Spazio Rossana Orlandi is perenially among the must-see exhibitions during the Salone, and its namesake design patron is perhaps the definition of a doyenne. This year, her multi-chambered, multi-level space hosted an eclectic mix of students, small studios and well-established designers, several of whom happened to be exhibiting kitchenwares and other vessels.
Konstfack's "Talking Table" was a showcase of experimental tablewares that explore the nuances, dynamics and social norms of dining. Students from the Industrial Design and Jewelry & Corpus programs (some of whom we'd met at ICFF last year) presented consistently thoughtful and well-crafted design objects, from the 'ghost' place setting (smartphone not included) to the napkin for two, a comment on Eastern vs. Western dining traditions.
There has always been a big buzz about the Maison & Objet show, which happens twice a year in Paris—and, as of a couple of years ago, Asia, where the brand has expanded to include a large tradeshow in Singapore as well as various "road shows" in different Asian cities.
Whereas the September event in Paris coincides with the Paris Design Festival, the show in the end of January is a pure trade fair on its own, sans side events celebrating the more artsy end of the design world by investigating ideas and concepts. No, this is all about sales, no bones about it.
Unfortunately, I'd say that the majority of the objects on view was unimaginative, average product overload at best—and kitsch at worst. Happening upon a booth that was full of taxidermied animals, most of them dressed up and put into ridiculous poses, I was compelled, in a disgusted kind of way, to take a picture, and briefly considered compiling a truthful photo essay, reflecting an unfiltered version of the 'real' Maison&Objet. After all, as a designer you often hear that "your portfolio is only as good as the weakest project that you present in it." Does this not also apply to design shows?
But then I remembered the conceit of digging through the muck in order to find the truffles—in order to present the "best of Maison&Objet" to our readers. And so I did, the result being yet another photo gallery showing lots of "nice stuff."
What remains undocumented, though, is the halls full of tacky goods aimed at buyers who intend to decorate the interior of a five-star hotel in the Middle East or Russia (or worse, still, a private client in one of those locales). Nor can you feel the headache caused by getting lost in—and overexposed to—the smell of a hall full of fragrance products (how design is that!) due to the poor signage of the whole fair.
Which brings me to the point of user experience, which started with a press room where there wasn't even a working wifi connection... or even a free glass of tap water. In almost every hall, I stumbled at least once over some unmarked bumps, thick cables visually but not physically smoothed over by carpet, which makes me wonder about the percentage of visitors who break their ankles at Maison&Objet. Considering that this show charges every visitor €65 even if they stay only for a day, as well as the rather proud prices for exhibiting, I would have expected a higher general level of experience design.
But once a show is established, the organizers can justify their "laissez-faire" attitude towards these details, since they know they can get away with pretty much anything. But being a critical member of the design community, I do feel very strongly about pointing out the flaws of it all, instead of just tuning into the general praise anthems about Maison & Objet.
As you can see in the gallery, there was of course a great number of delightful design objects on show - but they should be seen as a "best of selection", rather than the standard. The overall experience of my visit is certainly not marked as "delightful" in my memory.
'Toto Wooden Dolls' by Artek. The villagers, called Martta, Kerttu, Aaro and Eemil, are made by turning wood and finished with painting by hand.
The 'Toto Wooden Dolls' were designed by Kaj Franck in 1945 as collectables for the Finnish magazine Kotiliesi.
Here's a quick round-up of some of the noteworthy stuff we came accross at the Accent on Design section of the home and giftware show NY NOW (f.k.a. NY International Gift Fair), which faced some stiff competition last weekend, coinciding with Chinese New Year festivities and the Superbowl. This year's show was loaded with some really impressive ceramics, as well as Tom Dixon's ever-expanding catalog of products, and it was great to see so many young designers with really solid product photography, personal branding, and marketing collateral. Check out the highlights below:
An inversely curved chair seat, a super stacked fork, an inflatable door handle—these are only a few of the designs that have come out of KK Studios. In a series aptly titled "The Uncomfortable," designer Katerina Kamprani decides to design in a whole new way that some may call plain awkward. The series' intent is pretty straightforward: "The goal is to re-design useful objects making them uncomfortable but usable and maintain the semiotics of the original item," as read on her website.
