We’re no strangers to the age-old conundrum of how best to fix a wobbly table leg at dinner (see folded up train tickets, the restaurant menu, a salt shaker, your foot), and neither, it seems, is Ana Rita Antonio. A Portuguese-born, Oslo-based designer who claims to have too much time on her hands, her recent project 14 Ways of Replacing a Table Leg does exactly that, and takes full advantage of her limited resources. This hilarious project was first presented as the second chapter of an ongoing series The Poetics of Miss Understanding as part of her graduation show from DesignLAB and promises to be the first of many strange but brilliant ideas from Ana.
We can’t help but fall for a designer who’d sooner balance wellington boots, lamps, books, a potted plant and her own head beneath a table than actually repair the leg (the easy way is for the unimaginative, after all) so we caught up with her to find out more about her unconventional design methods.
Where did the idea for this project come from? Why the title?
The idea of the project came from my inability to design things from scratch; I struggle a little with finding fine functional solutions in my designs. After some time, I began to regard this inability as something to work with. I decided to develop a design methodology in problem-solving that embraced objects and situations of daily life as working material, using whatever components are available in a given context to solve the problem there and then. This mentality shows a particular enthusiasm for redneck repairs, quick ﬁxes and problematic solutions.
The title of the project was itself a misunderstanding– I am of Portuguese origin and I have always had a lot of difficulties with English language. Often I misspell words and this was one of the cases; originally, I wanted to call the project the Poetics of Misunderstanding, but by mistake I added an ‘s’. I decided to embrace the misunderstanding and make myself into a character who appreciates the creativity that flows from mistakes, and has a great understanding of problem solving.
What other problems has your procrastination led you to solve?
The last piece I showed at ONO Gallery in Oslo came from a daily life challenge. I needed a shelf for some books, but I only had shelf brackets and no plank. Fortunately I had 12 shelf brackets, which allowed me to make a shelf made of shelf brackets. Once I was also very bored, so I decided to break a vase and glue the pieces back together, as if it was a 3D puzzle.
What is your dream design job?
To be honest I am not sure that I am comfortable with the idea of being a designer who makes new designs, just because we need new hot and hip designs; I am not a pro-consumerism person at all. The idea of buying new things every season brings me anxiety and blocks my happiness receptors. But I do believe that we all have the need to re-invent our lives, rearrange our spaces and redesign our belongings. I also see a great deal of stuff that needs rethinking. Our lives could be much improved when our creativity can run freely and we see ourselves enjoying our discoveries, so in my dream design job I would work to enable or perhaps stimulate people in this way.
I think most of us do that in our daily life and everyone feels good about finding quick or silly solutions. As an acquired habit, every time we run out of toilet paper in my house we use coffee filters, and when we run out of coffee filters we use toilet paper in the coffee machine. What we might need though is a designed authorisation of some sort to do things like these.
To give you a straight answer, I would like to be a professional quick fixer. I think that would make me a very happy person.
What are you working on now?
Among other things, I am trying to write a book that combines short love stories. Again, it is about misunderstandings, problem matching and the poetics behind it. A few of these stories are based on personal experiences; for example, a while ago I caught a ride with a friend of mine that has really big problems in hearing. By chance that same day he gave me the ride I had a hoarse throat. During this three hour trip he misinterpreted everything I said because he was deaf and I was husky. As a result I got the most amazing love declaration ever.