Matthew Coombes at Designersblock 2009

September 7, 2009

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Matthew Coombes, a 31 year old Designer from Christchurch, New Zealand, is exhibiting as part of a group of graduates from Edinburgh College of Art under the name ‘Ready to Ship’.

His work is focused on an increasing interest in the stigma of emotional circumstance, including mental illness, taboos in everyday life and subcultures such as fetishism.

//Single Tear Catcher
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The aim of this project was to encourage a discourse around the ‘awkward’ subject of grief. The ‘non-therapeutic tools of grieving’ produced from this public engagement project were based on individual grieving experiences. He chose to call them ‘non-therapeutic’ becausehe didn’t want to prescribe anything beyond a discussion. Although the objects could be therapeutic the intention was initially to simply represent experiences of grieving people. Despite this, one could say that trying to create a discourse around grieving could be therapeutic in itself. The ‘tools’ part of the title refers to the fact the products have functions though not necessarily usual ones.

//Husband Stilts
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As stated previously, the original large production of ideas came from true accounts of several people’s grieving processes. From this 12 objects were designed and put on his blog. Photographic documentation of the making of many of the objects was posted on Flickr. These objects were purposely chosen to have a range of intensities and therefore provoke a range of reactions. They were kept quite open in their aesthetics and basic in their materials to facilitate an increase in potential connections with the general public.

//Cuticle Protector
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He contacted everyone that he thought might have an opinion about grief including divinity departments within universities and therapists. He received comments on the objects. He was later told that some people went to the blog but felt too uncomfortable to leave a comment for one reason or another. Some of the objects were given out for testing with the public. He then interviewed these people and put them on YouTube. Often the interesting conversations started just after the interviews finished. After collating and interpreting the information gathered, he chose three final products, the ‘single tear catcher’, ‘husband stilts’ and ‘cuticle protector’.

The ‘single tear catcher’ came from the experience of shedding a solitary tear at a funeral. “My brother and father died when I was sixteen. Throughout the whole funeral I shed a single tear. I guess that’s how I coped.”

The ‘husband stilts’ represents the physical loss of a loved one, the practical implications. “My husband always helped me reach things that were too high and lift things that were too heavy for me.”

The ‘cuticle protector’ was inspired by the reaction to several tragic deaths. “During a particularly traumatic time in my teens, including my friend being stabbed to death, I started to bite and pick at my cuticles when stressed. I still do it.”

Matt Coombes

Designersblock London 2009 takes place during the London Design Festival over 5000 square meters of space alongside 100% Design in Earls Court One.

24 – 27 Sep 2009

Opening times:
Thursday 24 September 10.00 – 21.00 Friday 25 September 10.00 – 19.00 Saturday 26 September 10.00 – 18.00 Sunday 27 September 11.00 – 17.00

Register on the Designersblock website.