Making Design Circular Podcast – Season 4 – In Conversation with Lucy Hawthorne, Climate Play
Welcome to season four of Making Design Circular with Katie Treggiden, in which we’re exploring what it takes to cultivate a creative practice in which you, your business and the planet ALL get to thrive. We’ll be diving deep into the nuances, complexities and mindset shifts that we need to embrace to bring about a just transition to a more circular economy.
In this episode, Katie talks to Lucy Hawthorne. Lucy is a campaigner at heart and Founder of Climate Play. Through play-based training and facilitation for adults, she helps make it safe, light and fun for people to face climate change.
Combining a lot of LEGO with climate psychology, she creates conversation on the topic that teams actually want to have, rather than only feel like they should. Her serious play approach helps people to engage more honestly, deeply and creatively, identifying ways to build alignment and shared action within their organisations, whether they are getting started or have gotten stuck on their sustainability journey.
Climate Play was born after Lucy spent a good while in the charity and NGO-world and became concerned the heaviness of the conversation was affecting energy to act. So now she challenges the norm of serious seriousness as always the best way to get things done. She is a qualified coach and LEGO® Serious Play® facilitator.
During this Katie & Lucy discuss:
- How Climate Play came about
- Understanding what Play is and how its defined
- Where Play comes in to a topic such as the climate crisis
- How to use her safe, light, fun form of engagement with environmentalism
- intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.
- The overlap between choice, wonder and delight as well…
- Play archetypes and how they help us engage with environmentalism
You can connect with Lucy here
Monthly Climate Play Meetup (first Thurs of the month 1300 – 1400 GMT) https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/lucy-hawthorne-founderfacilitator-climate-play-29888274577
Here are some highlights:
Origin of Climate Play
“Climate play is in essence, trying to find different ways of really tapping into people’s motivations and really trying to create spaces where people can engage in subjects that they don’t really want to and that feels very different to a very hard hitting strategic approach that I spent many years, many years doing.”
Become the best version of yourself
“How many people actually fulfil their own moral compass? Very few, even people who are very dedicated, we’re not perfect beings. And therefore, there’s something about what will you always want to do. I’m not saying that if everyone suddenly untapped their playfulness, then climate change is going to disappear into a puff of smoke. But I think there is just something about reframing the way we engage with things. Whether that is thinking about and understanding (your audiences) motivations? What are they doing? If you’re thinking about how you run initiatives in your company, or you’re trying to think about how your family considers sustainability, there is just something about finding a combination of the things that you love doing, the things that you’re good at doing, and the things that the world needs some support on. It’s not a magic silver bullet, but I think there’s something about understanding your sense of playfulness, you are highly likely to be more engaged. And when you are engaged, you’re likely to be a better version of yourself.”
Books, Podcasts & Articles we mentioned:
The Art of Peace by John Paul Lederach
Good Bones by Maggie Smith
Play by Stuart Brown
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez
You’re Dead to Me, BBC Radio 4 Podcast
Using Play to Rewire & Improve Your Brain, Huberman Labs Podcast
Broken: Mending and repair in a throwaway world: Katie’s sixth book celebrates 25 artists, curators, menders and re-makers who have rejected the allure of the fast, disposable and easy in favour of the patina of use, the stories of age and the longevity of care and repair. Accompanying these profiles, six in-depth essays explore the societal, cultural and environmental roles of mending in a throwaway world.
Cultivating Hope, 3 part mini course: Are you ready to cultivate hope in the face of the climate crisis? Sign up to Katie’s three-part free mini course that will help you move through feelings of helplessness, reconnect with nature and take aligned action.
Making Design Circular membership: An international membership community and online learning platform for environmentally conscious designers, makers artists and craftspeople – join us!
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Katie Treggiden is the founder and director of Making Design Circular – an international membership community and online learning platform for environmentally conscious designers, makers artists and craftspeople. She is also an author, journalist and podcaster championing a hopeful approach to environmentalism. With more than 20 years’ experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, Crafts Magazine and Dezeen. She is currently exploring the question ‘Can craft save the world?’ through her sixth book, Broken: Mending & Repair in a Throwaway World (Ludion, 2023), this very podcast.
