Physical Fidgets.

“Stop fidgeting,” said every parent ever. But should you really?

An exploration of Grace Handcock’s designed objects that promote and enable fidgeting.

How much do you fidget?

How do you fidget?

Why do you fidget?

These are the questions that designer and maker Grace Handcock asked before she created her collection of fidgets. Handcock specialises in creating work centred around objects that help to improve physical and mental well-being. Her work looks at fidgeting not as a distraction or something negative but as a means of therapeutic meditation. Handcock expresses that the effects of stress and anxiety are often manifested in fidgeting, something that is usually discouraged. In her work, however, she promotes fidgeting as a therapeutic activity. Designing works that will allow this. Handcock is very focussed on this concept with most of her work exploring mental health issues that have no simple medical treatment, often with symptoms that can be controlled to some degree, but never completely cured. Her objects were developed as coping mechanisms to the various manifestations of these conditions.

Psychology professors at the University of Hertfordshire state that it is the same area of the brain that controls both movement and speech. With focus on gesturing as a form of fidgeting whilst speaking Professor Karen Pine explains that “We move the hands more when we are trying to find a word during a tip-of-the-tongue moment”. Numerous studies have also been lead in the focus and learning of children in relation to fidgeting. As the BBC News stated in 2005, “Psychologists found that children who could move their hands around freely were better at learning than pupils who were not allowed to move.”

Fidgets features five hand held forms. Each relate to different displacement activities and various forms of fidgeting. This allows a person to use their natural fidgeting to their advantage as a therapeutic outlet, rather than attempting to hide this urge. You can select an object relating to your fidgeting requirements. Each object explores different processes and different materials. Expanding this fidgeting to incorporate various tactile experiences as well.

The first object in this collection of ‘fidgetble forms’ focuses on ‘Press’. It is a handheld light made from cut Perspex, silver and silicone. Pressing the button illuminates the entire form. It has a tactile surface that shields sections of light, furthering the user interaction.

Handcock 2013
Handcock 2013

Rub is made from copper powder and resin, with a black finish that when rubbed reveals the copper underneath. This allows a level of achievement to be explored through the fidgeting.

Handcock 2013
Handcock 2013

A silicone form is squeezed to relive stress. A smaller pewter faceted form fits inside and can be removed, enabling two contrasting tactile experiences. One light and soft and the other solid and weighty.

Handcock 2013
Handcock 2013

Scratch is covered in latex paint that when scratched reveals layers of cast and sliced resin.

Handcock 2013
Handcock 2013

Spin is the simplest of the forms and contains a small pewter form that spins suspended inside a hand held cut piece.

Handcock 2013
Handcock 2013

All of the forms that Handcock has developed and created within this collection draw on the destruction and altering aspect of fidgeting. All movements that are encouraged by her forms will change them from their original. Is this the overall intention of your fidgeting? Drawing on a blank page. Bending and snapping a paper clip. These alter the original form that encouraged the fidgeting, giving the person a sense of satisfaction through this fidgeting.

During this exploration of Handcock’s fidgets I found myself reflecting on the way I fidget. It was a difficult thing to deconstruct because once you become aware of your fidgeting, is it still fidgeting? I consider fidgeting a subconscious movement that you begin without any awareness or intent. That’s where I question Handcock’s designs. By giving someone something that is designed to be fidgeted with, does that take away from the entire act of fidgeting itself? I guess Handcock’s designs are rather to promote fidgeting as a means of therapy, encouraging people who suffer from anxiety or stress to use this fidgeting to their advantage and not feel the need to hide it. Handcock herself describes this work as “Instead of attempting a solution, the objects are intended to act as a series of coping mechanisms to the various manifestations of these conditions.”

It is difficult to discern the reasons behind our fidgeting but I’m sure everyone reading this article has at some time in your life been told to “stop fidgeting”. That is why I love Handcock’s fidgeting forms as they invite you to do something that is often discouraged. Discouraged from a very young age.

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