If there's such a thing as a manufacturer's version of an otaku—someone who is fiendishly obsessed with one thing—it's gotta be Sugatsune. The Japanese company produces specialty hinges and closing mechanisms for all kinds of applications, and while that might not sound sexy, their Multiple Motion Sliding Door System that we looked at here remains the most innovative cabinet door solution we've ever seen.
If you think about it, standard out-swinging hinges aren't always the best solution, they're just the incumbent ones. Watch someone pushing a baby stroller and trying to enter a store, and witness how awkward it is—they must get close enough to the door to grab and pull the handle, but must then back up to let the door clear the stroller, then they have to squirt through the doorway and use their shoulder to prevent the door from closing on them. In instances like that, it would be better if there was a solution in place like Sugatsune's Lin-X Lateral Swing Hinge:
I realize that will probably never happen for interior doors, but at least they're making them for cabinets. Anyone in a wheelchair would probably appreciate not having to back themselves up just to swing a cabinet door open.
Re-branded as NY NOW, the biannual trade show formally known as the New York International Gift Fair was back this August with all of the usual suspects presenting their wares. Viewing this show through a designers' lens can be a little overwhelming—there's just so much stuff!—but as veteran attendees we stuck to the small but well curated flagship section of the fair, "Accent on Design."
There was not much in the way of new product at the show this year, with most companies opting to refresh their collections with new colors and invest in more sophisticated branded booths—always a good thing, as it elevated the overall experience of walking the floor. One of our favorite booths, pictured above, was Danish vendor Menu who consistently present a strong product line-up, their no-frills gallery like presentation a testament to the strength of the products.
Overall, it felt like most companies exhibition spaces had a smaller footprint. it was inspiring to see some of the independent designers like Fort Standard and Chen Chen & Kai Williams who got their start with the AmDC graduate to getting their own booths, and Japan's presence was undeniable with both their minimal approach to display and product selection offering a welcome visual break.
Here's a quick round-up of stuff that caught our eye!
For those of us who "only use the best" in our kitchens (regardless of how much cooking actually goes on in there), "Tsubamesanjo" is your new word for the day. Tsubamesanjo is a rail station located exactly on the border of two cities, Tsubame and Sanjo, in Niigata Prefecture in the Northwestern region of Japan. While the Niigata region is known within Japan for its high quality agriculture (famous for its top grade rice and consequentially, great sake), the region around Tsubamesanjo, oddly enough, is actually known for its high quality metalwork.
Back in the early 17th century, there was frequent flooding of the river, which caused major problems for the farming industry. In response, the local magistrate invited nail makers from Edo (present day Tokyo) to teach the farmers the craft of nail making, which is how the tradition of metalwork began.
Today, there are numerous manufacturers within a 30km area of Tsubamesanjo that carry on this tradition of high quality metalwork that grew from nails to kitchen knives, hand tools, and other household and industrial wares.
While tradition and craftsmanship is venerable, it can also go out of style. That's exactly where FD Style (founded by Mitsunobu Hagino) fills the gap. Hagino's FD Style blends the traditional craftsmanship of the Tsubamesanjo region with a modern design aesthetic with their stylishly designed stainless black kitchenware.
simplehuman, best known for their wastebins and innovative, design-driven kitchen and bathroom accessories, are entering into the beauty category with the tru-lux Sensor Mirror. The free-standing magnification mirror features a full-spectrum LED light ring that mimics sunlight with a color rendering index (CRI) of 90. An embedded sensor at the top of the mirror automatically lights up when you step in front of it. At 5x magnification boasts of a "precise curvature for distortion-free optics," providing great detail while allowing users to see their entire face.
The mirror is adjustable—tilting back fully—with a telescoping stem. The stainless steel base houses a USB port to recharge the mirror and maintain a cordless, clutter-free environment. simplehuman boasts that the mirror can retain a charge for up to a month with normal use.
The same rechargeable USB ports are being applied to their wildly popular sensor pumps—the newest models are stainless steel and feature a hinged cap for refilling liquid soap.
Expanding on the success of their DrawerStore Cutlery tray, British kitchenware designers Joseph Joseph are venturing into new corners of the kitchen with a new line of drawer organizers previewed at the International Home + Housewares Show to help contain and arrange the miscellany. The expandable organizers fit drawers sizes from 13.5" up to 21".
The DrawerStore Organizer includes stackable modular trays and a variety of differently sized compartments to keep your bits and bobs in order. The DrawerStore Stowaway organizes your kitchen essentials with compartments for grocery bags, rolls of aluminum foil and cling wrap.
