Hello! sorry its been a wee bit quiet around here of late. I have just been working really hard.

Since I got back from Sweden I’ve been writing about the research I conducted during my trip. The chapter I’ve been working on draws together a number of threads, including my own experience of an extraordinarily well-designed sit-to-stand transfer device, produced by Swedish company, Etac . . .

the history of a quintessentially ’60s brand . . .

. . . the influence of radical designer and thinker, Victor Papanek

. . . and the inspiring work of Maria Benktzon, who I was privileged to meet a few weeks ago.

Mostly, though, I’ve just been writing about how, far from being a specialised or minority concern, creating tools and products for those with disabilities and impairments, is in fact, design for ALL humanity.


(ergonomic cutlery designed by Maria Benktzon & Sven-Erik Juhlin for RFSU Rehab / Etac)

The book now has a working title – Handywoman. If you are generally interested in feminism, craft, design and disability issues as well as some personal stuff about my childhood, my love of knitting, my stroke and the hard work of neurological recovery, then this will be the book for you! If I keep my head down and keep at it I should be able to finish the writing in a couple of months or so.

Before I nip off to eat something, have a shower, put on some clothes I can actually wear outside the house, and engage in normal human conversation (as befits the writer of a recently completed chapter) I have to mention the good news that my mum and dad are finally settled a short drive away from us. . .

. . . and are now in the process of making their new house a home.

Please join me in welcoming Sue and Wal to bonnie Scotland!

48 thoughts on “surfacing

  1. Loved reading your beautiful post this morning here in the Loess Hills Of Iowa! A perfect joy in life is having Family close, enjoy your adventure…. wish we were neighbors! (:

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  2. Very excited to see this. Although I was a painter, Victor Papanek was an incredibly inspirational professor of mine at the Kansas City Art Institue in the late 1970’s.

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      1. He was a wonderful thinker and teacher, too. I wonder if anyone has any of his old slides and lectures on world design. They were thought provoking in the most meaningful ways. I remember that he told us that his worst industrial design was the little plastic pop-up indicator that a turkey is fully cooked. (Do they have those in Scotland?) He was very proud of the first NorthFace oval-in-tension tent. There was a section in his lectures on Bali and how everyone there was an artist and a maker and how that being a maker was part of their culture. And I remember him talking about the songbirds there. He lectured about the technology and meaning of the earliest Chinese bronzes. He drove the earliest (and tiniest) Honda Civic I’d ever seen and was annoyed that the homeowners association where he lived told him he couldn’t paint his front door red because -as they informed the world famous designer-it was in bad taste. Now I may need to dig around my basement to see if I can find my classnotes from 40 years ago and relearn all that I have forgotten.

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  3. I am so looking forward to reading your book! It was already on my list (as I love to read everything you write), and then a few weeks ago, I was unexpectedly diagnosed with RA, so now I find myself even more personally interested in your experiences. Welcome to your parents!

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  4. I look forward to reading your book Kate!!!
    As always, I love the photography.
    And and a great big welcome to Sue and Wal! They must
    be happy to be close to their daughter.

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  5. My career has been in user experience design for web based solutions and more recently I have moved into a broader customer experience role and am involved in many research and service design activities using design thinking methods. If asked to explain what I do I say: “solving problems for humans with design”. It is a key motivator for me. I very much look forward to reading your book as it will intersect with many of my interests.

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  6. The concept of universal design seems to be catching hold even in the schools here. My grandson attended a science/technology high school near Seattle, Washington where his last two years focused on biomedical engineering. His final assignment was to design and make a tool that addressed some functional issue. His allowed a person with only one working hand to assemble and adjust a skateboard.

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  7. Hi Kate, so nice to read about your forthcoming book. I couldn’t agree with you more: good design is design for all humanity. Actually, in my own field architecture, the two concepts that we use capture the idea: design for all and universal design. Really look forward to seeing more posts on the handywoman topic on your blog, great title!

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  8. I live in Stratford close to the site of the 2012 Olympics. The enormous broadcasting centre that was built for that occasion has now been transformed into Here East – a sort of gigantic tech hub with sections occupied, for example by organisations as diverse as Loughborough University robotics and the Anni Albers inspired Wayne McGregor dance studios. As a local resident I get invited to community coffee mornings there and so have learnt all sorts of things about what is going on. One organisation that has taken up a Here East perch is the Global Disability Innovation Hub which studies and disseminates much – including developments in assistive technology. The London College of Fashion is involved in it: their whole campus is moving to the Olympic park (to the section known as Olympicopolis which will also house a V&A outpost and part of Sadlers Wells). You may already know about the GDI Hub but just in case you don’t there is a lot of info on their website: https://www.disabilityinnovation.com/ The woman I briefly met from there was really friendly and interesting.

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  9. I am so looking forward to reading your book, Kate! And, lucky you and lucky parents to be close by:). May my daughter(s) and I be so fortunate!

