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Finding Design Inspiration in Beauty and Mortality

Finding Design Inspiration in Beauty and Mortality


This article is a part of our Design particular part about water as a supply of creativity.


Chen Chen and Kai Williams grabbed consideration in 2011 with client merchandise constituted of trash.

They had been latest graduates of Pratt Institute’s industrial design program, and so they swaddled items of rope, scraps of wooden and different discards in spandex that they soaked in resin, making a ham hock-like kind that might be sliced to create variegated drink coasters {that a} author described as “one half terrazzo and one half mortadella.”

The coasters had been an instance of the best way the designers prefer to work, not by sitting at a pc and opening a drawing program however by manually messing with supplies. The designs had been additionally a provocation — a celebration of ugliness or not less than, as they noticed it, “virtually a rejection” of conventional concepts about magnificence, mentioned Mr. Chen, as he and Mr. Williams led a tour of their agency’s sprawling, light-struck new studio within the South Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn on a latest afternoon.

Today the designers, each 39 and founders of CCKW, nonetheless start their creations with hands-on tinkering. But the items of their new furnishings and lighting assortment are fabricated from supplies extra broadly thought of lovely.

Elegant sconces function spun-brass shades evocative of rose petals. Chairs have legs and seat frames of richly hued walnut, with gnarly complete walnuts serving to to bolt leather-strap backrests onto swooping tubular-steel frames. More walnuts — this time sliced in order that their intricate innards are revealed as crisp cross-sections — are connected to the undersides of the beveled-glass tops of coffee tables, like specimens captured on microscope slides.

“The items could be visually incongruent however there may be this underlying connection to nature,” Mr. Chen mentioned.

The nature theme emerged after he and Mr. Williams moved into their new area, a former produce and grocery warehouse, bringing with them the facility saws, kilns, clamps and different instruments that they use to govern supplies.

The companions had been engaged on the sconces and chairs of their earlier Brooklyn studio, about 30 blocks south, however they’d been fascinated about them as separate, unrelated tasks.

Soon after the transfer, although, Mr. Chen went for a stroll within the Green-Wood Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark a block from their new office. As he strolled by stately timber and dignified stone monuments, he started considering the pure cycle of start and demise, and he and Mr. Williams quickly realized that their disparate designs — the petal-shaped lighting fixtures, the walnut used within the chairs — sprang from nature, too.

Rounding out what they’re calling the Sacred Tree assortment are aspect tables lined with glazed ceramic reliefs of skeletons and leaves — figurative ornament that may be a departure for the duo, and a extra literal expression of the life cycle.

The designers conceived the gadgets within the assortment as manufacturing items, not one-off artwork items. They have been seeking out specialised companies to make the components; they and their employees of two will then assemble the furnishings and fixtures within the studio. There could also be delicate variations within the wares due to the pure supplies and the hand meeting.

“This line of labor is all about designing a course of,” Mr. Williams mentioned. “Each factor could be barely completely different. It’s the method that’s the product for us.”

Pieces within the Sacred Tree assortment, starting from $2,300 to $8,300, could be ordered by emailing gross [email protected].

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