Along with the drawer organizers, Joseph Joseph continues expanding their thoughtful, design-driven kitchen line with a number of safety innovations. The Mezzaluna, a traditional chopping utensil for preparing herbs, gets a modern update with pivoting handles that fold into a blade guard for safe storage.
The Duo magnetic cheese knife set's handles clip together securely—protecting both the blades and fingers when stored in the drawer.
The SodaStream booth was definitely on our radar this year, since they unveiled the Yves Béhar-designed Source soda machine just a month after the 2012 International Home + Housewares Show. As with last year, the New Jersey-based company went all-in with a massive booth in the Wired+Well section of the Housewares Show, though they opted to forgo the walkthrough mini-movie booth for a relatively simple cage filled with plastic soda bottles.
Even so, this year's booth was no less spectacular than last year: between the sculptural installation Keurig-like flavor caps and an alcove for the new Samsung refrigerator that features an integrated carbonator, SodaStream made a strong showing at McCormick Place. Check it out:
When we were filming her introductory remarks, Design Programs Vicki Matranga made an offhand comment that SodaStream was among the major success stories for the kitchen category, marking a shift in beverage consumption habits. We noted that at least a couple competitors were nipping at their proverbial heels last year, but we were impressed with the new offerings as SodaStream continues to innovate and collaborate in order to reach new customers in the expanding market for home carbonation.
If you aren't up on NYC design drama, last week, in what one would hope is a publicity stunt and not a self-serious act of protest, Quirky, an invention-development company, put up a billboard and gathered a crowd to draw attention to the similarities between a product they brought to market in 2009 and one OXO, the housewares company, did recently.
We've seen plenty of furniture and lighting from prolific designer Benjamin Hubert, as well as the 'groovy' minimalism of the "Plicate" watch, but it's always hard to predict what to expect when a designer tries his hand at other objects. Of course, Hubert is talented enough to put his signature touch of refined restraint on just about any object imaginable, and his new series of vessels is no exception. This past weekend saw the debut of the London-based designer's aptly-titled "Pots" at Maison Objet—designed for Danish brand Menu, the terracotta vases and jars are minimal yet expressive, a perfect example of Hubert's aesthetic.
The storage jars stem from the studio's 'Materials-driven, process-led industrial design approach' researching the typologies and language associated with ancient and contemporary methods of keeping products cool and dry utilising terracotta.
'Pots' feature an exterior of natural, raw terracotta contrasting with the gloss glazed interior and soft rubber lids, providing a multitude of experiences for your senses.
The collection represents an uncompromising contrast between the ancient traditions found in terracotta and the industrial modernity embedded in the mass-produced rubber lids.
I'm sure I'm not the only person who hides the Brita when company comes over and feels terribly guilty tossing those carbon-filled plastic filters every couple of months. In fact, it's always been a bit of a mystery to me why there wasn't a beautiful, more sustainable and affordable alternative on the market.
I clearly wasn't the only one looking for a design solution for a consumer product I interact with on a day-to-day basis: Introducing Soma, a glass carafe and 100% compostable water filter. The filter, designed by David Beeman, is made from all-natural Malaysian coconut shells, vegan silk and food-based PLA plastic. Beeman, with over 30 years of experience creating water formulas for Starbucks, Peet's and other global brands, talks a bit about the design process in the video below:
The glass decanter has a beveled edge which results in drip-free pouring. The product is manufactured in the United States and the subscription-service style of renewing the filter is as good as it gets. The founding team behind Soma comes with their own set of good as it gets credentials: Mike Del Ponte (founder/CEO of Sparkseed, an award-winning social innovation accelerator), Rohan Oza (brand genius behind vitaminwater, smartwater, vitacoco and popchips), Ido Leffler (co-founder of Yes To Carrots, the 2nd largest natural beauty brand in America), and Zach Allia (his apps hit #1 on Facebook, Apple store, and Chrome store). Advisors include Tim Ferriss, and founders and executives from Method, Incase, Warby Parker, Birchbox, TOMS and the UN Foundation.
And while they're in full launch mode for for their product, early adopters can get the Soma carafe + 6-Months worth of filters for $50 (each filter delivered to your door every two months). As of press time, they've blown past their initial $100,000 goal—we're waiting to hear what sort of reach goals they might have and what type of add-ons they might have for their early backers. Get in on the ground and support Soma!
