Everyone has a favorite, catastrophic spillage story. My own occurred at age five. After a particularly auspicious day in which I’d already managed to dismantle the gas meter (prompting a visit from Public Service), and defrost our garage freezer (prompting my Father’s early return home from work), at dinner at my Grandmother’s, I managed to “decorate” her embroidered jacquard tablecloth with a full 12 ounces of coke. The resultant stain was anything but pretty—and it cost me “big person table” privileges for the next year. Too bad I hadn’t waited until 2010 to execute the same maneuver. If my Grandma had had Kristine Bjaadal’s Underfull Tablecloth, my downed soft drink wouldn’t have been just a big, brown stain, but an alluring assortment of butterflies, a dazzling array of autumn leaves, a shimmering silhouette of starry sky.
Underfull Tablecloth. Designed by Kristine Bjaadal.
“In a perfect world,” you might mutter cynically, but that seems to be exactly what Miss Bjaadal has in mind. Her Underfull Tablecloth appears to be a simple white affair with a subtle damask pattern, but—operating with a decidedly innovatory spin on the party prank known as “disappearing ink”—the textile reveals a hidden pattern when soiled. The dynamic of this revelation is gradual, creating a sort of dinner-time show whereby the liquid in question gradually creeps into the fibers, lighting vibrant life into the hidden pattern. Billed as “the tablecloth that turns spilling into poetry,” Underfull achieves the excellent turnabout of making the spillee the author of a visual treat: “where this person usually feels clumsy and embarrassed, he will now feel fortunate. An everyday negative situation is turned into a positive experience.”
And since not all stains will completely wash out, Underfull becomes a catalog of events—whether we’re talking about a smattering of a wing for a small apple juice accident, or an entire rabble of butterflies for a tipped bottle of Beaujolais, by virture of its ability to “turn spilling into poetry,” Underfull will make each dinner party more memorable, as its traces are permanently etched into the mysterious and beautiful accretion of images across its surface.
Bjaadal hopes to have Underfull into production soon, but for now her featured prototype is aptly-chosen: “a butterfly seems to be free and happy,” she says, “but at the same time fragile and transient—just like the pattern of the tablecloth.”