The Chronicle

Meet the Maker: Sophie Lou Jacobsen

When we asked Sophie Lou Jacobsen to design a vaporizer stand for Tetra, it was because we love her use of shape and color — her signature glassware is characterized by wavy forms and pastel hues, but she keeps things sophisticated and subtle by using delicate lines and a minimalist approach. We also knew that, if we asked her to create an object for holding and displaying vapes, she’d make something both functional and beautiful.

Like the rest of Jacobson's work, the acrylic and steel Valet stand for Tetra ($88) has both avant-garde vibes and an approachable simplicity. Not only does it store vapes at an ideal angle — with a wavy shape that keeps them from rolling off — it’s also perfect for holding your phone or iPad while you’re on a video call (or cooking!), charging those devices at night, keeping your TV remotes organized, holding your glasses, or even displaying the novel you’re currently reading on your bedside table.

Scroll down to read an interview with Jacobson and see photos of her at work, then:

SHOP THE VALET HERE

When did you know you wanted to do something creative, and how did you get started in your current practice?

I was always interested in doing something creative, but this was solidified when I moved to France for my senior year of high school. The academic system there was so much more rigid than what I was accustomed to, and I wasn't interested in continuing in a classic university setting within that system. It was a sort of blessing in disguise; I decided to go to art school instead, and there I met a professor who introduced me to the discipline of industrial design.
I discovered I had always been drawn to ID without knowing it — as a child I loved going to the Bang & Olufsen showroom in downtown Seattle to look at the sleek telephones, and thrifting for vintage Bauhaus furniture pieces with my parents.

I would flip through the pages of Dwell at the same age as I was reading teen magazines. They used to do a campaign with Bombay Sapphire Gin where designers would submit designs for martini glasses, and the winning design would be featured on the back cover of the magazine. I had these pages taped up on my wall alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Freddie Prinze Jr.!

How would you summarize your approach to your work and your materials?

Because I'm trained as an industrial designer rather than a craftsperson, I don’t have any formal training with a specific material. Rather, I was taught how to use design to communicate with craftspeople and technicians. So with that in mind, I approach design from a purely formal point of view first. Often, I’ll reach out to a manufacturer with an initial drawing or concept, without any real idea of whether or not it’s possible. But that’s kind of the beauty of it, because we'll both push back at each other, and — when it’s successful — arrive at a place that is surprising or new for everyone involved.

What’s the hardest thing about working with your hands, and what’s the most gratifying?

Working with your hands is meditative, rewarding, and frustrating all at the same time. Either you need to concentrate very hard, which relieves your brain of thinking about a million things at once, or—if it’s a repetitive task or motion that you have mastered—you can let your mind wander and dream while your body is performing the movements.

No one will be able to make something the way you do; the maker's hand is always present in the final object, always unique, like a handwriting or a signature. It’s always beautiful and rewarding. But of course, if you’re not able to do what you’re trying to do, it can be super frustrating too.

I only work with my hands in a limited capacity, to make models, or experiment, or have fun. I decided long ago that I wasn’t interested in doing my own production, because various crafts or materials take a lifetime to master. And because I like to work with different materials, I’d rather leave the handwork to the master.

What’s been inspiring you lately?

Nature (cliche but true), early turn of the century modernism, and '70s-era thriller movies.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I’d love to say it’s an even balance of designing, researching, and working on production, but actually running a small business has proven that 90% of my time is doing operational tasks: answering emails, putting out fires, dealing with customers, working on spreadsheets. The past year has been more of a crash course in business than flexing design muscles, which is interesting, but I’m hoping to soon get to a place where I can spend a lot more time working on design.

What’s your studio like itself? Any favorite objects in the studio?

My studio is half office space, half storage space, and half showroom — all within a 18-by-20-foot box. I share it with my partner who is a graphic/web designer, and it's a constant work in progress. We got it in the height of lockdown because we needed to get out of our apartment, and have been slowly working on it bit by bit. We recently had a good friend of ours build us some beautiful custom wood shelving, which is my favorite part of the studio. There's an area where the light from the skylight hits a crack between two shelves and produces the most beautiful radiant shadows, which complement the glassware sitting atop them so wonderfully.

Tell us what you love about the Valet you’ve designed for Tetra.

