Ever since I discovered a Rolex-type watch entirely made of wood (including its articulated bracelet, perfect down to the last detail), produced by a Dutch design company called Two-O and offered on a crowd-funding site for contemporary designers called Crowdy House, I seem to be seeing more and more originally hi-tech designs expressed in wood rather than metal and/or plastic. Crowdy House is the best site that I have come across for this combo of lo- and hi-tech but it seems to be spreading rapidly outward — and indeed upward…
When is an iPhone not an iPhone, for instance? When it is a wooden household altar — a ‘Kamidana Shiro’ in Japanese, which literally translates as ‘God Shelf’ (see below). Kamidana are found in most Japanese homes and Mocanoco, the company behind this interesting take on Apple tech, is taking the design of its ‘kamidana shiro’ very seriously. Each piece is hand made from domestically harvested Japanese cedar; an image of the famous Shinto Ise Shrine is laser engraved on the surface. It can be stood upright and there’s a sliding panel into an interior just large enough to contain the scriptures and good luck charms contained in more conventional Shinto shrines.
The price, 25,500 yen, reflects the craftsmanship that goes into each altar. But it’s still cheaper than an iPhone or iPad. ‘We wanted to create a minimal design that would seamlessly incorporate itself into modern environments,’ the company told me. About the only thing this iShinto shrine can’t do is take a selfie. Currently only sold in Japan, overseas customers can buy via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Crowdy House, meanwhile, designers use wood for hitherto undreamt of end-uses. The warmth and glow of engraved cherry wood makes a non-religious iPhone cover thanks to Danish company Trae Design. There are wooden hats and wooden bow ties (very smart) from Dutch outfit Be Remarkable, and a wooden brief case for an iPad is produced by Studio Jasper Interior. Each product is limited edition and once it has been crowd-funded up to its declared limit cannot not be ordered again.
Here are three of my favourite recent and current products on Crowdy House:
The result of a collaboration between two industrial designers and a menswear designer, this wood and leather plaat handbag is an elegant ‘technical’ bag recognisable by the pattern in which the wood is cut. The clean exterior is complemented by the leather interior with sleek lines. The flexibility of the timber is held in check as it were by the interior leather lining. For those who sadly missed out, these talented designers also do a pair of sunglasses in birchwood lattice which are really superb.
Cut 02 is a small table and very chic little lamp made out of plywood, parchment paper and cork by King Kong Design, who use traditional manual techniques alongside the latest digital technology. ‘We like working with our hands as much as we love what our machines can do,’ say the designers.
This chandelier is extremely and unexpectedly elegant — quirky too. Constructed out of 24mm thick birch cut into stripes, it is delivered as a construction kit which can be made into any shape you choose. Forget Ikea, chose Arend Groosman — or Crowdy House instead!
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