3 min read

I Received an Object

Specifically, a book shaped object

Me? I'm not exactly one for unboxing videos (neither the viewing nor the creation of them), but when my doorbell rang recently and I found the DHL delivery man there with an object I had ordered from Japan only 3 days earlier I felt that thrill that runs from the stomach up through the chest and around to the neck. My copy of Kissa by Kissa had arrived in all of its lovingly crafted glory.

Yes, that’s a custom-designed shipping box.

How long had it been since I had received a package? A mere 2 days. Had that package brought me the same sense of wonder and anticipation as this one? Not at all. Receiving packages is kind of a non-event (a statement which May 2021 Seth - at the mercy of Mauritian customs and post - would vehemently disagree, but what a difference a few months makes). But this package had been on a journey, and I don't just mean the shipping from Yokohama to Utrecht.

Kevin Kelly, one of Wired's co-founders, has this idea of the 1,000 True Fans. It's kind of a liberating idea to hold onto in the face of all the hype around billionaires and unicorns - in the internet age, a creator can make a great living off of just 1,000 people who absolutely love what they do. Craig Mod, the creator who designed that custom packaging as well as oversaw every single detail of the contents that it carried, is someone of whom I am a True Fan. He set out on a long walk through part of Japan, he documented that walk, and then he took the images and thoughts from it and put them together into a book. And then he found a printer, and then he selected the specific paper and binding type, and then he built a custom ordering system on top of Shopify, and then he designed custom packaging, and on and on and on. This book is quite unlike the books we buy on Amazon or even in our local indie shop in its process, its creation, and its distribution. I followed along from the day that Craig set out on the first step of the walk that eventually became the book.

I'll admit: I'm as guilty as anyone of viewing most objects as commodities. But this wasn't that, because the object was so tied up with a sense of experience - even if it wasn't my own experience. When Craig walks, he tunes in to the world around him. The people. The physical environment. The social dynamics. The history. And he uses it as an impetus to create, to document, and to share. For me, it acts as both inspiration and provocation to find more occasion to create.

So maybe it was the anticipation of receiving this new object (and maybe it was just the necessity of having to occupy a child for 90 minutes) that found me on my own walk this past Saturday. I took 2 of my children on the train into Amsterdam, I dropped one of them off at his drama class, and I looked at the other one and asked, "which way do you want to go: left or right?" She chose, and we set off. In hindsight, I should have taken more photographs - by which I mean I should have taken at least 1 photograph - because over the course of the next hour and a half we traversed 5 whole city blocks and discovered a whole microcosm of urban life. We pontificated over the purpose of the miniature ramp outside of an apartment building (she believing it to be a slide for small animals and insects).

Thanks Google Maps!
The aforementioned ramp - do you know what it’s for? (Thanks Google Maps)

We found a sidewalks with tiny mosaics in place of some of its cobblestones. She climbed over scaffolding, collected fallen flower blossoms and petals, and debated why she shouldn't be allowed to eat the crabapples ultimately deciding that it was acceptable to just keep a few to show to her brother. An art project formed in her mind involving all of these found wonders of the natural world that now filled our hands and pockets. Coffee and hot chocolate was procured and consumed. And eventually we found ourselves back where we began, and we picked up her brother, got back on the train and headed home.

And I think this Saturday, we might just do it again. Last week we turned right. What happens if we turn left?