Photo by KRD Photography
Quality is the new quantity
Quality over quantity
When I think about Blazing Swan, I see a blank canvas available to each of us, on which we can paint anything we like. What we end up creating depends on what materials we have, combined with our own creativity and the time we have available to spend on perfecting our work of art.
It’s easy to want it all when it comes to our home camp setup, our outfits and the experiences we have at Blazing Swan. Just like any aspect of life, we could possibly ‘have it all’, but it is likely to cost us a combination of time, money and effort to achieve all of our dreams and these might be things we don’t have an abundance of. This means a degree of compromise and a number of choices. I think it’s worth thinking about what priorities we are setting for our burn and deciding what we can realistically achieve, making sure we get the basics right, and then building from there.
Your blaze experience might be carefully mapped out throughout the year or it might come together at the last minute, but it doesn’t mean the end product will bring any more or less satisfaction to you as long as you get your priorities right and keep your principles in sight.
I think that it’s worth contemplating the value of quality over quantity for a number of reasons when we are preparing to blaze.
For a start, it’s good to think about what we need to survive in combination with how we will meet one of our community’s most important guiding principles, Civic Responsibility. Buying a poor quality tent, for example, is not a good idea. Heavy wind and rain combined with mega prickles, rocks and sticks as well as some occasional rough treatment during setup and pack-down, will bring most sub-standard camping gear undone in record time at Kulin. Particularly relevant for those of us who are planning to attend Blazing Swan several years in a row, buying heavy-duty camping equipment is a solid investment that can prevent us from dumping half of our gear at the tip when we get home. This is not a good thing financially or environmentally.
Consider buying smaller and more robust shelters than delving into territory that might find you trying to gaffer tape something together in the middle of the night or hold something down during a gale force dust storm. Invest in the heavy duty tent pegs and star pickets before you buy a lovely rug for everyone to sit on. While you might have saved money on constructing something big and wonderful looking, your first concern should be to make sure that whatever you put up does not come down in a dangerous way. Similarly, if a structure is already compromised, don’t even bring it out in the first place. Things like broken tent poles, dodgy camping chairs or untested electrical and gas equipment is just asking for trouble and not worth bringing into the equation for so many reasons.
Outfits are one of my favourite parts of Blazing Swan, both wearing them and appreciating the efforts of my fellow blazers, but when we are making or choosing our outfits we should also keep in mind the principle of Leave No Trace. When we buy a ticket to the Blaze we commit ourselves to minimising potential Matter Out of Place or MOOP that we bring. In keeping with this, we should look for loose or flimsy items that can be displaced and poorly made elements that might come apart, such as cheap feather boas or sequined cloths – usually sourced from China import shops. The environmental impact of an outfit that was designed for an costume party indoors may not be suitable for the conditions at Blazing Swan and I think its worth scrutinising everything we pack for its potential to compromise the principle of Leave No Trace. Some things such as glitter, painted plastics and fake turf can be okay if they are secured and made from environmentally degradable substances but plenty of them are not and just end up translating into micro-moop, that is really hard, or impossible, to clean up.
For the dedicated blazer, this can extend into upcycling outfits and constantly perusing secondhand stores or kerbside collections for things that can be turned into unique costumes and furnishings that money can’t buy. I loved a pair of pants I saw a guy wearing one year that had heaps of stuffed toys stitched all over them. Anything that utilises the abundance of unloved stuffed toys in op-shops (not ones packed with Styrofoam beans) has to be cool right? His outfit was creative, unique and simple and for those reasons, I thought it was pretty awesome. Think about where you can shop that might uncover some old school quality gems or even consider the use of things that were otherwise destined for a rag-bag to create new outfits and furnishings for your wardrobe and your camp. Taking this approach helps us avoid supporting the industries that bring us cheap imported plastic crap (sorry not sorry if that’s your livelihood) and instead supports local charities. This will keep our costume cupboards and home décor within budget as well as making them funky and original.
When it comes to experiences, I think the concept of quality is also worth considering.
With so much going on, it’s sometimes hard to decide where to go and what to miss out on. Again, we might choose to think about this in relation to the principles. Participation asks us to get active and involved in what is going on around us and Immediacy encourages us to be present in the moment and to do what is required without worrying about what else we might be missing out on. If we don’t take part or get involved by honouring Participation or Radical Inclusion we might be opting for a quantity over quality approach. If we try to be everywhere at once, it’s likely we will never be really engaged with anything at all. Sometimes we might just listen to nature’s calling and sit up on the rock while all kinds of things happen down below or opt for an early night when we get tired. You’re not missing out on anything, and for some people this is the best opportunity to relax and connect with the natural environment that they will have all year. There’s plenty of quality in those less glamorous experiences, in my opinion, and if that’s what you feel is right for you at the time, it will be better for you to spend your time sleeping or sitting and contemplating nature than spending hours searching for some inner peace or elusive dance floor on the playa. The time some people spend volunteering to help make Blazing Swan happen is invaluable to the community and in my opinion if you are doing this kind of work you should be very proud of yourselves. Choosing Communal Effort activities is a quality decision that requires us to give up a certain quantity of time for the greater good. However, as plenty of rangers, build crew and even our hard working committee know, there is a lot of satisfaction, connection and sense of community that comes from making that commitment even though it might mean ‘missing out’ on some of the fun.
Think quality over quantity when you plan to blaze and you’ll be a long way towards getting your own priorities right, enjoying your burn no matter what materials, outfits and setup you’ve got, and upholding the 11 principles, like a boss.