Date27 May 2020
Many, many things have changed throughout the levels of lockdown. Despite this, one thing has remained constant. Each morning, at a slower pace than the hiss and roar espresso machine at the office, I hand grind 20g of coffee beans in my Porlex hand grinder. The manual action wakes me in the morning, the sound of each individual bean being broken as it passes through the ceramic conical burrs wakes everyone else, and the waft of freshly ground coffee awakens the senses. It’s a therapeutic and satisfying experience. In about the time it takes the jug to boil I can be making a slow drip filter…to enjoy slowly, early, with emails and Radio New Zealand in the background.
I was gifted this grinder by my parents during my years at architecture school. It allowed me to take pleasure in a fresh filter brew without the $4 (and rising) price tag at the local. Important for a student! Over the years, bits and pieces have needed to be replaced and thanks to artist Kazu Nakagawa I was able to source these from Japan. This exchange itself instigated a conversation about many things that we should probably make more time for in life — the simple, the slow, the satisfying.
Thinking about the object, the process and the relationships has made me revisit and reflect on Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s examination of Japanese aesthetics and the ordinariness of living in In Praise of Shadows — a text that has stayed with me from those days at architecture school. We all know Tanizaki is not talking about a coffee grinder in his enchanting essay, rather the will to work for something, for your hands to be part of the process, and for the tactile love an object can display as it slowly accrues “the glow of grime”, across time. I should probably give this one a clean though…
Moving through the levels of lockdown a number of things have changed. I no longer have an espresso machine at the office — perhaps, more significantly, I no longer have an office to go to for now. But each morning I wake, flick the switch on the jug, grind some coffee, and indulge in a fresh cup of black magic while pondering and planning the next step or two.
Vanessa Coxhead is an architectural graduate based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Before moving into architecture she worked in contemporary arts across public art initiatives, exhibition coordination and architectural research and archiving. The connections between the contemporary art, events and architecture communities feed into her evolving design philosophy. In 2018 and 2019 Vanessa coordinated Auckland’s Festival of Architecture.