Below is a transcript of our conversation. Find the full episode available to listen on Spotify here.
Welcome to season four of Making Design Circular with Katie Treggiden, in which we’re exploring what it takes to cultivate a creative practice in which you, your business and the planet ALL get to thrive. We’ll be diving deep into the nuances, complexities and mindset shifts that we need to embrace to bring about a just transition to a more circular economy.
How many people actually fulfil their own moral compass? Very few, even people who are very dedicated, we’re not perfect beings. And therefore, there’s something about what will you always want to do. I’m not saying that if everyone suddenly untapped their playfulness, then climate change is going to disappear into a puff of smoke. But I think there is just something about reframing the way we engage with things. There is just something about finding a combination of the things that you love doing, the things that you’re good at doing, and the things that the world needs some support on. It’s not a magic silver bullet, but I think there’s something about understanding your sense of playfulness, you are highly likely to be more engaged. And when you are engaged, you’re likely to be a better version of yourself.
Hello and welcome to this episode of Making Design Circular with Katie Tregidden. If you’ve been listening for a while, you will know that we are exploring the methodology that underpins everything I teach in the Making Design Circular membership, and across all the short courses. And that methodology has always included play, but it’s taken me a little while to work out exactly what it means, exactly how it’s relevant to environmentalism. Now, I know, as I’m sure you do, that playfulness, curiosity and experimentation are a really important part of the creative process. We know, and a lot of my work is around the idea that guilt and duty and all those kind of heavy feelings that often come with environmentalism are not the soil in which creativity thrives.
So I knew that part of my methodology needed to be about that sense of playfulness, curiosity, and experimentation, but I couldn’t quite link it to environmentalism until I came across Lucy Hawthorne and her organization, Climate Play, and the jigsaw pieces just came together. And so I had to get her on the podcast to talk to you. So Lucy talks about the fact that you can’t fear and force people into environmental action, but instead, you need to make it light, safe, and fun. And I think this is so exciting because the environmental crisis is hugely serious, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a serious approach is gonna lead us to the answers. Enjoy this episode, and as always, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, if you like what you hear.
Lucy, perhaps you could start by introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about how climate play came to be?
Yeah, sure. So I’m Lucy Hawthorne, and I’m the founder of climate play, which is a climate change Learning and Development Organisation that helps unlock climate action through play, specifically with adults, which involves a lot of Lego. And the origin of that is that my background is actually as an environmental campaigner. So I worked in NGOs and charities for many, many years and spent a lot of time trying to influence public policy and politicians and I really started thinking quite deeply about how effectively we were really, truly moving people’s hearts and minds and whether we were just playing games, in politics and a bit of a mix of both. And that climate plays really the legacy of many years of really thinking about climate psychology and humans and how we change things. And so climate play is in essence, trying to find different ways of really tapping into people’s motivations and really trying to create spaces where people can engage in subjects that they don’t really want to and that feels very different to a very hard hitting strategic approach that I spent many years, many years doing. So that’s a bit about the origin of it.
Amazing. And it’s interesting, isn’t it, there’s, there’s kind of ways we feel things ought to be done versus the way that is actually most effective, which we’ll come back to. But this might sound like a silly question. Before we move on, I’d love you to define the word play, what is it?