Years ago, in Art History class, I remember learning that carving a veil out of marble—i.e. creating the illusion of lightness from stone—the ultimate challenge in ancient sculpture. I can't imagine it's gotten any easier over the years, and it so happens that designer Gonçalo Campos notes that it's at least as difficult, from a technical standpoint, to achieve the soft effect of drapery in porcelain. Thankfully, he was able to develop a process to cast molds from fabric with the help of Vista Alegre, a Portuguese Porcelain and Crystal company. He cites the veil as the inspiration for his latest project, "Tecido" platters:
Usually a modest item used to create anticipation and draw attention to whatever it conceals, and now it becomes an object in its own right. Affirmed by its own elegant and delicate shape, in a simple, yet impressive arrangement, it becomes a functional product that can be used daily, as much as in special occasions. This is a product to inspire each one of us to appreciate the simple things in life and see the beauty in all the details that go unappreciated, such as the gentle shapes in a veil.
Where Rogier Martens' fruit bowls took their form from their contents, Campos' wares obliquely refer to still life compositions, especially when augmented by line drawings of potential delicacies.
I bet André Breton himself could not have foreseen the 'consequences' of inventing Exquisite Corpse: four score and seven years after he popularized the collective writing/drawing game, designer Chloe Lee Carson has resurrected the surrealist pastime as a collection of playful tableware.
For her "Exquisite Cups," Carson came up with a total of nine characters—further refined by an illustrator—divided into three sets, which loosely adhere to the themes of "Folk," "Wild," and "City." (The pun is less successful in French, as the game is known as cadavre exquis. C'est la vie.) In homage to the game, each cup "displays different body parts that stack up to form a complete image. Once stacked, they can be twisted to create amazing cross-breed creatures."
Every now and again, we see a concept bike that incorporates a hubless wheel, typically a bicycle, which is invariably met with backlash such as: "the hubless wheel is a hallmark of naïvety." Yet idealistic designers continue to pursue the void—hell, we've even seen a prototype of a bicycle with a hubless wheel—and there's no denying that it's a striking form factor. It seems that the judges of the Red Dot Award concur, noting that the hubless wheel "captivates due to its exceptional ergonomics."
Of course, they're not referring to a vehicle but a rather more mundane (or, conversely, practical) object: the Rösle Pizza Wheel.
Thanks to the innovative, patent construction with a rounded, free-running blade, the pizza wheel glides quickly through the fresh pizza, without causing the topping[s] to displace. The stable, stainless steel blade is sharpened on both sides and assures exact and effortless work. The pizza wheel can be easily dismantled for cleaning.
The Pizza Wheel turned up in our forums (in a thread about "Good design you love to have," no less) where member mo-i notes that a pair of Americans—Jessica Moreland & Chris Hawker of Trident Design—came up with the design for the German kitchenware company. Although the hubless blade goes by a different moniker on the Columbus, OH-based consultancy's website, it didn't require much digging to learn more about the Pitzo: Moreland and Hawker are duly proud of the recognition they've received, and the backstory is available on the microsite:
The Pitzo Pizza Cutter was conceived in 2009 by Jessica Moreland, an industrial designer working at Trident Design, LLC, a product design and invention development lab... While on a scouting trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond with Chris Hawker, president of Trident, it was noted that the pizza cutter was a product that could use some fresh eyes.
The plastic version is available at Walmart, among other retailers
In the interest of showcasing young and emerging local designers, Messe Frankfurt has seen fit to include a 'Talents' section at the Interior Lifestyle shows in Tokyo and China. Of course, the organization's modest-sized Asian tradeshows are duly less ambitious than their flagship show in February, which boasts upwards of 60 talents compared to dozen young designers at last week's Shanghai exhibition.
More interesting still is the decision to include several non-Chinese designers: half of the talents hailed from Japan and Europe, all of whom had participated as Talents at prior shows in their home regions. (Given the Frankfurt-based company's penchant for providing international exposure at little to no cost to the designers, it's well worth applying to be a 'Talent' at Ambiente in February.) The lucky few were handpicked to complement the Chinese designers, as well as for their potential to succeed in the Chinese market. Far be it for me to speak on behalf of the nation's buyers, but my personal favorite (among the non-Chinese designers) was work from Kai Linke.
