Tic Toc...... Time in Interiors
My mother passed away mid July. With her gone my siblings and I are now the oldest generation of the family. While we all expect with certainty the death of our parents, we cannot know the feelings of grief and loss that come with these events. For me these feelings have manifested themselves by thinking a lot about the passing of time. Long forgotten memories bubbling to the surface.
There is a lot of discussion going on about time: how to manage and organize time. How to be most effective, how to get the most done, how to work the least possible and enjoy loads of free time, all while making heaps of money. All valid thoughts. I have been thinking about time as markers in my life. The milestones passed. Opportunities taken and missed. How time changes thoughts and feelings.
After my mother’s funeral my sister and I went through boxes and albums of old photos, showing us young, silly and vulnerable. I had forgotten how fresh and appealing we were. Today I look at young girls and I find them all so beautiful. If only they knew how gorgeous they are, so they would not have to worry so much. They too will look back at their photos and wonder where the time went and how everything changes over time, our sense of self and our perspective of others, of life in general.
How do you perceive time and the passing of it? Do you think in blocks of time, like for instance the years you were in high school or the years you lived in a specific place? Or do you see time more fluid, more linear? I find there to be distinct markers that nearly all of us can identify with: the day we married, the day we had a child, the day we graduated. Time is associated with the hours, days, weeks, months and years in which important things happened. I think of the years raising my son. The weeks of certain vacations. The days of reading a particularly spellbinding book. The years of deep friendships, especially with my best friend Doeshka who passed away almost two years ago.
Time, future and past, is also reflected in architecture and interior design. We find the past in archeological digs and ruins, in the brutal buildings of the previous communist regimes, in the the castles along the river Rhine and the Versailles palace outside Paris. Past opulence and restraint. Interiors also reflect the passing of time, what once was, what is today and what can be tomorrow. The Victorian era shows dark, heavy interiors which reflect a somber view of the world. The Italian merchant homes and palaces show much less restraint in their exuberant interpretation of the times. Today we see a range of expressions from ugly to boring, to rich and inviting
TIME IN INTERIORS
In his book, Time and the Art of Living, Robert Grudin relates spaces to time. He says “Rooms can be vessels of psychological temporality, silently encouraging specific attitudes toward time: The furniture of the past: shelved books, dried flowers, windows facing west, antiques, old photographs and paintings, lamplight, miscellaneous articles, complained space. The furniture of the present: chairs ad tables chosen for utility, a bowl of fruit, an open book, current periodicals, windows to the south, overhead lights, cut flowers or potted plants, modern art, mirrors. The furniture of the future: bare walls, a skylight, windows facing east, much open space, a barometer, clear desk, sharpened pencils, blank pad, unopened book, unopened bottle of wine, light colours, large doorless openings to other rooms.”
Isn’t this a fascinating thought? It applies to every space and each person. I can see the past, the present and the future in his examples. Windows facing west: the sun sets in the west and marks the end of the day, which equals time in the past. A bowl of fruit begs to be eaten in the moment. Fruit does not last long and tastes best right away at the top of its ripeness. The future is reflected in a barometer: it will tell us what to expect from the weather and sharpened pencils are ready to be used for drawing or writing, a ‘future’ activity.
Recently I was introduced to the Japanese design firm Nendo. This firm had just redesigned a series of three cuckoo clocks. Gone are the traditional lines of the cuckoo clocks we know from Germany and Austria; gone are the pendulums.
These clocks have simple, clean lines; they are contemporary in design and execution. They are fun to look at and the little cuckoo is cheeky. Take a look below.
One of the designs not only functions as a clock, but it can also be used as bookends. See how the right edge of the clock can be separated from the rest of the body. Kind of fun how the number 3 is now away from the clock itself! And what about the upside down one below?!
Great interpretations. These clocks would look really good in many interiors, as part of the existing decor or as stand alone conversation pieces.
And so I became curious about other interesting timepieces which could potentially be pieces of art worthy of display in interiors. First I found these Japanese incense stick clocks.
The pieces are from the Edo or Tokugawa period (1603–1867), the final period of traditional Japan. The burn rate of incense stick was known in those days and each stick would burn for about 30 minutes. The incense sticks would be placed in the box and lit. A great way to approximate time. Geishas would measure the time they worked by burning the sticks and get paid accordingly. Would this not be a splendid piece of art in a modern interior, on display on its own against a backdrop of a silk textile or white painted wall!
Here is another great piece which looks really complicated! Called the "Universal Clock”, this clock was made by Centenario Clocks located in Zacatlán, Mexico. Centenario Clocks was the first clock maker in Latin America and is still functioning today installing clocks globally. A universal clock measures time based on the earth’s rotation. Think of the mean solar time or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Sundials - Ancient sundials were found amongst other countries in Egypt, Greece and Tunesia. Sundials are ancient timepieces which use the sun and shadows to tell time. They are based on the rotation of the earth. The oldest sundials date back to the Egyptian period. Sundials do not give an accurate time. They would need to be adjusted for lattitude, longitude, daylight savings time and first of all oriented to the true North.
Hourglasses - Nobody knows where and when the hourglass was invented.
Hourglasses were used on ships a lot since the ship’s movement would not affect the hourglass. Hence a stable way to tell the passing of time. Today’s typical hourglass measures 3 minutes and are used to cook eggs to perfection. Earlier ones were bigger and measured longer time periods as can be seen in above detail of a huge fresco by Lorenzetti in Italy in 1338.
Pocket Watches - We all know them. These watches are rarely used these days. Then again, loads of people no longer use watches. I found this gorgeous French pocket watch called the “Quarter Repeater Marionette” pocket watch. It dates back to the early 1800’s. When the crown on the watch is pressed, a marionette tells the time with an action, along with the chime once every 15 minutes. A beautiful piece.
Do you have a favourite clock or watch? Do you wear a watch every day? Do you have an heirloom you are attached to perhaps?