Not at all silly. So the first thing to say is that play is a state of mind. While people think of it only as an activity, it is both of those things. So there’s a distinction between players and activity, ie the things that we do. And so the methods that I use, for example, in my in my work, but it really truly is a state of mind. It’s an emotional state. So play is, is really, there’s a nice definition by a guy called Stuart Brown, who I’m sure we might mention later, who’s a very cool play theorist, and he says that play is purposeless, all-consuming and fun. So to be honest, plays whatever you want it to be. And so it’s unique, entirely unique to each person and how we each play is a really clear expression of our own individuality. And I think that’s what’s really important when you’re trying to engage people on any issue but climate in particular, is there’s something about how you are uniquely tapping into that individual person, rather than overlaying motivations on top of them. And so we often feel, you know, our fullest selves and most alive when we’re playing. But it’s also play is fundamentally also how we learn. So, if you, if you think back to being kids, you know, if anyone’s got toddlers, the classic thing of the kids dropping, they’re dropping this food repeatedly on the floor and finding it really amusing when their parents keep trying to pick it up. All of these really small instances they’re playing, it’s all about how we learn. So it’s fundamentally part of how we develop neuroplasticity in our brains. And so it’s, it’s inherently kind of generative, and creative. And why wouldn’t we want to be generative and creative when we’re trying to deal with what is a bit of a problem in the content of climate change.
And I think the climate crisis seems like such an important, serious, urgent, weighty topic. On the surface of it, it feels like play has got no place in amongst all of that, but from what you’re saying, it’s actually quite an important way into some of that stuff.
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think it’s it is countercultural in some ways, you know, so suggesting joy and experimentation in a time of existential crisis might not quite sit so well with everybody and in some people definitely do push back. But I think I’m a I’m an inherent pragmatist, really, I’m optimistic pragmatist. But, so there’s something about the function of play, and as I’ve just said, plays about how we learn. It’s about how we iterate. It’s about how you create spaces for invention, for joy and also, fundamentally, everybody is better at whatever it is they’re doing, if they’re in a good frame of mind. Why should climate change or any other serious issue be any different? And so there’s something about the mind frame, or the mindset that play being playful puts you in and how that it has a knock on effect in all other ways. So if you’re, if you’re being playful, you’re freer, you’re more connected, you’re more creative, you’re more willing to take risks, you’re more experimental, you’re perhaps more resilient. Why wouldn’t we want these attributes when we’re trying to deal with huge problems?
You talk about making engaging with environmentalism, safe, light, and fun. And I love those three words. And it’s often struck me that feeling safe is a sort of precursor to being playful, because playful, can be playful can feel a little vulnerable. So tell me about those three words, why they’re important and how playfulness can help us get to them.
That is a lovely question. Safety is massively important, because tell me who feels safe talking about climate change? And tell me how many proportion of adults feel safe being playful? Right, there’s all there binaries around, particularly as adults in capitalist societies, particularly, you know, these notions that you become an adult and you start working, you stop playing and you become an adult, you become productive, and you become professional and you become serious. And so there’s something about how do we challenge those binaries, and I’m a facilitator by trade, and so psychological safety is everything for us. So in order for people to learn effectively and fully, we have to make it safe for them. And that relates to kind of creativity as well. And I think when you’re thinking about safety in the context of climate change, or sustainability or other issues that are difficult for people to hold, is one of the huge problems we have is that it’s very difficult for people to talk about it because people are afraid, and therefore not safe. Because they’re afraid of judgement or afraid of failure, they’re afraid of change. And these are all really super human emotions. So that’s the emphasis on safety. And I think that is something that needs significantly more attention in the climate change space. Because whether we think the shoulds are irrelevant, we need to focus on what is working. And so, are people being engaged enough? No, why not? And then we need to work on that. So that real human communication piece is hugely important, and the light and fun side of it. So I suppose it’s, you know, following on from things that I’ve already said, really is that there is a benefit to having a little bit of levity. And there’s a nice quote by or there’s a there’s a piece of writing by John Paul Lederach, who’s a really interesting philosopher. And he says, there’s no scientific evidence that serious need seriousness leads to greater growth, maturity, or insight into the human condition and playfulness. And it’s just that we’ve got a norm of serious seriousness. And actually, part of what I really like about my work is that it is challenging people to say we can achieve the same serious outcomes but we have choice in the way we do it. So ultimately, things are a bit lighter and a bit more fun, people will be kind of naturally drawn to it, rather than only feeling like they should. Yeah. And even in my experience of working as a campaigner for many years, you know, I found, I find the topic very heavy, I find it very draining and that because I’m able to bring lightness, myself in my work it’s what helps keep me engaged in a subject that otherwise might make me run to the hills. Yeah. Yeah, for the average person, we can’t expect that everybody is willing to willing to be so heavy.