The Frankfurt-based designer presented just a couple small tabletop objects as well as a sample of a bespoke wall treatment that he has developed. As in the "Engrain" keyboard, Linke takes advantage of the fact that the grain of wood expresses differences in density, such that a controlled sandblasting process reveals the grain in three dimensions. After he creates a vector graphic to a client's specifications, Linke masks the area on a panel of spruce, which is sandblasted to reveal an image in relief. Although he exhibited just a handful of the panels—in the interest of easy transportation from Germany—the overall effect is quite striking. (The panels can be quite large, or they can be cut into a few standard sizes for easy transport and visual variation; this particular wall can be viewed in full here.)
I could see the "Pi" mirror, a round looking glass 'set' in a block of marble, as a fixture in a high-end restaurant or hotel here in Shanghai or, frankly, any major city.
At first blush, industrial designer Sam Thompson's gently-arched 45-Degree Bowl, above, looks like it might be made from veneers that were steam-bent and laminated together in a form. But flip it over and you'll see it was CNC-milled out of a solid block. If the protruding feet aren't a dead giveaway, Thompson's intentionally had the bit leave kerf marks to remove all doubt:
"The smooth sanded top of the tray contrasts with the exaggerated kerf on the bottom," he writes, "showing the process of CNC routing in an intuitive and surprising manner."
The awesome video below shows an earlier wooden bowl, the Big Square, that Thompson designed and produced via CNC—his tagline is "I make things by hand, with digital tools"—and while it lacks any explanatory narrative, you don't need it. It shows him performing every step of the process, going from prepping the rough-cut lumber to drawing the 3D files to running the CNC mill and the laser engraver:
Within the Passionswege ("pilgrimage ways") craft and design project of Vienna Design Week, Vienna-based designer Valentin Vodev was asked to collaborate with J. L. Lobmeyr, the renowned Viennese glassware manufacturer, now run by the sixth generation.
Vodev developed a series of pictograms to reveal "secret" information about the long-standing Lobmeyr product portfolio—information about the glassware that is never communicated to the buyer, yet passed on verbally from generation to generation to distributors and within the company.
These inside stories are based on technical as well as socio-cultural properties that have been discovered over the past 150 years of the Lobmeyr business. Vodev has brought these attributes to the surface to make them visible. Even though the unobtrusive symbol engravings are not clearly marked at first sight, the delight of discovering them at a second glance is part of the experience when looking through the Lobmeyr glasses.
For one of the Passionswege projects of Vienna Design Week, London-based designer Mathias Hahn was assigned to work with Staud's, a Viennese producer of fine vegetable and fruit preserves.
Hahn created an intriguing installation in which he approached the world of Staud's by poetically addressing color, material and the meaning of preserving for winter time. Each of the various vessels on display seemed to capture all the good stuff that summer has to offer; almost like a time capsule, recallable during a long, cold winter.
Eindhoven-based designer Dave Hakkens has been on our radar since we first got wind of his "Break Soap" concept, and it so happens that wind was the inspiration behind the more recent oil pressing machine. So too does his latest project begin with a seemingly straightforward concept—that porcelain shrinks when you bake it—and end with a fascinating, allusive series of objects. Curious about the 'diminishing returns' of the material, Hakkens "made a huge jug from all kinds of materials to see the shrinking process on different textures."
From this jug I made a mold and poured porcelain in. Then baked it at 1260 degrees, and it shrank... With this porcelain model I made another mold and baked it, it shrank again. Made a mold from this model and so on... Every time the porcelain deforms a little bit and slowley the textures loses its detail.
After 13 rounds of casting and baking, he arrived at a collection of 14 jugs, each of which comes in at roughly 60% of the volume of its progenitor. Thus, the original jug is a healthy, pitcher-sized 5000mL, while the last one holds a mere 10mL, or a whopping two teaspoons.
Meanwhile, minor deformations emerge in more subtle fashion, as details fade and the vessel develops a slight crook in its back. Although molds are intended to mass produce exact replicas from a single template, Hakkens' "Shrinking Jug" series clearly illustrates the variations that characterize handmade objects.
Marli Fruit Holder for Matzah or Display Apples. Designed by Laura Polinoro
With the High Holidays in full swing, Alessi and The Jewish Museum in New York City have partnered again to offer a special selection of homewares from the Italian brand. The new collection includes a Rosh Hashanah Apple and Honey Set by Christopher Dresser and Honey Pots shaped like apples by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA.
