Rob Walker | Essays

Bill for a Bowl

Frank Lloyd Wright, Imperial Hotel Place Setting, via Object Focus: The Bowl

I assume you can figure out the subject of the exhibition “Object Focus: The Bowl,” now on view at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon, from its title. If not: It’s about bowls. (The Times has an overview of the exhibition and its aims, by Julie Lasky, here.)

In connection with the show, the museum asked a bunch of writers and others to contribute short essays about specific bowls to a Tumblr, objectfocusbowl.tumblr.com, and then issued an open call to anyone who wishes to share your own written and drawn observations, reflections, and memories about bowls!”

While I obviously understand the appeal of projects built around gathering a large number of varied and unpredictable responses, to be honest I always worry about participating: It’s so intimidating to try to come up with something original. But I’m a fan of the Museum of Contemporary Craft, and of many of the others who did participate, so … I gave it a shot. Perhaps not surprisingly, given my interests, I chose to address the economic value of a particular bowl, with a conjectural deconstruction of a relevant eBay listing. Here’s a bit:

You can fill a bowl with cereal, dog food, spray-painted pinecones, little soaps you’ve taken from hotel rooms over a period of years, or offal. In all these cases, there’s an upper limit to how much the bowl can contain. You can also fill a bowl with, for lack of a better word, dollar value. This is harder to measure; it is negotiable. 

The rest is here. (Note: I guess there’s some problem executing superscript on Tumblr, so it may be hard to parse, but the structure is a footnoted eBay listing.)

For what it's worth — and of course that's the key issue, isn't it? — the actual eBay listing is here. Alternatively, you can buy related plates, but, sadly, not bowls, from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. And if you're feeling acquisitive, it looks as if the Museum of Contemporary Craft itself has a few bowls in its shop, as well as its exhibition space. Prices vary.

Meanwhile, if you’ve got bowl thoughts of your own, the submission information is here.


Posted in: Arts + Culture, Product Design

Comments [1]

Guggenheim Bowl = Significant Object
Guggenheim Bowl
“Yes, good design can make you happy.”
Carl W. Smith

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