Yeah, this is this is so interesting, because I I’ve put together a framework that underpins making design circular, which is the organisation I run, and I had play in there. Yes, I know that play is incredibly important to creativity, right. And my audience are designers and craftspeople and artists and makers. And so I knew play should be in there. But I couldn’t work out until I met you what it had to do with environmentalism, because I think I was in that same space of it. Yeah, such serious outcomes, that surely we have to approach it with gravitas, and, and seriousness, but I love that idea that you can have playful inputs and still serious outputs, I think that’s a really important little shift. You also mentioned this idea of kind of keeping people engaged without them burning out. I would love you to talk a little bit about the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, which you touched on right at the beginning, how do we kind of use those two different levers? And how do they differ in terms of how engaged people get and stay with the issues?
Yeah, so is, as you said, it’s all about how you can get people involved, keep them involved, and hopefully increase their involvement. Right. And again, climate change isn’t any different to any other issue. You know, we need to look at this as a human problem and be applying just general human psychology, but just to this particular context. But I suppose in you know, and intrinsic, in the simplest sense, intrinsic motivations are things that kind of come organically from you. Well, this is the way that I think about it. And I’m, I’m sure people with more psychological background, to me might reframe this. But intrinsic motivations are things that kind of rawly come from you, they are things that are who you are, kind of instinctively. So the way that we play individually is is a key part of our fundamental character. Okay, so I’m quite nerdy. I’m quite mischievous. I’m a little bit cheeky, you know, actually, so that is very distinctive to my personality and I’ve always been like that. So that is an intrinsic part of who I am. Extrinsic stuff in the context of climate, I guess is more things like social values, norms that we absorb or are applied onto us that can still stimulate behaviour. So for example, things like status or fear, moral pressure, for good or for bad, you know, family cultures, all of those kinds of things are external motivators. And there’s a basic idea that if you can tap into people’s intrinsic motivators, it’s slightly truer for them. And so in the context of my work, a lot of what I talk about is trying to find ways to help people to tap into their unique playfulness, because they are more likely to stay involved. And for me, very, very fortunately for me, I’ve been able to carve this highly niche career, which is extremely playful for me, because I’m very curious, I like making stuff up. You know, I like talking to people, I like exploring ideas. And because of that, it means that my work is play, and I will I never get up and think I don’t want to go to work because I find it intrinsically interesting.
And I think there’s, there’s some guilt around that isn’t there. There’s this sort of sense of, you know, well, I did Beach, cleans with my dad. And if I’m really honest, I do them because they’re a lovely way to spend time with my dad, my dad’s quite introverted and if we’re both walking along the beach, picking up litter, the conversation flows more easily than if we’re sat, you know, across a coffee table or having coffee. And there’s this sense of well, honestly, I’m not doing it for the marine organisms, I’m doing it to hang out with my dad, and then feel a bit guilty. But actually, it means I go to every single one, you know, I never think I don’t want to clean this month. Yeah, you know, it’s something I look forward to. And so I think finding those kinds of environmental actions that play into your intrinsic motivations, you’re more likely to stick with them right, then if it’s something you feel you should do.
Yeah, because how many people actually fulfil their own moral compass? Very few, even people who are very dedicated, you know, we’re not perfect beings. And therefore, there’s something about what will you always want to do. And, you know, this isn’t in some ways, I’m not saying that if everyone suddenly untapped their playfulness, then climate change is going to disappear into a puff of smoke. But I think there is just something about reframing the way we engage with things. And whether that is, you know, if you’re at a charity, for example, or a community group, and you’re trying to engage volunteers, you’re thinking about, well, actually, how do I understand their motivations? What are they like doing? If you’re thinking about how you run initiatives in your company, or you’re trying to think about how your family considers sustainability, there is just something about finding a combination of the things that you love doing the things that you’re good at doing, and the things that the world needs some support on. And it’s not, you know, it’s not a magic silver bullet. But I think there’s something about understanding your sense of playfulness, you are highly likely to be more engaged. And when you are engaged, you’re likely to be a better version of yourself.
