While I appreciate functionality, what interests me most is imagination—the unusual, the strange, the uncanny, and the fantastic as interpreted by today’s most creative designers. I welcome anything that makes us look at the world differently, that makes us reexamine the quotidian, that makes us stop and analyze all the objects we so frequently take for granted.
Flights of Fancy: 2011 Favorites.
Imaginative Designs That Make Us Reexamine Quotidian Objects
Looking back at this year’s posts, I remember most the pieces that challenged my notion of what constitutes design—products that edged or erased the line that generally demarcates what we call art. The first of these pieces that comes to mind is Memoria—100 Cups of Tea Never to Be..., a chandelier/sculpture envisioned by Rebecca Wilson. Memoria gives sentience and emotion to an everyday object: a broken teapot. The expired teapot lies on the floor, beneath a chandelier of flying winged teacups—representing the unfulfilled potential of the prematurely dead pot. We can almost smell the fragrant bergamot of unpoured Earl Grey.
On the alienesque front, we have Pod by Eleek, a company I love if for no other reason than the impressive skill of its founder, a third-generation patternmaker (an old world craft that requires precision woodworking, engineering, and “a formidable sense of spatial relationships”). Pod is an excellent example of the ingenuity and creativity found in all Eleek lighting: the collection is an otherworldly, industrial conglomeration—as if futuristic Martian lamps crossed with abandoned nineteenth-century train parts.
In the avian department, nothing beats Dish of Desire (even the alliterative name is enchanting). This modern bird feeder is perfect for ornithophilic hipsters. Simple and curvy, Dish of Desire comes in various configurations, the most lavish of which has five tiers. Constructed of red cedar, porcelain, and aluminum, this feeder should offer variety, because “birds need a varied menu.”
For anyone interested in green products, some designers are choosing to repurpose ordinary materials, using them for some fantastic purposes—these are the products that really make us reevaluate the magic of everyday objects. Volivik chandeliers, for example, reuse plain, ordinary (some might even say ugly) Bic pens. The design of Madrid-based firm enPieza, the Volivik series is wonderful for writers or lovers of literature, since the pens represent all the beauty of fantastic worlds crafted from intangible words.
Outdoor furniture has recently begun to attract brave designers as well. Kirv is one such company that is creating outlandish furniture to withstand the elements. Constructed of stainless steel, Kirv’s pieces will last. But what’s better than their practicality and longevity is their beauty. Of the many unique pieces, I adore Nest, a sphere with a curved cut-out that nestles users in its womb. A great conversation piece for the yard, from afar Nest looks like a giant egg—perhaps one from the famed Roc of Sinbad’s tales.
The last product in my Best Of... List recalls those Sufi holy men that spin dizzyingly in order to reach religious ecstasy, the whirling dervishes. Part fan, part chandelier, the Dervish Lamp by Philippe Malouin came about after the designer had a revelation while getting his friend’s car cleaned through an automatic garage car wash. Malouin takes the cake for finding a way to reinvent the ceiling fan, turning it into a mesmerizing tool for household hypnotism.
What all these products have in common is ingenuity, a skill that can sometimes run short in the field of design where copycats sometimes sprout up everywhere. These standouts of 2011 make us think about the hidden life of the objects that surround us. They inspire us to daydream, envisioning flying teacups and alien relics, gourmand birds and dancing pens, mythic orbs and spellbinding fans.