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Thinking about the hidden world of everyday appliances

By Anne van AlkemadePublished about a month ago 3 min read
Quirppy garden art.

As a parent I have become aware of how very frustrating it is to be answering endless questions posed by our kids and I now understand why my parents got to the point where they just would not do it any more. They weren’t heartless though and enjoyed our enquiring minds. They had a great solution to both encourage the questions but keep their sanity. They invested in a set of Chambers Encyclopedia plus a massive dictionary. These were strategically located in the dining room behind us so that dinner time questions were always met with “Look it up and tell us all the answer.”

Yep, we had books back then. No Google, no internet. Weird, right?

Now, as a parent of a child with a learning disability, I follow suit and I cannot tell you how very grateful I am to Google. My daughter never stops asking questions but her disability also means that a great many of her questions are repeated … and repeated … and nine or ten times for luck.

Anyway, she has also helped me to revisit my child-like curiosity in the world and just stop taking things for granted. This is a double-edged sword and has fed growing anxiety about our throw-away society. Just what is it that we’re throwing into the bin; not just into landfill, but also recycling which, I understand, is stretched at the seams and sometimes, when the system can’t cope, also ends up in landfill!

A while back I pulled apart a defunct air fryer and turned the drawers into planters. I was pretty happy with the result although there are a few bits and pieces in boxes waiting for inspiration. I swear I’m not a magpie, but there are some things I just can’t bring myself to throw away!

A couple of old pie pans, some blocks of wood, and an old air fryer drawer.

The next project, quite recently, was a printer. Do you know why your printer jams when you're in a hurry? I had a printer that almost sort of worked every now and again and I couldn't even give it away when I bought another. It sat near the back door gathering cobwebs when I decided on a plan of action. I wanted to know why this incredibly frustrating piece of technology always seemed to have a problem that comes up with an error message that said “I don't know what the problem is”. I took up my trusty screwdriver, I sat out on the deck, and I set to pulling the damn thing apart.

Guess what! Your average domestic printer is not as simple a unit inside that box as you might think. Not only has it dozens upon dozens of tiny, moulded pieces, it also comes with a massive collection of moving bits, screws, springs, little flappy things, sponges, pads, and indescribably complex bits of metal that had to be made as a joke. I can only imagine the Labyrinthine mind that put this thing together, rubbing their hands with glee and imagining all the little problems it created for the end user. Anyway, I’ve put 90% of the bits aside with the plan yet to be realised for a piece of art.

I really showed that malfunctioning printer what for!

My next project to disassemble was a downlight that was supposed to last for five years, but only shone for maybe 12 months. This little cup-like creature was nothing like the globes that I was used to exchanging. It was a single unit of plastic and there didn't seem to be any joins. After unscrewing the tiny Phillips Head screws, there didn't seem any logical way to go; everything looked joined. The only choice was to remove the diffuser which is the plastic cover. After resorting to a snap blade knife, I was able to get the sheet of frosted plastic off. Surprise! Inside was an electronic array that looked like it belonged inside a computer? A tiny voice inside whispered “we’re a long way away from candles.”

Um, this is a light, not rocket science.

Anyway, I gutted it, leaving only the case . My curiosity was mostly settled. Next, what to do with the bits? I was determined they would not go in the bin.

All part of one light!

I like to make things with random things. My friends joke about it sometimes and I won’t go into that afternoon tea time when I lost a filling! To me, though, sometimes rubbish suggests a new purpose and that was the case here. "I can make something with that!" I powered up the soldering iron for a couple of strategically placed holes, grabbed the copper wire from the power cord, and voila – a mini hanging basket.

Voila, quirppy hanging basket

Okay, I know, it's a bit crappy, but it's also a bit quirky, so let's settle on a compromise and call it quirppy! I now name my art quirppy and I'm good with that.


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