Cargo in Miniature: Reminding Us Where Our Stuff Comes From

EcoSalon: Cargo Containers by Daniel Ballou

Ceramic household containers remind us of where so many of our products come from.

For someone who does most of her writing online, using a keyboard, I have an awful lot of pens. And even though I rarely use them, they always end up all over the place. This is part of the reason why I was thrilled to come across these Cargo Containers by California-based designer Daniel Ballou. There’s also something thought-provoking, even haunting, about scaling down such an industrial item — from 8 feet to 8 inches —and rendering it in a more precious material.

EcoSalon: Cargo Containers by Daniel Ballou

Ballou lives and works in Long Beach, CA, which inspired the design of these pieces.

“I live and work next to one of the busiest shipping ports in the country,” says Ballou. “Cargo containers are everywhere, stacked up on ships just outside the breakwater and piled up in huge lots inside the port. Visually, the repetition of the stacked containers is impressive. It’s massive and utilitarian but has a lego quality, and the random color patterns somehow always look great together. The idea of ceramic household containers with the same form seemed like a great contrast with the brutal and industrial real thing. This is the first project I’ve done in ceramic, but the material felt right since it’s warm and imperfect.”

Beyond a play on form and scale, the use of shipping containers also serve as a reminder of where it all comes from, and makes us think twice about the stuff we think we need.

Ballou says: “Shipping containers can be a symbol for some cultural questions about consumerism and globalism, which I think is partly why they are gaining so much popularity in architecture. Besides simply having fun with the contrast, the containers are a reminder of where virtually all of our products come from. Most likely whatever you put in the container has been in a cargo container before.”

EcoSalon: Cargo Containers by Daniel Ballou

Daniel Ballou’s containers are available through Areaware. They’re $24 for a set of two — either blue and white or gray and orange.

Images: Daniel Ballou; splorp


Johanna Björk

Johanna is a sustainable fashion writer currently based in Ojai, CA. Read her weekly On Trend column to learn what's new in eco fashion.