Technology–is it beautiful?

The urge to make things

Managing Editor Liz Good and Photostylist Ann Swanson look at photos on Joe Coca's laptop as we shoot images for the Spring 2013 issue in Joe's backyard.

At a recent visit to the junior high classroom where I volunteer, the guide, Bekah, was discussing textiles and technology and asking the students to think about the technology that we use in our modern era. The students named a few pieces of technology along the lines of computers and phones but Bekah started talking about the origins of the word technology—how the roots, techno-, means the art or craft, and to craft is to make or create and -ology means skill. It was just enough of a shift to help the class start seeing that word in a different light.

I like to imagine human technology started when our ancient human ancestors picked up a stick and used it as a tool to dig up a root. At some point they took that stick and started using it to help twist fiber into yarn and then set up sticks to hold the yarns rigid so that they could interlace that yarn into woven cloth. We think of our ancient ancestors as discovering these things because they needed them to survive—and we all know that necessity is the mother of invention. But sometimes I wonder if the urge to create comes from something more fundamentally human, less of an animal instinct. Along with making things that are useful, we humans seem to have an urge to make things that are beautiful. Perhaps that's where the art comes into technology.

Photographer Joe Coca working his magic in downtown Fort Collins in front of Mama Told Me Sew while Designer Jason Reid sheds some light on the model.

A parent was visiting the classroom on the same day—she's an artist and a potter—and she was showing the kids how to press lace into the surface of the clay to make patterns. She was telling the students about how the first known clay pots show impressions of woven cloth on their surface—likely because early humans would have made baskets to gather food and at some point they started lining the baskets with clay to hold water. Perhaps one of those clay lined baskets fell into a fire, burning away the fabric, but leaving the hardened clay pot with a beautiful pattern of woven cloth etched on the surface.

All this led me to think about the technology that we use today—the computer that I'm composing this blog post on, to the smartphone I use to post photos of our current photoshoot to our Facebook page, to the electronic copies of Spin-Off magazine that make the magazine available long after the print copies have been sold out. Sure, some uses of technology are more beautiful than others—and I imagine that comes down to our choices. It is what we choose to do with technology that matters.

Walk in beauty,


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