Every Minute is Precious
Liz Rowe recently completed her Master of Fine Arts in ceramics. Her research investigated time, labour, and value through the making and exchanging of handmade ceramic bowls. She embraced what she describes as:
"the contemporary dilemma of wanting to make the most of time but always being anxious that we are too busy to get everything we want done".
Liz's work included the production of wheel-thrown ceramic bowls, which are utilitarian objects meant for daily use. The bowls were individually numbered and each day's work was allocated a two word phrase; the phrase and number were stamped on the bowl before firing. Each bowl took her an hour on average to prepare, make, glaze and document. So, Liz decided to exchange each bowl for an hour of someone's time.
"This hour could be measured in several ways, from the participant's hourly pay rate to goods or services for me or someone else that we agreed."
Liz exchanged 259 bowls in 69 exchanges, with each exchange documented in a non-binding Exchange Contract. Amongst other things, Liz received preserves, firewood, and writing in exchange for her bowls. One person spun wool, and another then knitted that wool. In the process of negotiation, Liz and the bowls' recipients also exchanged ideas about social values, participation, commoditisation, perfection, and the relative values of time and labour and money.