So I’ve been working on developing the Salaat Bento Box idea a bit further, and the idea has evolved a bit. I met with a former ITP alumni, Noah Waxman as well as with some classmates to get input regarding materials with embedded magnets and fabricating these objects and that conversation got me thinking about simplifying my original idea to concentrate more specifically on the Prayer Mat itself.
The Salaat Bento Box is an attempt at improving the lives of billions of Muslims through design, specifically taking a very Eastern design object, the Bento Box or the Tiffin and using that model to create a modular Prayer Kit that will make it easier for Muslims on the move to pray.
Like a lunch box, the kit will be modular, easy to clean and compact while comprehensive.
I wanted to build a prayer mat made specifically for the kit that would fold up easily according to a predetermined pattern and fit perfectly into the confined space. Magnets seemed like the natural starting point, since their subtle interaction can be hidden and embedded into the fabric, but at the same time would allow for a structured folding process.
But simply discussing the concept got me thinking about the mat more closely. A prayer mat is designed to both help point a Muslim as well as offer a comfortable and clean surface to bow upon. The plushness of the material cannot be overlooked, nor can the culture already associated with the mats. The mats are typically ornate, embossed with beautiful designs that evoke images of mosques and Mecca. When Muslim’s pray in groups (as they often do) they lay out their mats side by side.
The realization I came upon when trying to plan out the layout of the magnets was that the magnets can in fact be used to help link the mats as well, rather than simply help to fold up a mat.
Another point of inspiration was that the mat does not need to plush throughout, only where the knees and ankles touch the ground. That can help reduce the thickness of the material and allow for a smaller fold area. Utilizing fabrication techniques like those seen in Issey Miyake’s bag I can create a structure that inherently folds one way while at the same time offering a plush surface as well as a thin material.