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  10. Can’t wait to read your new book, it sounds incredibly interesting! I’m so glad for them and you that your mum and dad are close by, family is so important to our well being!

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  11. Dear Kate,
    So happy for you in all the love and wonder that surrounds you. Family first and close by is the best present . Welcome to your Mom and Dad. May the words of your newest book come to you as you need them.

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  12. Your book sounds fascinating!

    I recall your previous posts about returning to swimming following your stroke, and wonder if you came across the Halliwick concept during that time? I have just starting swimming using the concept myself (I have never been a fan of swimming, although have recently discovered that having prescription swimming goggles – and therefore being able to actually see what I’m doing – has made an enormous difference to me!) and have been delighted to see how inclusive my local Halliwick group is, including some folk recovering from strokes themselves.

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  13. I recall you speaking of that device to assist one the stand from a sitting position in your earlier stroke recovery blogs and thought as a nurse who worked for 35 years that device would have come in handy in assisting some patients to get up from their bed and yet I’ve never seen it. I am so happy you will include your recovery memories in this new book. Very inspiring and informative.

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  14. Hi Kate, You’ve probably seen this, but just in case…have you seen the film Objectified (part of a trilogy about design by the filmmaker Gary Hustwit)? It’s about industrial design with many talking head interviews with designers, but I remember one bit that was about trying to design some basic kitchen equipment for someone with bad arthritis in her hands, and how it became the basis of the Good Grips line that so many of use now! It very much captured that idea that if something is really good design for a particular sector of the population, then really it is good design overall! I quite like the film, might be an enjoyable hour of ‘research’ if you haven’t seen it!
    Handywoman is a great title–I look forward to it!
    All the best, Marina

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  15. Welcome to your new home Sue and Wal! Many happy years there!
    I am eager to read Handywoman Kate. Feminism, craft knitting, biography and methods used to deal with disabilities are fascinating subjects to me.

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  16. I can see Bruce dashing up those steps to visit Sue and Wal for treats and fusses faster than you or Tom can ever manage.
    The book sounds like it will be really interesting. I recognise the knife from my own visit to the disability living centre.

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  17. Hello Kate, your book sounds really good, good luck getting it done and dusted. So pleased you have your mum and dad close, we moved 12 years ago and now live just 2 miles from our eldest daughter and it has been great. Love the (knitted?) bunting on the balcony!

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  18. A personal journey book. Sounds like you are putting a lot of energy into writing it. Is it also therapeutic as most writers say when writing about their own lives/history? Gives an author a stepping stone for packaging up the past and getting on with the future. Although you do not have a problem getting on with things A big welcome to your mum and dad and living closer to daughter. What a joyful decision for all.

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  19. You are all so very fortunate to share these coming years in such close proximity to each other. I lost mine two years ago, still think of them everyday and miss them terribly.
    Congratulations on your progress with the book!

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  20. Although I am proud to be a Lancashire lass, and as beautiful as Lancashire is, all I say regarding your parents’ new home is Wow! I am sure they will be very happy there – and you too having them near.
    We moved to France on retirement, mainly because of the warmer climate helping our arthritis, etc., but if the dread ‘B’ word makes our future here too difficult (although the way things are going we shall be dead and gone by the time anything is resolved!) we shall head for Scotland. (If it will have us!)

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  21. I will definitely be one of your first customers for this book Kate it sounds fascinating and I enjoy your writing so much. I hope you Mum and Dad will be very, very happy in their new home. It looks beautiful. Good luck in finishing the book.

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  22. Beautiful pictures and the book sounds wonderful. Glad your Mum and Dad are getting settled, but they should be careful, knowing you and Tom you will have them labeling boxes of yarn any day now!!!

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  23. Congrats on finishing the chapter! And on having Mom and Dad close by.
    Those photos you share are just so lovely – that rainbow – ! My heavens. That is beautiful.

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  24. Welcome back! It sounds like you’ve been very busy, but happily so. It will be nice to have your mom and dad nearby, and I’m sure they feel the same!

    I have to know if Tom lightly photoshopped the electric lines out of the lead photo of this piece? You can just barely see them, ghostly. It’s such a gorgeous picture, as is the stunning rainbow over…your house?

    Looking forward to the new book–I’ve not heard of a lot of the designers you mentioned, so I’m also looking forward to learning more about them as well as you.

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    1. absolutely not – there’s no photoshopping there (though Tom does edit his photos) – I personally see the electricity pylons (just like windmills or waterworks) as an essential part of this landscape – not as in any sense an eyesore – they connect us, and make this part of the world accessible! The light was interesting that day, and is probably what caused the ghostly effect you mention.

      The house is one we can see, across the loch out our back window. Our own home is much more modest!

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  25. Just spent two weeks on Hoy with my family who are renting there for a few months. Gorgeous. Hope you are all happy in Scotland, loving your posts and hoping you are steadily improving. How lovely to have your parents nearby.

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