Where Science Meets Muse

Do Beautiful Machines Make Beautiful Objects?

Posted by Plish on September 17, 2010

I have fond memories of my mother’s sewing machine.  It wasn’t antique, it would be more apropos to say it was ‘retro’.  Still, I remember popping open the various hatches and looking at how the mechanisms worked.  More than once I experimented with trying various stitches and created tangled messes of thread.

My mother, though she was extremely adept at using the machine, (and could spot machine-made embroidery a mile away) also sewed by hand and made embroidered pillows, shirts, ornamental towels, table cloths, and various other objects that sometimes were functional, but were always beautiful…

Sewing machines have  quite an intense history.  If you want to read about innovation, read about the development of sewing machines.  They’ve gone from being mechanical works of art, to technologically efficient machines.  Antique machines were powered by the sewer and created stitches that were relatively weak.  Modern, electric, motorized, programmable machines can make stronger and more complex stitches and do it with blazing speed and minimal human input.

In some ways it’s the old ‘human vs. machine’ battle, only in this case it’s more of a ‘human+machine vs. machine-human).    In other words, is the output obtained through using a person powered machine as beautiful as that from a pre-programmed machine? (As an aside, why don’t sewing machine makers put ‘accidents’ into their programs to make patterns less perfect?)

 Which brings us back to our first question and many more:

  • Does a beautiful machine (human or otherwise), contribute more effectively to the creation of more beautiful objects when those objects’ purpose is to convey beauty? 
  • Do emotional attachments, and the ability to express emotion through the mechanisms of a machine, create beauty more effectively than a programmed machine? 
  • Does emotional attachment to beautiful tools result in more beautiful creations?
  • Does emotional attachment to the creator of beauty render something more beautiful?
  • When a machine is more expensive, should it be more beautiful?
  • Are there lessons from early sewing machines that we should apply to products today?

What are your thoughts?

3 Responses to “Do Beautiful Machines Make Beautiful Objects?”

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