Exploring Objects for Self

Designer Callum Campbell is fresh home from Milan Design Week where he exhibited Objects for Self, a set of life accessories that encourage the owner to softly unpack and acknowledge their mental state.

It consists of Honne, a personal light, (95 x 190-250mm, brass), Render, a mirror (360 x 240 x 88mm, brass and stainless steel) and a daily counter, entitled Memento Mori (36 x 93mm, brass).

What is the background to Objects for Self ?

Objects for Self is a collection of objects that confront three common, yet profoundly burdening concerns faced by most individuals. Fluctuating physical self-esteem; articulating emotional expression; and regret or anxiety associated with age. Through considered self-reflection and daily symbolic ritual, the collection softly motivates the individual to unpack and acknowledge their mental state. Each piece is designed to focus on the causality of emotions relating to each issue, aid in their acceptance and hopefully encourage positive mental and physical life changes.

My intention with this conceptual collection was for each piece to be treated just like any other common yet required object found in a household, like a toothbrush for example. They would become objects so familiar to society that their function and daily use would be normalised and become almost invisible. Each piece would be collected by the individual either at birth or during milestone events in one’s life to be reflected upon daily or as required… The collection isn’t intended to be treated as a form of self-help but more as tools to help us understand who we really are, what makes us tick. You could even say they’re tools to help us understand when we should seek help from others. In their current prototype state however, I really just hope the collection helps people to reflect on their own mental well-being. The world we live in is so superficial and full of white noise it’s easy to forget who we are sometimes.

How did the design to come to fruition?

The aesthetic and function of the collection is a direct response to the emotional issues it represents. To enhance the sense of ownership and emotional responsibility, it was important that the user feel a sense of personal connection to each individual piece as well. I thought to express this through my chosen materials, brass and stainless steel. It is fairly cliché now days to use the patina both these materials form as a way of creating personal connection, however as these would be considered deeply personal life long objects, that was my absolute intent.

In terms of how it all came to fruition, I really just used myself as the guinea pig. I unpacked the core components and triggers for each issues (at least in the context of how they effected me) and how they could be represented in a physical context. It was actually a really confronting process, I had to visit some pretty dark places in my mind to understand what I was doing… Which is probably why the collection took me two years to develop.

What was it like exhibiting in Milan and how has this influenced your approach as a designer?

Exhibiting in Milan was equally as exhausting as it was deeply rewarding. Being with such a large contingent of other designers from Australia, I really did have a sense of cultural pride especially as I was the only designer based in WA. The long and exhausting days were such great fun though. Words cannot describe how much there is to see and do during the festival. (As well as the amount of alcohol you’ll consume!)

The exhibitions, their scale and creative diversity is what makes Salone del Mobile Milano so enriching. Sure it’s basically one gigantic trade show, but the +100 satellite exhibitions/installations dotted around the city centre is where the creative action is found. It is from these peripheral events that I took my biggest inspiration – to keep exploring unusual concepts and ideas and to not be limited by what I think the industry wants. Some of the most notorious events from the week were purely conceptual. One served no purpose other than to show someone had figured out how to convert radioactive pollution into a new form of ceramic glaze. I think that level of exploration is so important and is what drives our society to better itself.

Were there any major styles or trends in Milan that you think we will start to see arriving in Australia?

Deeply coloured resins/acrylics/plastics are becoming rather popular. These materials seem to be used in mainly simple geometric formations as well, much like the work of Sabine Marcelis who’s been using these mediums for years. I also feel like inherently silvery coloured metals such as steel and aluminium will become rather popular soon, possibly replacing brass in a purely aesthetic context. Like everything though, it’ll probably be quite some time before we see these styles arrive on our shores.

Try and get to Milan for the festival, even if you’re not from industry or particularly into design. The whole experience is so interesting and creatively enriching, there’s honestly something there for everyone to see and experience!