The ongoing collaboration between Alessi and The Jewish Museum began in 2010 with the introduction of the Connection mezuzah by Dror Benshetrit exclusively for The Jewish Museum. This year's offering includes accessories for the Sabbath as well as a beautiful Passover Seder Plate that combines Zhang Ke's Ming tray and six of Pietro Gerosa's Blip spoon rests. See more from the 2012 Collection after the jump.
We're not sure if Marco Maturo and Alessio Roscini, the designers behind Studio Klass of Milan, are taking the notion of 'eye candy' a bit too literally, but their new "Non là" clock looks mighty tasty for a timepiece. In fact, I don't know that I would have guessed the actual inspiration behind the sculptural clock:
"Non là is a ceramic table clock with conical shape, inspired by the famous straw hat—Nón ló in vietnamese—and usually used by asian people to protect themselves from sun and rain. The form comes also from a functional aspect: when the watch is placed on the table, the base of the cone—on which the quadrant is on—is tilted, thus facilitating the reading time.
Yet the rounded, conical form resembles a spinning top or a turnip as much as it does a bon-bon, making it a perfect fit for Italian manufacturer Diamantini & Domeniconi, who boast a broad portfolio of unconventional clocks and housewares.
It's easy to be distracted by the political antics and acrobatics of an election year. Luckily, our friends at ODLCO are here to remind us to focus on the fundamentals and just pass the butter. Their Capitol Butter Dish, designed by Morgan Carter and made by ceramicists in Chicago, cuts through the fat while providing a tabletop spectacle for those who might be prone to debate politics at the kitchen table.
The Butter Dish is a fun take on the building souvenirs found at the local tourist gift shops around Washington DC; keep the going-ons in the hallowed political halls of the nation's capitol on the table. The front "lawn" of the Capitol Building serves as a knife rest reminding your round-table of advisors that the buck stops here.
The decorative vessel has long been an object of cultural significance, and the flower vase in particular embodies a certain dynamic meaning, as it is intended to complement the ephemeral beauty of its contents. For her most recent project, Israeli designer Hadar Glick chose to focus on vases precisely for their broad appeal—"they are communicative [to] a wide range of audiences"—arriving at "Six," series of as many vases that are "a memory of a loss."
Her statement (liberally copyedited by yours truly):
Day-to-day life in the Israeli society is intertwined with loss, who brings with it memory. The loss of a loved one is a part of our life cycle and the memory of that person, remains with us. After researching this subject in depth, I came to one major realization, which remained present in my work process: it does not matter if your loved one is a son, a father, a mother or a good friend. A loss is always a loss.
The world of memory and loss has an affinity to one of flowers and nature. Expressions such as "cut down in his prime" or "nipped in the bud" are familiar to many Israelis from their daily use of the Hebrew language. A flower is worn out and provisional, it resembles a clock and serves as a timer.
In our culture, flowers symbolize life and they can frequently be found at any home. They are present in our life cycle on its highs: in moments of joy and happiness such as birthdays and weddings, and in its lows in funerals and memorial days.
Vases are collective objects but they meet the individual. The vase as an object has an inner void, an exterior and it encapsulates.
Of course, any vessel refers us to this Taoist notion of 'emptiness' (a cup or bowl is the classic example); it's a matter of how the form expresses the idea. Each vase begins with a concept (given in its name) that informs the design—from daily rituals to materialism to the arrangement of the flowers themselves—to capture emotion and "allow people to express the memories of their loved ones" in a subtle manner. Thus, the recent Holon grad notes that, "in contrast to flowers, which wither and fade away with time, the vases are all made out of non-biodegradable materials and are constant [as] an eternal testimony of our memories."
And you thought you'd seen it all in ice cube making. Currently under consideration at Quirky is the Cube Tube, an ice tray designed to solve a specific problem: That annoying moment after you fill the tray at the sink and slowwwwly walk it over to the freezer, trying not to spill the water.
You fill the Cube Tube up, and close it, at the sink. There's presumably a little Archimedes action when you slide the insert in, but once that's done with you toss it in the freezer, spill-free.
The base is made out of silicone, so after it's frozen you can hit it against the counter to loosen the cubes. Then you just pull the insert out—there's draft angle, naturally—to dispense.
From what I can see, there's nothing that would stop you from refilling it when partially empty, as well.
I realize those of you with 'fridges that make their own ice don't give a damn about objects like this, but it's something an ice-tray-using peon like me could really use.