Yes, yes, that’s right. That’s a Venn diagram, I use a lot in my work, actually, what you’re, what you’re good at what the world needs and what you love. But there’s a Venn diagram that I’ve seen you use, which I’d love to talk about. And I love that question, what we always want to do. I think that’s such a powerful question, because I think there’s the things I want to do when I’m on a really high energy, kind of good day. But what are the things I want to do when I’m tired or fed up? And I wonder if the answer is at the intersection of a Venn diagram I’ve seen you use, which is the overlap between choice, wonder and delight? Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Yeah, I can. I love this diagram. And I use it a lot in my training design, in quite a lot of my work, really. So there’s a Venn diagram, which is very simple is that it’s got three, three circles, which as you said, our choice, wonder and delight. And it’s the origin of that I think it’s from the International School of Billund, which is where Lego is based on not because I think, and it’s, it’s a model of playful learning. So the idea is that if you can engage people, in each individual or group, if you can engage them at the level of things that they would choose, things that fill them with wonder and things that fill them with delight, you are much more likely to deeply, creatively engage them. So choice is really fundamental, because that’s about agency. Right? So that’s actually what would you what would you pick? What are you drawn to? So constantly trying to give people options so that they can actively make that choice from themselves rather than things being put on top of them? So things like you know, opportunities of how people might want to volunteer, all that kind of stuff. Wonder is the things that fill you with awe, so what are the things that fill you with curiosity? What makes you personally go Oh, that’s interesting? You know, I’m a total history geek, like for me that is total wonder I’m just weirdly interested in things that are probably really boring but from Yeah, that’s wonder and delight is the things that give you joy. Yeah, seaweed. So joy, you know, I love jokes, I love running around all of those kinds of things. Things like, you know, in an artistic sense what our individual colour palettes are, and our sense of style and things like that. So if you can find a way of helping people understand what choice, wonder and delight would look like for them and how they would feel, in any instance, in any conversation in any piece of work, you will definitely be able to help spark those eyes. So if in doubt, you’re struggling to engage anyone at any point, choice, wonder or delight.
Yeah, or yourself.
Yeah, yes, totally. Yeah.
I want to use this opportunity of a little sort of mini ad break of sorts to tell you about three things that I think you might be interested in. The first is my latest book Broken: Mending and repair in a throwaway world, which came out in May 2023, with Ludion the publisher of my last four books, and I’m so excited about it. Jay blades was kind enough to write the foreword, and it explores the role of mending and repair in a world where we don’t really need to mend anymore. So I’m looking at the social and cultural roles that mending is playing. And those include mending as restoration of function, which you might sort of immediately think of when you think of repair, but also repair a storytelling repair as activism, repair as healing, and even the regeneration of natural systems as a form of repair. It profiles 28, amazing menders, fixers, hackers, remakers, curators and artists. And it is the book I’m the most proud of so far. And I know I always say that, but I really am, it came out of my research at Oxford and I think it makes an important and new contribution to the field of writing on repair. So if you want to get your hands on a copy, the link is in the show notes.
I would also love to tell you about a free resource I have created called cultivating hope in the face of the environmental crisis. And the reason I have made this freely available is because I think it’s so important. If we don’t believe that change is possible and if we don’t believe we have some agency in bringing about that change, we won’t act. So cultivating hope is a three part mini course that’s all delivered direct to your inbox. And it helps you to move through feelings of despair and hopelessness. It helps you to reconnect with nature and that sort of brilliant effect that we know natural spaces have on our wellbeing. And it helps you to start taking aligned action. So if the relentless news cycle has got you feeling, kind of feeling all the doom and gloom, then check that out. Again, the link is in the show notes.
