Stuck in the Sand

Lawrence Laske

On May 10, 2003 I went to one of my favorite places: a restaurant on the beach in Monterosso, Italy. I would often take the train in the early morning from Milan. Once I arrived, I would have a seafood soup, a half bottle of white wine, and eventually take a walk along the mountain side to Vernazza. This particular day I was sitting, having my lunch, and about half way through my meal, I noticed a broken chair near the trash. Resting vertically against a trash container was the back of the chair still connected structurally to the two back legs. I looked at it and then towards the beach, where I noticed an adolescent propping himself up with his bent arms behind him in a very awkward, uncomfortable position. No more than a second passed before I snickered with excitement. I could see the backrest with two legs penetrating the sand offering a back rest. After I finished my lunch I went over and tossed the backrest with two legs into the trash container, minimizing the chance that other eyes may see the same as I. In hind sight, I wish I would have kept the chair remnant, because it was “the” inspiration for what would become the Beach Thingy.

A canvas backpack design for transporting Beach Thingy.

I didn’t develop the design immediately but the idea returned to my thoughts on various occasions. I finally created a few sketches between October 7 and November 12. When I sketched the idea on the back of a train ticket from Como to Milan on November 7, 2003, I realized I needed to pursue this idea.

Beach Thingy tooling and injection mold.

After three generations of prototypes and a lot of persistence, I had a finished product. I feel that in over twenty years of designing products, the Beach Thingy is a culmination of cleverness, functionality, playfulness and whimsicality. It reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. There is a nice balance between both the serious side of something and its playful counterpart.

Ideas for beach towel advertisements.

For me, the most crucial stage of the design process is not just the ability to observe but more importantly to interpret. It also helps to be dyslexic. The inverse is a good starting point. If we have consistently observed our surroundings, our subconscious has a vast amount of stored information, which it seems to release when it feels we need some stimulation. I do not believe in the expressions “it’s all about timing”, “chance” or “in the right place at the right time”, because we are always in the right place at the right time. Instead, it is simply how we observe and interpret what is right in front of us at any particular moment in time. Even the minutest thing can be discovered.