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A Grimace in the Mind

Shanghai: grimace in the mind

Canny designers have been playing on the human mind’s ability to see faces in pretty much anything usually to add a smile – one of my favourite examples from Geneva here. But this made-in-the-USSR alarm clock does a nice play on the theme by adding a grimace to the controls at the back of this alarm clock. I can’t help thinking of millions of hands in Soviet times reaching out of the bed to silence the morning wake-up call, and the strained love-hate relationship between the owner and the clock that interrupts their sleep.

One of the hidden gems of travel is chancing upon well-used objects on a migratory journey, discarded by someone in the peak of their existence. The throw-away/recycling societies in Europe and North America are calibrated to generate a steady stream of used goods to markets in Africa and Central and South America, and the former Soviet republics have their own COMECON equivalent – with a range of ‘classic’ Soviet designs turning up in markets throughout the region.

This alarm clock from Tolkuchka market, on the outskirts of Ashgabat – the front face of the alarm clock is shown on the trader’s mat, below. 20 Kazak Tenge (10 Euro Cents) buys a piece of design history and a wonderful mechanical paperweight.

Ashgabat: grimace in the mind