And finally, I want to tell you about making design circular the membership. So if you are a designer, a maker, an artist or a crafts person, and you feel drawn to sustainability, regeneration, environmentalism, whatever you want to call it, this is for you. It is an online membership community of brilliant, gorgeous, imperfect souls who have come together to try to make progress in this area. And it’s all built around the idea that you can pour into yourself and take care of yourself and pour into your creative practice and your expression and exploration of creativity and pour into your business and turn all of this or keep all this as a profitable business and benefit the planet. And we want all of those things in alignment so that pouring into any one of them benefits the others and that’s what the membership is built around. The strapline is rewild your creative practice so that you your business and the planets can thrive. So if that sounds like something that you need in your life, again, the link is in the show notes. All right, well, I will hand you back over to this fabulous conversation. Thank you.
Now, you’ve mentioned Lego a couple of times. But your work is not about kids ,this is about grownups and I would love to talk to you about why that is so important to you. Why is it important that grownups engage with playfulness?
Yeah, and I guess we’re grownups is an intentional world word, because it’s, I guess it’s playfully saying that adults did used to be children and we still are, essentially. But it’s the basic principle that adults are the decision makers now and I think there’s a lot of emphasis put on young and younger people as going to save the future and what actually, it’s their future. And it’s, you know, it’s my generation and above, who, who have created the context we’re in. So it’s really about saying, Well, who has agency now in the timeframes that we’re working with? And so, for me, I’m mainly focused on working with organisations partly because you can reach more people, because they’re already you’ve already got gatherings, but fundamentally businesses, you know, the market has huge influence over the way that public thinking develops, and particularly government policy and funding and things. So I’m particularly focused on adults and business for that reason.
Hmm, there’s a there’s a poem that you’ve just made me think of, and it nearly I’ve heard it before. It’s a poem called Good Bones by Maggie Smith. And it’s about her trying to sort of sell the world to her kids and hide all the hurts from them. And the last lines nearly made me cry when I heard it this weekend. The last line is that this place could be beautiful. Right? You could make this place beautiful. And it was just this sense, as you said that we are putting so much weight on the shoulders of young people to sort out problems that we and our ancestors have created. And I think, I think you’re right, it’s time for them to take some responsibility here, right?
It’s time for the grownups to grow up a little bit and take some responsibility.
Yeah, but do that by tapping into their childhood and being playful it’s quite a lovely dichotomy. So you’ve mentioned Stuart Brown, who is an incredible sort of expert and theorist on Play. And he has got these play archetypes and this is a tool that you use to help people work out what their unique approach to play as in tap into that intrinsic playfulness. Could you tell us a little bit about those archetypes and how my audience of designers, makers, artists and craftspeople might use them to bring some more playfulness into their sustainability work.
Sure. So I guess many of these will be very familiar with people listening, I’m expecting so there’s eight archetypes and they’re from a book simply called Play by Stuart Brown. It’s a good read, if you’re interested. And so there’s eight, eight play personalities, which are the Joker, the Explorer, the kinesthetics, the competitor, the artist, the director, the storyteller, and the collector. And so I use these as an alternative to learning styles. So I’m a learning practitioner. So we think about learning styles of you know, whether someone’s you know, an audio learner, a visual learner, etc. Rather, I design my sessions based around what people’s play personalities are. And so going back to what we were talking about in terms of intrinsic motivation, it’s partly about trying to identify which of those are loudest for you, and helping you understand about why you’re drawn to certain things. So I’m a very loud Explorer. So yeah, really loud explorer. Really curious, I love going to new places. As a kid, my best friend from my whole life, my cousin, what we used to do before the age of, you know, the internet and mobile phones, as we used to call each other up on the landline and find a random square in the Wolverhampton A to Z and we’d walk from different sides of the city to find each other in the square. Such a geek, I’m an explorer are very loud and clear. I’m also a bit of a director because I like organising things and bringing people together. So for me, and I’m a bit of a joker, which I guess is I don’t necessarily like to be centre of attention but I like to set people at ease in that way. Hopefully, you’ll probably be able to tell from this conversation already, that I’m marrying those together very neatly in the work that I’m doing. And so it’s an example about how you can find ways of combining your play personalities in how you spend your time and your energy. So for the people listening, many of you may well have practices that very clearly aligned for example, with, you know, the artist or the collector or the storyteller, for example, it may well be a matter of thinking about well, actually, are there any other overlaps? Do you have a sense of a sense of cheekiness in the way that you tell your stories or what you collect, or, you know, so just trying to think about what your kind of combinations are, and allowing yourself to follow your nose with it.
