Stuff Matters, by Mark Miodownik, was given to us recently, probably for our love of materials and the title's resemblance to our namesake. The book starts with a fairly innocuous photo of a man drinking tea and reading on a rooftop garden. This photo takes you on a journey throughout the story, dissecting every day ingredients and giving insight to the material world in a relatable way.
Facts about something as common as concrete quickly changed our view on what actually is a marvellous building material; perhaps why it's now featured in design, rather than disguised. Even the chocolate in a biscuit is more complex than it looks, quality determined by its melting point. Aerogel is even more intriguing, something you need to look into to get a better sense of its magnificence; only a few people in the world have ever gotten to feel it.
Our attention heightened as we came to the chapter about paper; maybe from feeling of turning the page, or from our deep interest from working with a paper composite material every day. How often we come into contact with paper is fascinating - such simplicity has created huge diversity in the way we use paper, and we rarely pause to take note.
It took 2,000 years of development just to produce the paper that holds tea leaves, or filters coffee. Our passports and cash are a more sophisticated cotton-paper blend; though maybe not for much longer when we switch to Polymer notes in 2016.
Electronic paper (e-ink on e-readers) is an ever changing page brought to us by the Janus particle. Every particle is dyed light on one side, dark on the other and given opposite electrical charges; maybe not so simple after all.
What really interests us about paper, is that it's nature - trees, timber, wood. It's comforting, warm and friendly. We still take notes in a notebook instead of on our phone or iPad. So many of us use a lot, probably too much, paper in the office, even though it was supposed to go paperless years ago. We can't help but feel that when it finally happens, it'll be a shame for future generations not to be able to pick up an old newspaper or turn the pages of an old design magazine. What happens to that feeling of nostalgia when you come across an old Beanos and Dandys from 1989?
Mark Miodownik sums this up well when he says,
"paper gains an authenticity and power from its patina of age."
We hope it continues, if not in our notebooks, then maybe in new materials.