The Chronicle

Now In Stock: Original Ultima Ashtrays

 

In the mid-60s, the Swedish artist Holger Bäckström met engineer and mathematician Bo Ljungberg, and the duo formed Beck & Jung, a studio aimed at combining their respective professions to create both data-driven artworks and algorithmically generated objects that were practical and beautiful at the same time. First they experimented with transforming binary codes into three-dimensional cubes that were used to test color inkjet printers, but were also sold as art; later they turned their computer-generated geometries into murals and other large-scale graphic works that adorned buildings and were shown in museums.

Their most famous design? The 1970s Ultima Ashtray, whose grid-like lid allowed users to easily rest rolled smokes of all shapes and sizes between its grooves, while trapping unsightly ash inside the container below. The Ultima Collection has been out of production for decades, but we recently managed to get our hands on a stash of original — yet never-before used — Medium ashtrays, which are pictured above and are now available in our store. But they definitely won't last forever, so click here to purchase yours ($100)... before our supply goes up in smoke.

Image at top by Jonathan Hokklo; image of original Ultima Collection, below, courtesy of ultima15.com

 

Meet the Designers Behind Tetra's Fog Pin

Vancouver designers Calen Knauf (left) and Conrad Brown first met 15 years ago while skateboarding. Since then, the duo — a former graphic designer and photographer, respectively — have formed a friendship around a never-ending discussion of the visual details that surround them. So symbiotic — and instinctual — is their working relationship that upon entering design school together (at Vancouver's Emily Carr University), they made sure to sign up for all the same classes.  

Knauf and Brown, the furniture and object studio they launched in 2013 after graduation, likewise takes an intuitive approach to balancing form and function. "A lot of people have very serious ideas about how they go about design," Knauf says. "We try to be a little more fluid in our process. The world is not set in stone and things change quickly — especially nowadays." Take the origin story of the Fog Pin ($36 in the shop), designed exclusively for Tetra: Tasked with creating a multi-purpose tool for smokers, they filmed different friends rolling, packing, and picking, and then studied the footage to calibrate proportions, weight, purpose, and scale. The handsome, coffee-table-worthy result — as anyone who owns one will tell you — is the kind of how-did-I-live-without-this object that feels as if it has existed forever. (Knauf and Brown agree: they also recently created a giant styrofoam version of it — like a walking stick — for an art show at Vancouver skate shop Antisocial called "Ancient Aliens.")

Delving into the uniquely conceptual worldview behind Knauf and Brown's work is every bit as enjoyable as using one of their objects.  Here, Knauf describes a few of the references and ideas that have lately been getting their minds working. 

Science Fiction

"We read a lot of sci-fi books for the big concepts that are in them. A lot of it relates to interconnectivity. It’s a huge thing for us that we think about a lot. I don’t know exactly how it translates into the form of objects, but it plays into how we think about how people will perceive and enjoy the objects we make." (Pictured: a still from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, 1927.)

Skateboarding

"You have to look at all these elements in front of you, and figure out how to use them in different ways. And that translates pretty well into looking at materials as a designer. It kind of trains you to have almost an X-ray vision — problem-solving, or picking puzzles apart." (Photograph by Fred Mortagne.)

Children

"Conrad’s daughter is four. Human development is a huge thing that we talk about. Whether or not a person thinks an object is useful or beautiful is often based on the experiences they had growing up — how they relate to different shapes or different purposes assigned to things. Having somebody grow up in front of you is a way of seeing that — the way a person interprets things in front of them, and how that translates to what they are later drawn to or repulsed from." (Painting by Kyla Zoe Rafert.

The work of designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

"It’s hard to not be in love with those dudes. They’re really amazing. We are inspired by people that don’t stick to one design practice… people who design graphics, buildings, objects, big, small, just having one overarching design principle and applying it to whatever."

The sculptures of Viktor Briestensky

"He's a friend of mine. I hate trying to describe art or why I like it. It's just really interesting."

 Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas

"This is playing on loop in our studio. We both really like Christmas and it’s by far the most tasteful and listenable Christmas music around. It’s also good for other times of year — it's a really nice, mellow, jazzy album to just play."

Under the Influence: Other Kingdom

  

Avantika Agarwal, Jess Fügler, and Tino Seubert of Other Kingdom first bonded as design students at London's Royal College of Art in 2014 over what Fügler calls "a passion for designing within the production process"—a principle which became the basis for the brand they launched after graduation. In other words, rather than starting from the proverbial drawing board, the trio study what goes on at factories, then work backwards to design around those techniques. Case in point: their ultra-useful, perfect-for-rolling Hammertone trays in the shop, which are produced at a factory in India that normally makes medical equipment, and finished at a facility that specializes in film projectors. (Pictured above is one of their production teams.) "We like to think we are offering both places a unique point of view to their craft," Fügler says.

Another thing that motivates the trio? Their long-distance relationship. After completing their studies, Agarwal and Fügler returned to their native India and U.S., respectively, while the German-born Seubert remained in London. This unconventional arrangement means that the partners spend a great deal of time sending each other images for inspiration. Here, Fügler describes what have lately been a few of their favorite things.

 

The Book of Palms (Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius, Taschen)

"This exquisite folio consists of detailed and beautiful botanical drawings of palm leaves based on Martius’s expedition to Brazil and Peru in 1817."

 

The paintings of Fred Fowler

"I am dying to have one his works in my home. I love the process of layering mixed with storytelling, and his use of color."

 

Vibrant seafoam green

"This color—as seen in this version of Isamu Noguchi's 'Cloud Form' sofa—is incredible and the perfect counterpart to follow the soft blush hues that have been so popular in design."

 

1930s Italian Architecture

"We love the repetition, the perfect geometry, and the visual patterns." (Pictured: Palazzo della Civiltá Italiana by Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Lapadula, and Mario Romano, Rome.)

 

Germans Ermics, designer

"We have a total design crush on his gradient glass works. So delicate and dreamy!"