Wedding Wonders

CRTVTY has been a bit quiet these past few weeks, but with good reason. On September 30th, five years after the day we met, I married my love and co-conspirator, Tien-Tien. The wedding took place under a sunny sky in Palo Alto, California, and was followed by a beautiful celebration at the CuriOdyssey Museum in San Mateo. And although planning the wedding was far from easy, it turns out that the process involves a lot of creativity, and we actually had a fair amount of fun putting together some of the components. At the top of the list: wedding favors.

That project started when a friend bequeathed us a large supply of 12oz mason jars. The wedding had a bit of a DIY theme already, so we decided that each jar could contain a DIY “kit” for the guest to build and enjoy during the reception. I scoured the ‘tubes for ideas and ended up devising five kits, each with a very different flavor. Although I thought I had designed them with manufacturability (and affordability) in mind, we experienced some NASA-esque budget overruns and *may* have put the staff at the local art supply store through grad school. But with a few late nights and a few capable groomsmen, we got them done. And what a success they were! 

By the end of the reception, the floors were littered with improvised ammunition flung by sturdy little “Wedding-apults”, guests sported classy homemade boutonnières, clandestine alter-egos had been developed to accompany the “DIY-sguise” kits, and the kids were busy engineering architectural marvels with their “Magneto-Stix”. Instructions for each kit included below, with finished and in-progress photos in the gallery above.

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How Not to Make a Catapult

​With a soaring twenty-foot throwing arm, a hulking wooden frame, and three hundred pounds of sand hanging pendulously in its belly, our catapult made for an impressive school project. Mike and I had been working for weeks, but despite the machine’s fearsome appearance there was still plenty of work to be done. The latch that released the projectile was in particular giving us no end of trouble, alternately flinging its payload into the ground at our feet or sending us scampering for cover as potatoes and cantaloupes rained down from above. We put in countless afterschool afternoons and no small amount of engineering effort, but in the end were defeated. Where had we gone wrong? 

Let start by stepping back. Designers often talk about “Ah Ha” moments, where the problems that had been bedeviling them are suddenly resolved and a brilliant design makes itself known. Mine came a bit late, about twelve years late, after dozens of engineering courses, an undergraduate degree and a masters, and half of a PhD. It actually hit me last week, when I came across this picture in MAKE Magazine:

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Friday Finds: Cool Products!

For today's batch of internet inspiration, we've got a pile of wonderfully clever home gadgets. Starting at top left, there's (1) a soda bottle drip catcher, (2) a bathtub desk, (3), the "Hamdogger", (4) a thumb page-holder, (5) an umbrella pot, (6) the "Lay 'n Go" lego mat, (7) a clever no-mess paintbrush, (8) the easy "Drain Changle" de-clogger, (9) anti-theft sandwich bags, (10) the "Cushy Closer", (11) a magnet tiny parts bracelet, and (12) the owl earbud-declutterer.

All of these products are wonderfully simple and creative solutions to otherwise annoying little problems, from tangled earbuds to a crippling lack of hamburger buns. In several cases the inventions were also serendipitous discoveries. Jennifer Briggs invented the Drain Changle after accidentally clearing a clogged drain with an errant piece of floss, for example. Spending a few bucks to support creators like her is a fantastic idea, but with a bit of creative adaptation and DIY spirit, these gadgets would also all make fun home projects as well. So feel free to get your hands dirty and impress your friends; although enjoying other people's creativity is okay too.

Happy Friday!

Friday Finds: Food!

We've talked a lot about creativity, generally with academic theory and the occasional Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. That's all well and good, but it's more fun to see creativity in the real world and to share clever tricks we can use in our daily lives. In that spirit, enjoy a bit of DIY inspiration with these fun (and creative) foodie finds. [gallery]

For some links to follow, we've got (1) hard-boiled egg hearts, (2) egg'n peppers, (3) removing corn silk with a toothbrush, (4) cupid's arrow, (5) perfect chocolate-covered strawberries, (6) quick 'n easy strawberry hulling, (7) fresh fruit ice cubes, (8) ice cream cone cupcakes, (9) mass-produced breakfast sammies, (10) cookie cups, (11) novice chopsticks, and (12) the easy way to remove an avocado pit. Thank you, interwebs!

Now let's nerd it up a bit. You may have seen half of these already, or don't think some of them are that creative. And that's totally fine. Many people will agree that Jackson Pollack's work is (or was) novel, but they may have a hard time finding meaning in a canvas that's been massacred with a paint can. The definition of creativity that we've been using is that which is "different than what's been done before" while also being "valuable, appropriate, or expressive of meaning." Every term in that phrase requires individual interpretation, which means that in some way creativity must be in the eye of the beholder.

So if we take these ideas back to our kitchen, are we being creative? Probably not, if we simply copy the ideas wholesale (although our friends may disagree). At the same time, no idea is truly novel, and the heart of the creative enterprise is sharing, adapting, and improving existing ideas. That is what makes forums like Pinterest and Lifehacker so valuable; they allow people to exchange ideas and inspire one another like never before. I recently came across a post where someone had shared the egg-n-pepper idea above, and by the next day another commenter had riffed on it by adding onions and bacon to the meal. That artery-clogging adaptation is what creativity's all about.

And it's delicious. Happy Friday!