Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The End

To sum up, this project has taught me a lot of about my own culture. I never knew such a silly topic like Superstition could be so interesting. Now that I know more of the superstitious practices that my grandparents/parents used to do, I might just join in for fun. Also, I've definitely grown more tolerant to these. Initially, I would mock and openly express my disdain when elders force me to (for example) turn on all the lights in the house during the first day of CNY. But now, I finally realise that it's an art to understand that superstition. It should be respected because it was more of way of life back then - it was a belief system and a form of security that the older generation puts their faith in. Thus, making it important in our history and culture.
Other than that, an essential lesson I've learnt is that initial plans always change. Right from the drawing board, designs evolve. Flexibility is key and without the willingness to constantly change your idea, your product will never improve. Although, changing ideas at too fast a rate might suggest a fickle-mind, at least it shows that one is open to exploring options and continually reinventing.
All in all, much wood was wasted during the course of this project (forgive me. I'm still quite traumatized @ the thought of the number of trees I cut down), but I'm glad we got to do something like this. I especially liked the time line given for this though. I prefer working on a big project over a span of weeks because it gives me more time to focus on the nitty-gritties. Yeap, till next time - Remember How to Be Superstitious!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Final Product

On the File:
The laser cutter didn't cut through the ply wood last night so I sat down and manually made the cuts thicker, only to find out that they started breaking. Hence, this morning I suffered numerous panic attacks with Patrick screaming at me for using the laser cutter. Wasn't able to finish the file till the morning of the submission because the FYP students had to use the laser cut last night. The file is really important because it reflects the identity of students (my target audience).

Content: Origins

Difference between Rituals and Superstitions:

In our quest to understand superstitions, let's start by defining them. After all, not all rituals or beliefs are superstitions. The dividing line is whether you give some kind of magical significance to the ritual.

For example, if an athlete develops a ritual before a game, something many coaches encourage, it may help to calm and focus him or her like repeating a mantra. That's not superstitious. On the other hand, if you think tapping the ball a certain number of times makes you win the game, you've entered superstitious territory. You might be wondering if certain superstitious behaviors -- such as like counting the number of times you tap a ball -- are really a sign ofobsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). People with OCD often have compulsions to do rituals over and over again, often interfering with everyday life. A good example is Jack Nicholson's character in the movie As Good As It Gets, who skips cracks in the sidewalk and eats at the same table in the same restaurant every day, with an inability to cope with any change in routine. While some of the symptoms of OCD can mimic superstitious behavior (and the two aren't mutually exclusive), the evidence would indicate there is no connection between the two.

We don't think of anxiety disorders [such as OCD] as superstitious thinking. We think of it as irrational thinking, and most of our patients understand that. The key is to pay attention to your own thinking, particularly if you experience anysymptoms of anxiety -- tension, excessive worry, trouble sleeping, obsessive thoughts and exhaustion, for example. If you experience these symptoms or find that you have repetitive ritualized behavior that's out of control -- superstitious or not -- get professional help from a doctor or therapist.


Superstitions began centuries ago when our ancestors tried to explain mysterious circumstances or events as best as they could with the knowledge they had.
For instance, before the development of science explained such strange things as why mirrors show our reflections or why shadows appear when it's sunny, ancient people reasoned that a shadow or reflection was part of their soul.
If someone broke something onto which the shadow or reflection appeared, people believed that their soul was harmed. Therefore, when a person broke a mirror it was considered unlucky or harmful.
Today we know that reflections and shadows are not part of our souls but if someone still believes it is bad luck to break a mirror they are said to be superstitious.

Wanting more control or certainty is the driving force behind most superstitions. We tend to look for some kind of a rule, or an explanation for why things happen. "Sometimes the creation of a false certainty is better than no certainty at all, and that is what much of the research suggests," says Vyse.
Job interviews, testing, and other situations where we want things to go well -- regardless of our own preparation or performance -- can spur superstitious thoughts. "We are often in situations in life where something really important is about to happen, we've prepared for it as best we can, but it's still uncertain; it's still unclear," Vyse says. No matter how confident or prepared you are for an event -- whether it's a football game, a wedding, or a presentation -- things can still happen beyond your control. "Superstitions provide people with the sense that they've done one more thing to try to ensure the outcome they are looking for."

Friend or Foe?
A sense of security and confidence are perhaps the greatest benefits we get emotionally from superstitious thinking or behavior -- like carrying an object or wearing an item of clothing that you deem to be lucky.
Foxman says there is a positive placebo effect -- if you think something will help you, it may do just that. "There is a tremendous amount of power in belief," he says. If the outcome is a matter of pure luck, beliefs don't really have any impact, however, when your performance is a key factor in an outcome, superstitious thinking might give you an extra boost.
"There can be a real psychological effect of superstitious thoughts," says Vyse. If you've done well before when you had a particular shirt on, for example, it might prove wise to wear the shirt again, if it helps to relieve anxiety and promotes positive thoughts. But this way of thinking can also hinder your performance, if say, you lose your lucky object.

It's not news that expectations can be extremely powerful and suggestive. Studies regularly point to placebo effects (both positive and negative), which are entirely caused by the power of expectations or preconceptions. Yet superstitions can also play a negative role in our lives, especially when combined with a bad habit such as gambling. If you're a compulsive gambler who believes that you can get lucky, then that belief may contribute to your problem.

Phobic (fearful) superstitions can also interfere with our lives, and cause a lot of anxiety, says Vyse. For example, people who are afraid of Friday the 13th might change travel arrangements or skip an appointment because of unnecessary anxiety. These types of superstitions offer no benefit at all.

