7 Mar 2018
Sam loves telling quirky stories about The Big Idea’s community of artists and interviewing successful arts practitioners to gather insights about funding and commercialising their art.
We’re all living in ripple effects every day. We don’t see them, of course, but every decision we make has an impact somewhere - no matter how small that decision looks.
Two of the winners of the 2017 AUT Big Idea Award ‘for talented, innovative individuals with exceptional creative potential’ explored these themes from different angles. On one hand, Claudine Nalesu created an art installation that showed ripple effects with LED lights and fiber optics. On the other, the Doodle Dolls team, led by Amanda Brayham, created a business that aims to alleviate child poverty through small actions.
These works focus on the potentially great impact of an action that starts small.
We’ll start with Claudine. Claudine created an art installation called “Mindfulness”. It’s interactive and engages the viewer. There’s a series of LED lights connected by fiber optics. The fiber optic strands hang from the ceiling, and as you touch them, they light up in a variety of different ways.
There’s no set pattern to how the lights light up. Rather, the signal from a viewer touching the fiber optic strands gets multiplied and scattered in unpredictable ways. So, as someone walks through and touches the strands, they see how their actions ripple throughout the installation in ways they never would have expected.
Claudine says this is about helping people change their current mindsets. “By being conscious of your actions, and how they affect people, you can change the way you interact with the world.” This is mindfulness in a nutshell, and the installation brings it to life.
Doodle Dolls are a different take on the same idea. When I spoke to founder and CEO Amanda Brayham, she explained that New Zealand has some of the highest child poverty rates in the developed world, with one third of children living below the poverty line. This has all kinds of ripple effects to other negative outcomes - things like poorer educational and health outcomes. So, by helping to address child poverty, you are addressing the root cause of a bunch of related, and serious social problems.
Doodle Dolls does this by creating dolls from children’s drawings. The drawings come from children who live in poverty, and the dolls are made out of felt. They chose felt because it’s a flexible fabric, which is critical when you’re making dolls based on (sometimes extremely abstract) children’s drawings.
Then, 10 percent of the profit from each doll goes back to the child who designed it.
“We wanted to show that a business can make a profit for other people as well as itself,” said Amanda.
Doodle Dolls isn’t up and running yet, but you can sign up to pre-order here.
These projects are very different, but their messages and approaches overlap: small changes can make a big impact. In Mindfulness, we think of how small changes to how we approach people and situations can have a positive impact. And the Doodle Dolls makes us think about how small changes to reduce child poverty can have a big impact on society as a whole.
By Sam Grover