I received a cup for my birthday from a very good friend. The cup has a hole in it from which the liquid may and will pour onto someone when the cup is tilted for drinking. The peculiar object caught my attention in a manner unforeseen at first glance. Its function was to hold liquid and is used for drinking, yet the orifice would not permit filling the cup in full because it would stream through. So what gives?
Why the hole? What is the purpose of having a hole in the body of the cup? Would the water like to peep outside and see who would drink it? Would I want to peep inside and maybe see water particles?
I stood in wonder of this particular cup. It’s the sort of object that holds mystery, yet it cannot hold the amount of water its volume would suggest. It got me thinking of the concept of wabi-sabi from the Asian culture – to find beauty in broken things. Yet come to ponder, the cup is not broken, its designed not to be functional in a conventional way, but to remind myself not to take everyday objects for granted. The utility of the cup is secondary to the experience of having to drink from a cup that would spill coffee on a clean white shirt. So what’s the point here?
Does form follow function or does function follow form?
The limited functionality of the cup boggled me. I tried to fit a straw inside the hole and drink from it, honestly I felt like a genius for doing that, yet it did not solve the mystery of the hole, it was just a minor fix, maybe not a fix, but some sort of crutch, an improvisation.
One morning I forgot about the trap hole in the cup, poured coffee inside and it overflowed through the hole in the cup and spilt all over some papers I was due to file in. The cup played its trick on me. I thought I had the cup figured out when trying to override its conceptual flaw by pouring limited amounts of liquid or tilting it the other side around when drinking. All my friends ask me about the hole in the cup but I don’t have any explanation for it so it’s open for interpretation.
One day I came home exhausted and angry from work and had no friend available to share my problem with and help me ease myself into a quiet evening. I found the cup and meticulously poured some tea up to the brim of the hole and I let the liquid stream a bit through the hole so it would fulfill its function as a hole and release some liquid. This ritual soothed me for no particular reason. It felt like a release.
I found the hole to be an outlet of all things bottled up inside or filled over capacity. The hole spoke to me in terms of depletion versus abundance. When the tea piped through the hole I felt liberated of everything I had billowed up inside during the day. I also let some tea pipe through the hole onto my chest when I drank from the cup. It was warm and messy you would say, but it’s only tea, so who cares?
People need to let off some steam once in a while. Maybe not try to organize everything so neatly, maybe not try to make everything so practical and enjoy something for the sake of no reason at all.
This particular cup is something I cherish for its absurdity. It helped me think there’s no reason in having to be perfect all the time. It’s funny to make a weird step when dancing, it’s funny to know the washing machine will only start if I kick the door with a push in one exact spot, it’s funny I have to first print a test page with the printer because otherwise the cartridges would not align properly.
This cup is also funny. It made me think beyond form or function. It raised some questions I still ponder about once in a while. What objects do we need to function properly? Are the instruments of our daily lives helping us solve our problems? Why do we choose things over experiences?
Can we fill our emotional gaps with objects?
If you’re curious about the cup, I later learned it’s called “Irreverent” and was created by MOFT, a design initiative that promotes relaxed attitudes and opinions about things, interiors, and architecture, delivering a usable product whether it’s a service or an object with nuances and meaning.
Written by Alice T.