Favorited The Making of “This Box is for Good” by Peter Rukavina

We received one of these lovely boxes in the mail just before New Year. Such a fantastic project, and what an enormous amount of work, over multiple weeks. Peter’s description of the iterative process and how the process leads to design choices along the way is a gift in itself.

I’m currently reading The Notebook, A History of Thinking on Paper by Roland Allen, which I coincidentally had sent to Peter as a gift before Christmas. In it Luca Pacioli spends a year in Paganini‘s printshop to get the Summa published, in Venice 1494. Let’s just say that several weeks is Renaissance style.

Peter and Lisa intend the boxes to be (re)filled with something and then to be given to someone else. A paying it forward process, that comes with a website to register each recipient. I’ve registered ‘our’ box, as we will soon hand it over later this week.

And, of course, every box needed to be printed with two lino blocks, one for each side. It was a process that spread out over almost two weeks.

All told, each box was printed seven times: one side each with lino-block, then four separate letterpress-printed messages on different parts of the box, and a final numbering run for the unique box numbers. …

Our hope is that boxes get received, refilled, passed on, many times; we built a little website (a Google Form, for now) to allow people to register their box number, so that we can follow their journeys around the world. …

I can say with some assurance that I have never been involved in a collaboration—artistic, logistic, design, spirit—as connected as this one was. Lisa and I can both rightfully attest that what emerged from our collaboration was something that neither of us could have arrived at individually. It was a joyful, intimate exercise in creativity. One we hope to repeat over and over.

Peter Rukavina

As a kid I was very into Playmobil. As a six-year-old I got my first one, a blue construction worker with an orange helmet and a grey broom, in 1976, about a year after they became available on the Dutch market. Over the years in primary school I gathered a mountain of that stuff, to a significant extent self-financed from collecting old paper around the village, and selling it for recycling.

Playmobil is manufactured in Nürnberg, or rather Zirndorf on the outskirts of it. We spent our summer holidays in Bavaria in 1976-1979, and on the way to our destination I once got my parents to drive to the factory. I had high hopes there would we some sort of shop or exhibition at the factory. There wasn’t. I remember standing disappointed in front of a grey building with closed gates, in the rain.

Nürnberg is also the birthplace of Albrecht Dürer, a key Renaissance figure. In 1493 he created the oldest known painted self-portrait.

The tourist office of Nürnberg had a Playmobil figure made of the painter in action, the city’s most famous son. On the easel is not his first painted self portrait, but one from 5 years later, 1498 when he was 26. By the looks of it because it shows the man in an outfit that lends itself better for use on a toy figure.

Albrecht Dürer 103
The 1498 self-portrait of Dürer, as it currently hangs in the Prado

During check-out in the hotel lobby after IndieWeb Camp in Nürnberg, I spotted the Playmobil Dürer in a vitrine. How could I resist?