Sruli Recht has a strange sense of humor. We journalists were at a party at the Iceland Design Center when one of the partygoers had a bit too much Brennavin, sat on an unstable table laden with bottles of red wine, and sent the whole thing crashing noisily to the ground. Recht walked in right about that time; spied the huge puddles of red liquid all over the ground; pulled a camera out of his pocket, pressed it into someone's hands, and hit the deck to pose for a crime-scene photo:
[image courtesy Brian Fichtner]
During conversation Recht likes to ride the line between funny and uncomfortable, with a deadpan delivery of transgressive subject matters that sends the jokeometer needle wavering, unable to distinguish sarcasm from earnestness; that sense of humor is also evident in his product designs, some of which are produced in extraordinary circumstances--how many product designers do you know that have smuggled tanned whale penises across the International Date Line?
The products are better described in Recht's own words, so we'll let him do the talking.
Minke Dorks boots
The Minke Dorks are a series of coincidences combined. Actually the first night I met Heimir [Sverrisson, film director] we began talking about how Iceland had just announced it would begin whaling again in early- to mid-2006. At the same time I was putting together that shoe collection. The conversation naturally took to "What do they do with all the whale that isn't eaten...and what can I use that will be thrown out?" I tracked down some hunters and spoke with them about this - what is discarded and what is salvageable. It turns out the only part that is tannable is the foreskin. So I took a box of frozen penises to the north of the country to a leather tanner I had heard could tan anything. And he could. These are the guys I still work with to make the other leather I still use.I then had to smuggle the tanned skins into Australia with invoices saying they were just fish skins, so as to take them to the producer that was making my samples.
Masked - In-Flight Leather Paper
Air-Purifying Respirators and Eye-Masks
Masked - In Flight is a series of four folded travel masks, air-purifying respirators and eye-masks for sleeping and breathing. Unlike everything else on the webstore, these are as yet unreleased.
This one comes back to both the use of natural materials and making travel objects. I spend too much time watching what people do on planes and in airports. They are uncomfortable and lack privacy; they sit there sleeping and exposed, breathing the same recycled air as the other hundreds of rundown passengers.
When exactly did the modern marvel that is Air Travel become so undignified? It has lost its glamour. "Yes sir/ma'am, I really do need you to publicly disrobe, empty your carefully packed bags from all electronics (read - anything made in a factory in the last 15 years) and walk on this dirty floor in your socks, with your trousers falling off, through that gate toward the little man that will now touch your armpits and poke your scrotum." Thank you Brothers Wright.
It comes from the same place as the ~Elt, a solution to the problem of airports and planes - just a little bit of privacy in an otherwise overexposed situation.
And I like masks. The only thing that is lacking is a head-up display.
I am currently being prosecuted for weapons posession by the Icelandic authorities for making The Umbuster. We were basically raided. They took the four they found, and left the one I have a license for.
The Carbon Dater
All the objects from the studio relate to a moment in my life, generally one where I need something - a belt, a notebook, shoes...and going back further, clothes. This one though I made as a gift for my brother who is studying photography. I wanted him to be able to sign his work without putting a signature on the print, which always looks terrible. I was thinking about a tour him and I were on in an old mansion when were about 11, and the guide telling us a story about a girl living there in the 19th century who had taken her mother's diamond ring and written her name into the window glass. You really had to move around to see the scratch refract the light. This was the perfect solution to an uninterrupted view of a signed image: Just make a pen with a diamond in the tip.
The result, Carbon Dater, is a black diamond-tipped carbon pen for writing and illustrating directly into glass, for "carbon dating." It is a .30 carat black diamond set in a milled brass claw, fixed to a hand-tooled, laser-engraved inanimate carbon rod presented in an inked 304-piece hinged cardboard box. So the sub-humour is that you have new carbon and old carbon and you write time into glass - you "carbon date."
That idea came in 2007 and it took a long time to develop it into a product. It crosses industrial and jewelry design in a very delicate and tricky way.
You can see more of Recht's projects here.