The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something
Value is universally given to objects that are rare and beautiful, a diamond for example. This value then places a high monetary value upon the object, although the price and value of an object are not inherently intertwined. For example, an item that may be considered cheap to purchase can hold high personal value – particularly if it is a gift or holds some form of personal and relational value. Other objects may be replaceable and have a set price tag, yet are personal because of their unique history, take for example a favourite book, the bent page corners, various pen scribbles, the tea that was spilled down the 95th page, and the book sleeve that was lost three years ago, add memory and individuality to the book that cannot be replaced by a new copy.
Susan Collis challenges our idea of value in her works, ‘100% Cotton’, and ‘The Oyster’s our World’. The three everyday objects from afar look as though they are well used, having collected paint, dust and grit from various owners and projects. Deceptively, careful embroidery has been applied to ‘100% Cotton’, to create the appearance of paint marks left on a pair of blue overalls, unlike accidental paint marks the colour and stitching has been cautiously considered to create a garment which appears to hold a rich history. Collis is highlighting the personal value that marks and flaws can add to the individual character of an object, rather than subtract. Similarly today this can be seen in fashion, we go out of our way to buy jumpers with patches already sewn on and jeans already torn, embracing the ‘worn’ and ‘loved’ aesthetic. Wear and tear can likewise reveal a history that doesn’t need to spoken.
Detail of: Susan Collis, 100% Cotton, 2004
Overalls, embroidery threads
155 x 25 x 17 cm
Upon close inspection it is evident that the ‘The Oyster’s our World’ is a wooden stepladder inlayed with mother of pearl, shell, coral, fresh water pearl, cultured pearls, white opal, and diamond. What initially would appear to be paint that degrades the value of the stepladder are actually precious jewels, which adds thousands to the price. A simple stepladder, worth more than $100 seems ridiculous, Collis is bringing to light the functional value of the stepladder, which is frequently over looked. Imagine all the things you wouldn’t have been able to achieve if you didn’t have that stepladder; the top of the wall that would remain unpainted, the blown light bulbs that would have never been replaced, the cake that never was never baked because the pan at the top of the pantry remained out of reach. In naming ‘The Oyster’s our World’ Collis makes reference to the value of the stepladder not lying within its history or its material but in the world of opportunities it brings. Suddenly there is a whole new world within your reach.
Every human life is worth the same, yet equally priceless. No matter what they do or achieve or where they go to school, if they go to school at all, they still are immensely valuable. Yet why aren’t all things valued in the same way? Why is a perfect apple better than one, that isn’t bright red, or has a slight bruise. Kengo Kuma challenges this idea in his product Cast-off Snakeskin Paper Towel.
Cast-off Snakeskin Paper Towel, Kengo Kuma
“people often remark that they’re too good to use, that is would be a waste. But if they’re not embossed, with a snakeskin pattern or anything else, we’d normally toss them in the trash. If some people think it would be a waste to use a paper towel that has become haptic through embossing, does it mean that the object has thus gained some kind of memorable value? I suppose it would feel quite elite to dry your hands on a towel like this.” – Designing Design, Kenya Hara
By making a simple change to a set of paper towels, Kengo Kuma makes the user contemplate the value of every paper towel they have ever used. Each is a resource that is often overlooked taken advantage of; suddenly Kuma has elevated every ordinary paper towel to a new level, it may pass but for a time the paper towel will be held at high esteem.
Because of the intrinsic and fluid nature of value, there is no set formula to define what holds value and what doesn’t. It is essential to note however, that by making simple changes, one can be challenged to change or revaluate their definition of value.