In our endless quest for the latest gadget or bike or shoes or whatever else we crave, it’s easy to forget the fact that many of us don’t really need anything new. This simple sculpture, a small black block of wood called Nothing, is meant to be a reminder for those who have everything.
“One night when I couldn’t sleep, I had the insight that for a long time now I haven’t really known what to ask for on my birthday, or what to give others for their birthdays,” says Pim de Graaff, who launched the product at the end of last year. “At the same time I feel, and maybe it’s a generational thing, that we’re looking for more meaning. So I loved the idea to make ‘nothing.’ To give someone nothing, to enjoy nothing.”
De Graaff, who works as a freelance copywriter in the Netherlands, turned to sculpture as a way to get away from his work. “I had the feeling I was sitting behind my computer 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and I started thinking about doing something with my hands,” he says.
Not long after deciding to start working on some kind of sculpture, he had the inspiration for Nothing. It took a year of refining the concept and experimenting with different sizes and materials before he was ready to sell it.
How much does nothing cost? In this case, €29 or about $48. “I didn’t want it to be too cheap, because I wanted people to take it seriously,” de Graaff says. “On the other hand, I didn’t want it to be too expensive, because it’s…nothing.” He thought €30 sounded about right, and landed on €29 because 29 had been his basketball jersey number growing up.
The sculptures quickly sold. Since he makes each object by hand, the production runs aren’t huge; he made 50 sculptures before launching just before the holidays last year, and they immediately sold out within a week after he put them online. The same thing happened with the second run.
De Graaff hopes that Nothing will help inspire more people to think about consumption, and despite the irony of selling something to remind people not to buy more, it seems to be having an effect. For him, it’s also been an antidote to his day job–not just getting him away from the computer, but letting him sell something that has a little more meaning.
“I work for companies that spend money on advertising to make more money. That’s fine, that’s how our world goes round, but sometimes it feels a bit shallow,” he says. “It’s good to work on something with a bit more depth.”