Nature by Design

Nature by Design

Fallen log in the forest depicting design by nature

“Anything created by human beings is already in the great book of nature... nothing is invented, for it is written in nature first” —Antonio Gaudi

2 for 1 sale! You came here to shop, we’ll do you one better! By reading this blog post, you’re getting a free biology, ecology and anthropology lesson! Product purchase not necessary, but highly recommended.

TL/DR: This post is about The Arc Light’s obsession with nature and the science of our craft. It has been termed “required reading” by leading universities. It takes the reader on an illuminating journey whose destination is marked by the sign: Add to Cart.

We are huge fans of nature. All our products are sourced from and inspired by nature. We love the patterns, the colors, the shapes, the styles; we love everything about nature! We feel that representing nature is intimately bound up with exploring it and trying to understand it. Whether meant merely to adorn, and in apparent defiance of plainness, or constructed with purpose to incorporate intelligent design that is both visually pleasing and functional, it is remarkably evident that nature falls prey to fashion!

We blame (but hold in awe) Stephen Wolfram, a brilliant physicist, who in his 2002 book, A New Kind of Science, makes a bold claim, that nature can be better understood by identifying patterns and their underlying rules, rather than through the traditional method of fitting equations to observations.

Rudyard Kipling struggled to try and explain how the animals of Africa acquired their markings and natural patterns, because how could wild nature be capable of such craft? He decided that conventional logic and language would not achieve much, so he resorted to local lore and legend and wrote this in his 1902 book, The Just So Stories:

“ . . . and after another long time, what with standing half in the shade and half out of it, and what with the slippery-slidy shadows of the trees falling on them, the Giraffe grew blotchy, and the Zebra grew stripy, and the Eland and the Koodoo grew darker, with little wavy grey lines on their backs like bark on a tree trunk; and so, though predators could hear them and smell them, you could very seldom see them, and then only when you knew precisely where to look.”

Observed consciously, nature is incredibly and visually rewarding. Nature seeks to accomplish the most with the least; it uses everything it produces - it does not create waste. It is frugal even when it comes to the creation of patterns; it stretches the use of only a few fundamental forms across world-wide applications. It adapts and modifies basic patterns as needed, to meet functional or aesthetic demands. Nature is resourceful and adept in this way. Nature lends itself as our model for making things. At The Arc Light, we seek to design like nature. Through its endless palette, its patterns, colors, textures and styles, nature inspires nature, bringing the out, inside in seamless flow.

Humans are makers, and we have always lived in a world of making. In ancient times, handcrafted items enabled us to exist in a world where the sustenance demands of life and indeed our survival, depended on our interactions with the materials we had at our disposal. To succeed, humans needed to apply skill, resourcefulness and knowledge. Today, making sits at the intersection of society, culture and the economy. There exists a link between a craft, its landscape of use, its efficacy, fittingness, lasting value and its beauty. Craft is therefore more than just making. 

Understanding the relationship between human cultural psychology and the evolutionary ecology of living systems, that is, how the resourceful nature of generations past, allowed them to take advantage of the provisions of nature, has proved inspirational to us. This mindset has enabled us to strive to consciously understand the materials that we use, it allows us to make critical decisions about how to approach our work, and requires us to manage and factor in wider constraints, be they financial, time or resources. This view of choosing materials that will last, understanding their properties, and knowing how to care for them is a core tenet of the regenerative economy and it sits at the heart of what we believe in at The Arc Light. Ours shouldn’t be a society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated to keep production going; ours shouldn’t be a society founded on waste.

If you want to get a feeling for what you can observe in the natural world, I think there is no better way than actually going through the physical process of trying to draw, paint or sculpt it with hand, eye and brain working together. - Dr. Alan Rayner. Writer, Evolutionary Ecologist, Artist extraordinaire.

In trying to communicate our understanding of nature with enthusiasm, you might say that we are horribly fixated on the specifics - you wouldn’t be wrong. Again, thank you for joining us, and thank you for geeking with us.

Patterns, symbols, colors and shapes all jump out to us differently, granting them varied, meanings and interpretations across regions, cultures and peoples. When you hold and interact with any of our products, we would love it if you could teach and share with us your observations, interpretations or views. We appreciate and hold valuable any knowledge learnt. Now please, Add to Cart.

Mama E Laments
I bring forth their existence and watch them take their first breath.
They exhale optimism, ambition and drive.
With nothing held back, I generously nurture and sustain.
Incredibly beautiful lives emerge; purpose and meaning are defined.
I wield time to create; and to enhance their lives, they recklessly extract.
From deep in the soil and from ancient waters.
From towering trees and from flowing fields.
They rarely care to replace, reuse or repurpose.
Nights grow colder, days turn hotter.
Rivers stop flowing and death hangs in the air.
I’ve seen it before; it hurts each and every time.
10 billion shy of two, pushing down the pillow on my face.
I know how it ends. They all know how it ends.
If they would just slow down, pause and read the signs.
If they would just slow down, pause and reset.
If they would just slow down, stop and care.
-The Arc Light, 2022-
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