(PROGRAMMING NOTE: Big Quit Energy is on hiatus from regular essays on work culture and workaholism until the end of November. Until then, enjoy our backlog of Slacker film analysis and “Friends With BQE” podcasts episodes!)
We live in a system where dominant culture caters to employers and steers everyone to disproportionately favor work. We know it encourages this attitude in its mass-produced stories and media. Should we be surprised that it does the same through the mass-produced objects we interact with every day?
In this episode, we discuss furniture design with Alexis Caldero–a designer, woodworker, and craft educator who got on our radar because she focuses on designing for “healing and reverence of the body” instead of for productivity, as the field of “ergonomics'' traditionally does.
A recipient of a 2023 Craft Research Fellowship Grant, she’s exploring the possibilities of designing objects that can be “agents for liberation,” a practice grounded in philosophy of what she calls “body-centered activism.”
In this fascinating discussion, we touch upon:
What the often-misunderstood term “ergonomics” actually means, and its namesake field’s focus on work and efficiency
Why the metrics for success in ergonomics tend to be generalized by the market in a way that marginalize many people
Why and how she’s shifting to a practice that allows her to serve more specific needs at a smaller scale (ex. living with a large body, or living with depression) and some considerations she keeps in mind when designing furniture with this goal
Her project to make 100 custom chairs to help 100 different women on their healing journeys (the ones she’s currently building are REALLY cool applied examples of her developing philosophy)
How she currently understands the meaning of “body-centered activism” (or the related concept, “somatic abolitionism”) and how objects plays into helping people liberate themselves from oppression at the non-intellectual, body level
If you or someone you know would be interested in collaborating (and maybe getting a chair in the process) in Alexis’ 100 custom chairs project, you can reach her on Instagram at @lexcmakes or on her website at alexiscaldero.com.
You can also check out the current collaborators she mentioned: