tac·tile /ˈtaktl,ˈtakˌtīl/ adjective
“designed to be perceived by touch”
That definition captures EXACTLY what this bracelet was designed to be.
Last summer I heard an interview between happiness author Gretchen Rubin and Joy researcher Ingrid Fetell Lee (more on them below.) They were discussing how to find and create more joy and happiness at home while as a country we were still in quarantine. They talked about treating our homes as “sensory landscapes.”
As I remember it, they explained we could look at our spaces, not to ask ‘how good does it look’ or even ‘how much joy does it bring’ but how is it stimulating our senses? They explained since we weren’t getting out and having lots of different sensory experiences out in the world, it was important for us to foster them at home. We could do things like rearrange furniture, move things from one room to another at different times and maybe most importantly be sure we are paying attention to the tactile experience of our spaces. We could include soft textures, slick surfaces, things that are fun to touch and stimulate the senses in a variety of ways.
Around that same time I happened to be in sort of a rabbit hole of studying the work around Polyvagal Theory, learning how we can ground ourselves back to center through breath work and other calming tools (including sensory ;)
My brain is never far from linking experience to jewelry, so somewhere in the mix, it hit me — wouldn't it be so cool to have a wearable ‘sensory landscape’ that could also be used as a calming tool, to stimulate your senses in a grounding way!? I envisioned a cuff bracelet with all sorts of textures (like those old texture study models from my early design school days.) To be something you could run your fingers along and look at to get that varied sensory experience, wherever you are.
I started digging in on tools for sensory stimulation. It turns out there is a whole world worth of sensory tools out there. There are plastic discs you can buy with countless varieties of textures designed for you to run your fingers over. Just search the term “therapeutic sensory toys” and you’ll find thousands, and I bought a bunch of them ;) My kids, friends and I had them piled on the counter doing “research” on our favorite textures and inevitably we all had that one texture that you look at and think “I want to touch it!” I started taking in the world in all of its tactile glory — textures in nature and textures in our everyday man-made environments.
From what I’ve come to understand, these sensory toys can help us find calm by giving us something outside of ourselves to focus on. Running our fingers along different shapes and textures can help redirect our focus from internal nervous energy and give us a soothing way to release it.
The goal with the Tactile Cuff was to make something beautiful and interesting to wear but also something like a miniature amusement park for your fingers to escape to.
Starting with the larger concave shape at the end you can run your finger back and forth in it like you would a worry stone (remember those?) moving along to the bubbly polka dot orbs that are fun to press or run your fingers back and forth on. Next are three large barrel shapes you can use for running your thumb side to side or over the tops of. Following the barrel shapes are smaller ridges you can use your fingernails to click along or fingertips to press along a finer texture. The three large domes are fun to run your fingers through a complicated sort of figure 8 and finally a few larger ridges for more clicking with your nail or running your fingertip along however you like best.
Aside from hopefully being a wearable grounding tool it’s a fun piece of jewelry meant to be playful and intriguing. I hope you’ll wear it well however you wear it.
More on the authors whose conversation inspired this piece:
Ingrid Fetell Lee (aka @aestheticsofjoy and a personal favorite account of ours to follow) authored “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness.” It’s a deep dive on what and why certain things cause us to experience the emotion of joy. It’s full of fascinating studies, quirky backstories and ways we can incorporate joy more intentionally into our daily lives. Follow Ingrid for more joy at @aestheticsofjoy
Published 4/23/21; Last Updated 4/23/21