential to produce a more or less beautiful product. At that point, it comes down to individual taste. One choice, however, is far more feasible for beginning makers. And the toaster, just incidentally, ended  up very very ugly.

The Toaster Project is an excellent investigation into where our stuff comes from, and much more thorough than our humble soapmaking experiment.  I reference it every time I teach a soap class and students are awkwardly lining the soap molds. I remind them that even though the soap molds are ugly, they will still make beautiful soap.