An artichoke sat on our kitchen windowsill for months, some years ago. At first, it was ugly and disgusting and kinda gooey — and guests would say "ick." Then it slowly dried out, changed color, became something else altogether. I've now had it for ten years.
I think it's rather beautiful. I keep trying to use it in a design project, say on the cover of a book. I have photographed it numerous times and created design prototypes featuring this artichoke. They never sell: others do not seem to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of this thing.
Over time it has become more fragile, and I worry that it will break. So it sits, carefully placed, in my bookcase next to some Roman pottery a couple of thousand years older. No one ever touches the older, more fragile pottery, of course. But many pick up my artichoke.
This short essay is excerpted from Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects with Unexpected Significance, a book by Joshua Glenn and Carol Hayes in which they and other writers discuss the importance of objects in their lives. This is the first essay in a series to appear on Design Observer.