Poor Beauty

Why should false painting imitate his cheek,
And steal dead seeming of his living hue?
Why should poor beauty indirectly seek,
Roses of shadow, since his rose is true?
Why should he live, now nature bankrupt is,
Beggared of blood to blush through lively veins,
For she hath no exchequer now but his,
And proud of many, lives upon his gains?’
[Sonnet 67, lines 5-12]

To paint a flower on an object that is created to the devastation of that flower is surely sick, just as to design something in the shape of or made from a tree or creature involving a production or distribution method that is annihilating all trees and creatures is wrong. All the time we favour imitation to the detriment of its true form. Artists and designers are known as flower-powered nature-loving spirits, yet so many of us conveniently avoid the realisation that creating an object in line with the current commercial imperative will more often than not cost the very quality that inspired it. Product design in particular revolves around the ability to achieve demand for mass, to sell people stuff that is not needed, to spend a charmed lifetime making a profitable living in the wreaking of destruction and the promotion of waste. Why is it that producing in great quantity is seen as the model to follow, while the impact of that production is ignored? Why do we prioritise cost to the pocket over ultimate cost to the future, and the freedom to be found through a healthy bank balance over the freedom to be healthy and live in balance with other plants and creatures? Do we have to destroy nature to celebrate her?

Surely the urgent task of the creative is to discover how to spend less, produce less, damage less – and value more.

Take Physic, Pomp!


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