A collaborative project where I designed products for outdoor eating, beginning with observing people eating in parks and taking inspiration from patterns, textures and materials at picnics, we uncovered customs of outdoor eating to investigate.
When we go on a picnic it is generally a spontaneous, improvised event, taking advantage of fair weather and free time to eat outdoors. When we go a park, we are specifically doing so to engage with nature. Yet the rituals and rules of the indoors are taken outside with us, such as table manners.
This is about the picnic as a social occasion and how we share, more so than in a domestic dining situation. Often one person is allocated the job of delving into the bag to hand out food as required. This bag tears down its seams, and as the food spills out it becomes a ‘table’ from which people can pick food at their leisure. The exterior wicker print references how the plastic bag has replaced the hamper, and are nearly always used at picnics.
People often lie on their coats, or sit on plastic bags if the ground is wet. This bag can be reversed, becoming a cushion when a coat is stuffed inside. This combines the disposable with something of value, i.e. plastic and fabric, and the bag describes the transformation that misused objects can undergo; from the mundane to the valued, as well as asking how intimate plastic can be. The bag touches on the chronology of a picnic: carrying food, sitting down, eating, relaxing and clearing away.
On a picnic, we often eat with our hands, and wipe them on any available paper. This paper plate has a skin of paper towel on the underside, patterned with a ceramic motif. Despite being in the great outdoors, we inevitably bring aspects of our indoor behaviour with us. Eating and drinking is informal on a picnic yet we are still polite, and some table manners remain.
Placing a rug in a park is about owning a space for a period of time; possessing land, a feature, or a view. Rugs define space and territory, sitting with our backs to the world creates a wall around us and is especially important outdoors, as we need boundaries between us and the next person or group. Rectangular rugs can push some people closer and some further away, so a circular rug is more democratic; no one is left out.