Magpie syndrome

A packaging was done for the Totem because clear acrylic and mirror are easily scratched/damaged. User is able to hold the totem without his/her finger prints dirtying it ( and they don't have to clean it profusely like when your iphone screen gets oily and finger-printy - true story). Three layers of paper to hide the nut & bolt in the center.

Instructional Guide: 
How to use:
1- Close your eyes
2- Count from 1- 8
3 - Ask the totem any yes/no question about your future
4- Spin the circular dial with closed eyes to obtain your answer

1- This totem only works when the user is wearing red. 
2- It has to be kept in the user's right pocket at all times.
3- If at any one time the totem drops and the mirror breaks, the owner will suffer 7-9 years of misfortune.

Palm Sized. Ooh, shiny.

How much can a woodchuck chuck in one night?

For my file, I picked the Manilla Folder inspired design- however giving it another twist. Like previously mentioned, I felt that it should be brown because brown represents wood and wood is a "neutralizing element" in the Chinese superstitious saying, "Touch wood!". Hence, my file is made out of wood rather than paper. 
I found out that if you make multiple cuts in wood, you will be able to bend it. This was used for the spine of the file. I'm cutting it very close. I was supposed to finish it last night in the product lab but unfortunately, there were some design specifics on my file that was wrong and thus, I had to go down to Art Friend to buy new blocks of wood.

Just done with prepping the wood and I figured that I had to try one of those Selfies to proclaim my success with manually sanding it down.

So after I cut the wood, all I have to do is:
1- Lacquer
2- Hair dry
3- Glue additional pieces of wood
4- Put in elastic bands to secure the book
5- Hair dry again (or put under the air con)

From constantly making my way down from Hall to Art Friend (4/5 times in the past week), to traveling to Hougang for RJ, to getting the right wood (that has to be 3mm, and no thicker), I've learnt determination, perseverance and experimentation. Before this, I really had no clue on how to even get into the Product Lab, let alone use the machines, but I took the plunge and was surprisingly insistent on stepping out to learn new things. I'm quite glad at the result of it. It may not be the best, but I think that compared to last sem, my craft has improved quite a bit and I feel that I'm a more independent designer. That being said I spent a considerable sum of money on experimentation, but ah, that's what summer jobs are for.

And therefore, coming back to my point: 
I shall succeed with the file now.

Oh, and also, because these are keeping me alive:
FunFact: I always thought that these "Cooling Teas" were part of superstition too. Maybe because their named so dodgy-ly, but they're actually proven to be medicinal. Boy, was I wrong for 22 years of life.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Totem - Up and Working

Working in the product lab on Easter takes a whole new level of faith - then again, I'm no one to complain because I've seen some of the other Viscommers' work and they're amazing. Once again, I'm waiting for the laser machine to raster and cut my files. Spent today binding the 101 How To Be Superstitious Textbook with red thread. Red thread doesn't only symbolize prosperity (because of the colour) though.
Fun fact:
"Red String of Fate" is related to the folklore consisting of  Yuè Xià Lǎo (月下老, often abbreviated to "Yuèlǎo" [月老]), the old lunar matchmaker god who is also in charge of marriages. This story was told to many grand kids by their grandparents. Superstitious believers believe that two "soul mates" or lovers are connected with this red thread that never breaks, despite distance.
I have figured out how I will package my Totem of Luck. I used quite a number of materials (different types of papers, to be exact) - from RJ Paper. The brown paper was used because it's sturdy and can hold the other embellishments such as the sewing (red thread), that compliments the binding of the book, so that it'll look like there's continuity between the two items (The pictures above don't show the sewing on the Totem packaging though.). Finally, I slipped an instructional guide sheet in a small pocket on the front of the Totem Packaging (not shown in photos too) because there was barely any surface area to put visible text that is more than 4pt. 
Fixing the totem together was a little chore because it was quite tough to find the right bolt and nut size, but alas, I accomplished the task. However, the dial didn't spin freely even though these were used, and yes, I was missing a piece of this shiny circular widget that I still have no clue what it's called, but - still, accomplished:

I like how the Totem is able to fit nicely into the palm of one's hand. It may be small, but as one looks at how the dual layers of rastered clear acrylic reflects off the mirror backing, there's this exquisite factor to it. It reminds me of a pocket mirror, something handy, but elegant. Colour wise, the silver finish depicts the futuristic 2050 landscape, slick, clean and possibly a community with a lack of culture and purely machinery.

Yup, yup - Totem Up and Working.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

All in Good Time - Paper Shopping

I love the smell of freshly cut paper. Especially when it comes in various booklets of RJ paper catalogues. Do you get that feeling, picking paper from the piles? It's so exciting I had to remind myself to calm down before refusing to buy tons of redundant paper. Fancy Paper has the same effect too, only you don't get to sit down and literally Place Your Order on a sheet of paper- which makes it slightly less amusing, but still, seemingly worth the thrill.  
I travelled down from hall and to meet my fellow viscommer, Jia Hao, on the way because going alone to RJ can be slightly dodgy at times, considering it's an industrial estate, and cab fares are usually cheaper, split two ways. We were let down because they told us that we'd have to come back to collect again tomorrow because the cutter was busy today. Thankfully, 10 minutes later, the manager (I think) came around to tell the lot of us that they'll be delivering to the La Salle on campus tomorrow (and we were like, wow very good service there, what about us?) and the NTU students will just have to wait for our paper if we want them by today. 
So I'm here now, clocking an hour for glorious paper. The wait shall be worth it. All in good time, all in good time.