'Open & Close' convivial doorstop pair
'OPEN & CLOSE' convivial doorstops by Marijke Annema  

Can an object as simple as this make people's lives Slow-er?

The 'OPEN & CLOSE' doorstop began with a story.  It was told to us by Donald Harvey who in 2009 (together with teaching colleague Susan Umbenhour), accompanied a group of students from Oberlin College (USA) to the Netherlands for a 10-day Slow design workshop.  The group's in-depth exploration of what Slow design could offer the Oberlin campus stimulated a number of ideas, and brought stories like this one to the fore:

"In 1969 my wife, three year old daughter and I moved from Rochester, Minnesota to Philadelphia where I had been accepted into grad school.  In Philadelphia we moved into a two storey building with central hallways and apartments on either side.  Our apartment had windows on one side only and, as we moved in at the end of summer, it was hot and there was no air circulation.  Everyone in the building seemed to keep their doors shut and locked at all times and we followed suit for a few days. Then, feeling that the building was actually pretty safe and we could probably leave to door open to increase air circulation, we did so.  The next day, a single woman our age who lived across the hall stuck her head in the door and said "hello."  We liked her, we became friends.  She began to leave her door open so our daughter to go across the hall to visit.  Next we met a couple who lived upstairs with their daughter who was the same age as ours.  The woman and her daughter began to drop by to visit.  It turned out that there were also several older people who lived in the building and were happy to hear children playing in the hallway or the small yard.  Some of them began to open their doors so the girls could drop in for a visit.  And over the course of a year or so, some doors would be open and other closed at varying times, but the building became a community of friends, neighbors, babysitters and surrogate grandparents." - Don Harvey

As a reward for backers of our Kickstarter campaign, slowLab commissioned socially-minded product designer Marijke Gytha Annema to create a limited-edition object inspired by Don's story of convivial living.  The result is the 'Open & Close' doorstop, which Marijke insisted should come as a nesting pair of two: one for you and one for your neighbor. 

The doorstops are handcrafted from reclaimed elm wood using a minimal amount of material and with practically no waste.  For centuries, elm was one of the most common trees lining streets and parks in Europe and North America. Marijke feels this gives them social value.  She says: "They must have an important place in many memories."  However, during the last several decades, a disease has swept this beautiful species from the landscape.  Every 'Open & Close' doorstop is made from trees that were cut down to avoid the spread of the disease.  In this way, Marijke's creative process explores the hidden potentials both within an overlooked material resource and within the fabric of our society.

Marijke is no stranger to conviviality.  We met her shortly after she graduated from the 'Man and Living' department at Design Academy Eindhoven, where she created an intriguing collection of objects to bond people more intimately with their personal surroundings. The project, titled 'Dear House, May I pet, tickle, rub, sweep, pick, wash, scrub, scratch, and stroke you?' was a collection of cleaning tools designed to enable more loving contact with one's home: extending the curve of the arm, giving sensual expression to the fingertips, and helping explore hard-to-reach places.

In early 2012, slowLab invited Marijke to further develop this collection in the context of
our Slow Lloyd research program.  In that setting, her strange and beautiful objects were presented as a metaphor for taking time and care to get to know the Lloyd Hotel, the neighborhood around it and the people who live there.  She called this project 'LEKKER VIES,' which in Dutch means something like 'deliciously dirty,' and filmmaker Thalia de Jong made a short film of Marijke lovingly caressing the Lloyd (including two of its inhabitants).  Both the film and Marijke's convivial tools came to occupy a forgotten nook on the ground floor of the Lloyd building, the door flung open to the street, begging the curiosity and participation of passersby.

As for her ongoing contributions to the body of Slow design knowledge, Marijke tells us, "Sometimes it happens that a design provokes a curious and critical attitude of people toward their surroundings. That's what I'm seeking as a designer, and in slowLab I found a collection of likeminded people." 

Learn more and watch the film on Marijke's web site.

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A pair of 'OPEN & CLOSE' convivial doorstops is offered to supporters of slowLab's Kickstarter campaign at the $100 level.  Learn more here >

Marijke Annema tickles the Lloyd Hotel
Marijke Gytha Annema tickles the Lloyd Hotel for her project 'LEKKER VIES'