Yeah, I was going to ask you that, so I guess a lot of our listeners will be professional artists. I’m a professional storyteller. And so I guess sometimes storytelling doesn’t feel like play to me anymore, it feels like work. So is it a question of bringing the playfulness back into storytelling or finding other play archetypes to kind of marry with it?
That’s a good question. And I guess the first thing is that work can be play. And I’m actually thinking then about your work of how playful is your work. So going back to the definitions about play at the beginning of like, pure play, like really, if we’re going to be conceptual about it, pure plays something that is outcomeless, it’s experimental. And you’re just doing it because you want to, and you’re drawn to it. So I guess there’s something about in your workspace, because I’m sure you know, you like it, bringing back some more of that experimental stuff where you don’t, you’re not constantly delivering against outcomes. And you know, it’s not in the same sector as you but I often see this in the, in the tech sector, it’s quite common for organisations to have things like hackathons or learning days where teams get half a day, a week or a fortnight to just make something that they’re interested in, but without any expectation. And so I think there’s just something about, you know, of course, we live in the world that we do so you’ve still got to go to work, and you still got to do X, Y, Z, but trying to intentionally create spaces for you to just play with whatever you want to play. So whether that’s a four day week for you, or it’s, you know, separate creative projects, it’s just about making sure that you are committed to your own experimentation.
Yeah. And I think that’s so important. And I think I particularly struggle with it, struggle with things that feel self-indulgent. And I think in a very kind of capitalist, productive society, anything that feels playful, and anything that doesn’t have an outcome, I will really struggle with. Have you got any advice of kind of how to overcome that, that resistance to play?
I guess, I guess I very much think about playfulness as a skill in the same way that we would think of any other skill so like confidence, you know, resilience, creativity, any other attribute you can think of. So, I think you can kind of learn to be playful in the way that you can with anything else because even if you know my business is all about play, I wouldn’t say I’m extremely playful because for me, it’s still, it’s still a process. I don’t particularly consider myself to be creative, which other people might disagree with. But I don’t really and I actually have a whole load of creative blocks. But I think that one of the best questions anybody ever asked me, I think at some point last year, when I was starting to get stressed about aspects of developing my work, and somebody said to me, how playful are you being right now? And it was like, you know, actually you just really challenged me. And so that’s a question that I often say to myself, if I’m feeling a bit disengaged, or a bit, a bit fed up or tired is actually what could make this more playful? Actually, that there’s something about the word for me that just crystallises the whole point of how we how we live and operate in a slightly different way. So I’d say take it easy on yourself and just do something small and don’t suddenly expect yourself to become some kind of court jester in a silly hat.
Yeah, it’s really interesting, because I have a really kind of visceral negative reaction to the Joker archetype. I’m just like, nope, not me. Well, fair enough. But um, yeah, some of the others, and I think it’s really interesting to look at those different types of play because, you know, something like collecting had never really occurred to me as a type of play, but it kind of suits my nerdy curiosity. And I also think it goes back to right back to what we were saying at the beginning, I can remember being on a, on a call of some sort. And I described myself as not somebody who was playful. And the person leading the groups, and I’m sorry, I disagree, you’ve been playful several times today. And I sort of batted it off and said, No, I was being self deprecating. But I realised afterwards that I felt safe in that space. And that’s why I was able to be playful. And it was a real kind of eye opening moment that I am actually quite a playful person, but only in spaces where I feel safe. And so I guess it’s also about creating the space, that kind of spaciousness and the sense of safety within your work practice.
