|There are lots of great names
out there--Johnny Paycheck, Picabo Street, Kate Spade--names that somehow predestine their bearer's dreams and accomplishments. This month's Contraption takes a look at two objects by designer Inna Alesina, whose lovely, memorable turns of invention magically match the rhythmic alliteration of her name. Designwise, Alesina's point of departure tempts easy categorization, but then takes you one step beyond what you think you are seeing. For example, her celebrated "Good Egg" foot rest/magazine rack/coffee table base (which has received wide magazine attention) is a ring consisting of 100 nested paper egg trays, but, unlike so many recycledesign objects, completely transforms itself into a new thing, with new characteristics; if the trays' previous incarnation is referenced at all, it is cleverly so in the ovoid profile of the assembled ring.
Brand new to Alesina's work is her 1,000 & 1 Straw Lamp, another bit of modular Merlinism, available in a table or hanging format. Made from seemingly-myriad translucent white drinking straws around an inverted, recycled pop bottle, the lamp pushes the definition of green design by using one truly-recycled object as a foil for the many drinking straws. When I see this object, I realize that although the straws themselves are not recycled (nor would we likely want them to be!), they are nevertheless sympathetic to Alesina's work in that they are disposable items, if not heretofore disposed of. The lamps come in both soft white and colors (determined by the tint of the inner core) and both have their seductions. The soft white version aims to reference a sheaf of wheat, and comes so close in her product photography that you wonder how something so wonderful and beautiful could be made up of something so ordinary and overlooked.
The color versions have a much more festive character, with the gradations of tint moving from bottom to top, and from interior to exterior. The lamps are tough too, and Alesina's proprietary production process makes the most from her materials. That said, the beauty, charm, and okay, poise of the thing is really where the action is; indeed, I was so impressed by the aesthetics that it was probably a half an hour before I got the connection between the soda bottle and the soda straw.
1,000 & 1 Straw Lamp
Another product by Inna Alesina is her Hot Coil Trivet, a simple, florescent-colored acrylic rod that sucks up ambient light, mixes it around with a household symbol and appears to glow when placed on any surface. This item has a slightly more oblique relationship to her other work. Like the Good Egg and the Straw Lamp, the product "goes 'round," which is somehow comforting and satisfying. (Remember the "cyclical method" in high school English class?) But pushed on the recycled/reused issue, Alesina provides a humble response: "It's not that the product itself is recycled," she concedes, "but perhaps the idea of the electric burner is recycled?" We bite. The Hot Coil is the kind of product that makes you want to do yourself in as a designer, because it seems unforgivable that an idea so obvious and so clear could have eluded you. It's also the kind of product that one might term a "one-liner." One-liners ebb and flow in our design culture (and in our design schools) and are a risky place to be playing ball. Of course, the danger is that they can be over sooooo fast; that their charm might be gargantuan, but that it can fade at an equally-impressive rate. I don't think this is true with the trivet, but of course I'm going to have to live with it for a while.