Making everyday objects to change people’s lives
The serial social entrepreneur, Sophie Howarth, worked with me when she was launching a new business, the Department Store For The Mind.
You might know of Sophie already: she’s the genius who helped Alain de Botton set up The School of Life.
In our coaching work together, Sophie spoke about her dream of embedding coaching-type ideas into everyday objects.
And she asked me to design some products for her Dept Store to sell:
a pair of mugs
a tea towel
This was a fantastic opportunity, and I threw myself into it.
As a journalist, performer and consultant, I’ve seen again and again that a conversation can change everything.
When I tell people that, they sometimes give the impression that you need to set aside HOURS to talk things over…
But my experience suggests that two people meeting for a few minutes over a hot drink can have a deep, powerful conversation almost instantly…
…if the conditions are right, and if both people are willing.
And it seems that the very act of handing somebody a drink in a “conversation mug” can itself be enough to create those conditions.
It’s like saying: “I’d like to spend a few minutes talking to you. Tell you what’s on my mind. Hear what you think.”
And the plates, and tea towel?
For the “What’s On Your Plate?” plate, I tweaked the traditional Willow Pattern design to invite users to reflect on key areas in life, and achieve clarity about what to change and how to start (more about that shortly).
As for the tea towel: well, I’ve always liked the idea of mindful washing up – which may sound bonkers…
…but a well known buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, says you should wash up every plate as though it were the baby Buddha himself.
This makes you very careful, and helps you to enjoy the moment.
If you wish away the washing up you’ll wish away the tea afterwards.
Eventually you’ll wish away everything you’re doing because you’re constantly in a chase.
So the tea towel is a reminder to be present.
Telling the story
Altogether, my work on these products took a few weeks.
This short film gives a sneak insight into the process, from design to manufacture. (It’s less than 3 mins.)
How do they work in practice?
After the Dept Store launched, I took some plates to test them out at The Big Lunch, in Belfast.
This short video (3 mins 26 secs) shows what happened:
I loved this project, and I hope that comes across in the videos.
Because an idea that started fairly small has subsequently grown bigger and bigger.
You see, I gave a pair of the mugs to a brand expert, who suggested that many companies and organisations might like to create their own version.
I could do that with them, she said – and run workshops too, to share tips and techniques for better conversations.
So that’s what I’m doing.
I’ve already started collaborating with companies interested in promoting better communication.
If you would like me to work with YOUR organisation, creating a mug to share with your clients, customers and staff…
…you know where I am.
Just send me an email, and we can arrange a time to talk.
PS. If you want to read about one of the collaborations that I’ve started, click HERE.