Yeah, and that’s the psychological safety point, again, isn’t it, if you don’t feel safe, it’s probably not play. Yeah, I mean, I guess there’s a bit of a risk thing of, if you’re someone who likes, you know, bungee jumping or something, then that’s slightly different. But, you know, ultimately, if you don’t feel, you know, if you don’t feel safe, it’s probably not going to be fun. And, yeah, so it’s all going to be completely distinctive, but the collector archetype, you know, there’s plenty of kids and plenty of adults who like sitting quietly, and, you know, finding patterns, or rhythms or looking at systems of things, and the jigsaw people and the, you know, people with a much more scientific brain than me. You know, there’s plenty of artists who do beautiful, curating work, and that is play. It’s just an adult form of play.
I think that’s really interesting. I think it’s about working out what play means to you, rather than feeling that you’ve got to fit into somebody else’s understanding of playful. Yeah. Yeah, fantastic. So I feel like we’ve covered a lot of this in a very broad, nuanced and complex way. But if there was one thing that you could advise my listeners to go away and do today to bring a bit more playfulness into their environmentalism efforts, what would it be? And then we’re gonna go on to a quick fire round. So this is the last question before we go quick fire.
I would very simply just say, follow your nose. And don’t overthink it.
I love that follow your nose. Awesome, right quickfire? Best book you have read or listened to lately.
Not play related, but The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriques is a fantastic very dark, weirdly comedic set of novellas that I highly recommend.
Amazing. I’ve never even heard of that. Love it. Favourite podcast.
You’re Dead to Me, which is comedians plus history, which is very up my street. And there’s also really great episode on Play if you do you want to listen to Play by the Huberman Labs, that’s really good.
Cool. I will pop a link to that in the show notes. Finish this sentence circularity is
Never ending and therefore bountiful.
This question generates the most juicy answers. One thing you wish to sustainable designer makers and crafts people knew?
Um, I think that helping people to understand how to make things themself is extremely important. So trying to find ways of sharing the creativity, I guess. But then I’m learning designer, so I’m gonna say that aren’t I.
No, but I think it’s so interesting. And one of the things I talk about a lot is I’ve just written a Book about Repair. And this idea that yes, one individual person mending things is probably isn’t going to make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things. But it does help them to tap into their personal agency and that is incredibly powerful. And so yeah, I think sharing those making and mending skills is incredibly powerful. And the final question best or worst life or business advice you’ve ever been given?
I’d say it was both the best and the worst, which was hustle. So my advice is only hustle if you feel like hustling. But that it is possible to live your life and develop a business in your own distinctive way it doesn’t have to be a replica, because otherwise, all you’re going to end up doing is recreating some of the same patterns and norms that got us into this mess in the first place. So to the introverts and the slower pace people and the people doing slightly weird things, I think there is a place for you to.
Yes, louder for them those at the back. Amen to that. Awesome. Thank you so much, Lucy, that’s been such a fantastic conversation and really helped me to kind of understand the role of play and my own framework. So thank you for that.
Yeah, well, you are most welcome. It’s always interesting to think about it, but it’s just there isn’t that much of a distinction of how we play in different contexts. So you know, for people listening, it doesn’t matter what your discipline is, or your area of work, and the same questions will relate in terms of how you play and how that fits into your life and your work.
Amazing. Thank you.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Making Design Circular with Katie Treggiden. It is so lovely to know that there are people out there tuning into these conversations. If you found that interesting, I would love to connect with you on Instagram, I am on @katietreggiden.1. And if you’re a designer, maker, artist or crafts person who’s interested in sustainability and environmentalism, then please also follow @making_design_circular_ and both of those are in the shownotes. You can also follow my email newsletter there. I would be super grateful if you’re listening to this on an iPhone or iPad or other Apple device if you could leave us a review on Apple podcasts. I think that’s the only podcast platform that takes reviews, but it’s incredibly helpful to help people find us and make sure that more and more people are finding this message. So if you could take a couple of moments just to leave a review there that would be amazing. And I would also like to say a quick thank you to the incredible Kirsty Spain, who produces and edits this podcast and keeps me on track so that these episodes actually make it into your ears. So thank you very much, Kirsty.
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