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can anything be beautiful? part 2

it's been a funny old week this week and i've had a few really important things put into perspective.
so this week's less on beauty has a subtitle:

judging a book by its cover. if it looks beautiful it must be beautiful

last week i went shopping at woolworths and right at the end, remembered that i needed some chewy [chewing gum for the rest of the world that doesn't abbreviate everything and then add a 'y' or 'o' to the end].
so i headed for my usual brand of cheap, but reliable gum, only to find it in a 2-pack with some spiffy new packaging. i don't usually get quite so excited about packaging with brands, but lately, i'm really into the importance of presentation.

this new packaging has a few things going in its favour as one of this week's beautiful things:
1. the stuff inside is good. it's not fancy, it's not mind blowing. it's goddamn chewing gum, but it's reliable and it does what it's supposed to. it doesn't let me down and therefore doesn't undermine it's beauty by being incredibly frustrating, stupid or wanky.

2. it's personal. in several ways. the actual sticks of gum are individually wrapped and have been for a while. like wrigleys back in the 70s (prior to the instant me me me generation of the 80s and their PK), not only has this sense of being kept a bit clean, it's also about revealling the product inside. unwrapping presents isn't just about the present, you know.
the sense of the personal, clean and unfolding is also carried through to this outside packaging. the two 'rows' of gum are protected by a silver paper, so you feel like it could sit in your manky car for at least a week and survive. and the wallet type shape of the package says 'it's mine'. and it felt like mine.

3. it's simple. the design keeps true to the main look of the usual wrapper, but it's also simplified it. the words are clean. there's no fluffy bollocks, shiny squares, stupid star bursts of FLAVOUR! or kooky fonts. it's blue, it's got a logo, it's been endorsed by the dental association. it's got the ingredients on the bottom, it's has the warning about excessive use and laxative effect and it leaves it at that.

the great taste that really larsh

now, maybe i got a bit carried away with the whole thing since giving up smoking (and strangely, the packaging has taken a bit of a leaf out of cigarrette packaging) or maybe it's 'cos i'm thinking about beautiful presentation, but it got me. and it got me thinking.

april flowers, circa 1985

and while i was thinking about the nature of packaging and how it can be incredibly seductive if it's done right, provided that it's not about bullshit, i was drinking my cup of tea and i realised how much love my cup of tea and my tea set.

my cuppa is a ritual. lately it's been with a toasted hot cross bun and from a wedgewood cup WITH saucer, that i was given as a gift when i was 8 (for my first holy commmunion for you recovering catholics out there).

I don't own reams of nice crockery, so don't go thinking i'm all lahdy-dah. but i make a point of using this beautiful "packaging", because it gives my simple ritual a sense of decorum and for some reason, it makes the tea taste better.

and as another one of this week's beautiful things it subscribes to the same checklist as the chewing gum:

it's personal. aside from the nostalgia of it being a gift, the cup is personal because it's delicate and vulnerable (so vulnerable in fact, it's currently missing the handle 'cos its previous adhesive has decided to retire). you have to hold it carefully, you can't just chuck it down and you have to sip. you can't skull from a tea cup: there's no room for Wham, Bam Thankyou Ma'am.

it's simple. it's just a tea cup (and saucer). it doesn't profess to be anything else. while the saucer will hold a couple of scotch finger biscuits, its main purpose is to hold liquid and nothing more. no multi-tasking, no trying to be all things to all people, no blowing smoke up my ass. it has a very clear statement of purpose. it's a fucking tea cup (and saucer).

and the stuff inside is good.tea is tea. it pretty much tastes good, whatever brand you use and however you have it. i'm sure if i had to use it to slurp a cup of dirty coca cola, or cough medicine or cheap cask wine, it wouldn't be quite so endearing.

now these two things may seem completely random examples of beauty, of all the amazingly beautiful things, but that's the point isn't it? anything can be beautiful. and when it's honest and simple, has a sense of consideration and makes a difference to your day it's a beautiful thing. even if it's just on the outside.

next lesson: when beautiful things are full of shit.



At 01 March, 2007 12:28, Blogger Stan Lee said...

Ever considered moving to Japan?

Their packaging is an artform.

Serving tea is a ceremony that takes 20 mins.

Sounds like you'd be right at home there.

They also have some great art spaces.

Check out this one. It's on an island and it's underground (kinda) :


At 02 March, 2007 01:08, Anonymous lauren said...

hey stan -
i love the pride the japanese take in their publishing - even their writing paper is extraordinarily funky!

i studied japanese for like 7 years when i was a kid, so it doesn't surprise me that you suggest japan as a place i would dig. the hussle and bustle of the big cities there aren't really grabbing me yet, but maybe i have to reconsider.

At 02 March, 2007 02:20, Blogger Artswipe said...

Nice lesson on beauty Lauren, though I confess your next lesson on 'beauty and shit' sounds more like my kind of music.

Stay beautiful!

At 02 March, 2007 11:59, Anonymous NP said...

I'm liking this post very much, since some of it is about tea, that's no surprise.
I just like the idea of seeing beauty in everything, if you look hard enough. I don't think we take the time to appreciate what's in front of us enough anymore.

At 02 March, 2007 13:57, Blogger lauren said...

hey guys - thanks 'swipe.. i'll keep you in mind with that next post - although i don't wanna get your hopes up too high..

hey NP. tea! how something so simple is so rad. i think this makes me a dork, rather than profound though.

i wish i had my own digi cam to take properly beautiful photos to match. pilfering my flatmate's camera only works for a while..

At 04 March, 2007 10:34, Blogger Gavin Heaton said...

It's great that you have a special piece of crockery. As you say, it is this and the emotional connection you have to it that makes for beautiful moments. But is it just on the outside?

I subscribe to the platonic view of beauty ... the one form that has no replica/simulation. This is why we can find beauty in many places and also, perhaps, why we consider something beautiful when it encompasses something as random as "time". Inspiring.

At 07 March, 2007 03:39, Blogger lauren said...

PS - i saw the tvc for the 14 pack extra last night - it's not too bad, but it's not the best thing in the world. i'm a little over the 'roving reporter' angle in advertising these days.


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