Thursday, January 22, 2015

Little Boxes


Okay, every time I woodburn a design on one of my boxes for my Storenvy shop I start singing "little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky..." Little Boxes happens to be a protest song, written and composed by Malvina Reynolds in 1962. Pete Seeger did it the next year and had a fairly big hit with it. The song was a satire about the development of suburbia and middle class conformity. In 1963, I was only 7 years old and I was unaware of the song; my parents were busily raising their family, of which there were four of us kids, and happily building our little "homestead" in suburbia. I can't say my parents ever made a show of needing to be like everyone else on the block, but I suppose there is a general rule of what you can and can't do if you decide to live in any given neighborhood: upkeep of your lawn, decent landscaping, and maintaining the outside appearance of the house itself were all fairly important.


Anyway, my introduction to the song came in college when I had to listen to it for my Music class. In those days we all had to troop to the audio room, sit in a cubicle, put on clunky headphones, and listen to various styles of music and then write a critique. I must have listened to Little Boxes at least a hundred times that semester. Or at least I feel like I did. Analyzing the structure, the lyrics, the various musicians who recorded it, the instruments. The same songs cycled through each set of criteria we had to judge them on.



Forty years later I still sing the song when I sit down to burn designs on my little boxes. It is ingrained in my head and I can appreciate the message now. Granted, my boxes aren't houses and hopefully they're not made of ticky tacky, and most importantly, hopefully they're proof of a creative life. A life that doesn't conform to anyone else's idea of what makes for a happy and fulfilled life. An odd spot to read an inspirational quote is a cooking magazine, but I read one this morning in Cook's Illustrated. Christopher Kimball, founder and editor of the magazine, wrote a thoughtful editorial that he ended with, "To paraphrase Nietzsche, one should struggle to avoid being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning oneself."

Three new trinket boxes for sale on my online shop. Photos by Rick Jackofsky.