I love the simplicity of the piece, and the fact that its intended use is not immediately obvious. A simple meeting of two forms, it could be interpreted in many ways, or used for a multitude of purposes — even as a simple decorative object on its own.

Meet the Maker: Eny Lee Parker

It's hard to believe that New York designer Eny Lee Parker has only been making furniture for 8 years — and only founded her own studio in 2017. In that short time, she's amassed 60,000 followers on Instagram, been featured in T Magazine, designed an "it" lamp that's been spotted in the homes of celebs and tastemakers, and helped launch a trend for furniture and lighting made in the medium she's best-known for: ceramics. In my other role as co-founder of Sight Unseen, I scouted her on social media and helped her launch her studio before her meteoric rise, so it was particularly gratifying for me to collaborate with her again, on a new limited-edition keychain for Tetra.

During quarantine, Parker started trying to utilize her kiln to make products in materials other than clay. She began experimenting with glass beads, melting them together into small objects as tests for a future collection of lighting. So when I approached her to make something for Tetra, she created these fun multi-color Blobs that are connected to our Valise keychain by way of a classic carabiner in a complementary color. She only created a few per color, so they might be sold out by the time you read this, but we wanted to celebrate the collaboration regardless by sharing our favorite examples of Parker's other work. Check them out below!

1. The OO Lamp
This is the piece Parker is best-known for — a lamp that combines an organically shaped two-arm clay base with two large globe bulbs in two different sizes. "I’m drawn to curves and more organic shapes because I think a lot of our homes are so boxy," she told Domino magazine recently. "You see the floors and you see ceilings, and it’s all very geometric. We live in boxes, basically. I love the idea of softening that up with furniture and lighting."

2. The Ballard Cocktail Table
Part of Parker's debut collection in 2017, the Ballard table pairs a glass top with four hand-thrown terra cotta legs that look like ancient vessels. Parker soon became known for her unexpected use of ceramics in large-scale furniture, even making entire tables and stools out of it.

3. The Puffy Sconce
We chose Parker's recent Puffy Sconce because its floral shape is both on-trend and reminiscent of our Blob keychains — even if you aren't able to invest in Parker's larger work just yet, we love that you can still get a small piece of it on Tetra!

Tetra Tutorial: How to Maintain Your Tsubota Pearl Lighter

If your Tsubota Pearl lighter stops working, the most important thing to remember is that these lighters are small but precisely engineered machines — and they're usually very easy to fix, if you know what to look for. Plus, all wick lighters require maintenance from time to time, from a simple fluid refill to replacing a flint that's ground down over time. These small updates will keep your lighter running smoothly for years to come. We've put together a simple maintenance and troubleshooting guide for you here.

First things first though, if you've just received a brand new Tsubota Pearl lighter, don't forget to fill it with fluid! These lighters ship fluid-free, so head to your local smoke shop and pick up some Zippo or Zippo-style lighter fluid (NOT butane). If you need some pointers on how to fill a wick lighter, check out our other tutorial here, which includes a link to a video for beginners. When it comes to the fluid levels in your lighter, it's important to know that fluid can run out or dry out in as little as a week, depending on how much you use your lighter — and especially if you don't fill it enough.

In general, you can always check what might be wrong with your lighter with a simple two-part test:

  • Does the lighter spark when you turn the wheel? If so, it's likely a fuel problem. If not, it’s likely a flint problem.
  • Are you able to light the wick of this lighter directly using a different lighter? If not, it’s a fuel problem.

Now, on to our guide, below!

How to maintain a Tsubota Pearl Hard Edge lighter 

    THE FLUID 

    As we mentioned above, we have a full tutorial here for how to fill or refill your lighter with fluid, including a link to a video.

    For troubleshooting, though, note that it takes some time to fill your lighter properly. You need to add a small amount of fluid to the cotton inside until just before it overflows, then wait a few moments for it to soak in. Then you need to repeat this (even up to 4 times) until the cotton looks grey-ish and stops taking any additional fluid in. At that point it should be ready to go.

    THE WICK

    Make sure that the wick is always protruding slightly above the top of the wind guard, as pictured above. If the wick is below the guard, use a pair of pliers to grasp the wick and pull gently and slowly until the desired length is obtained. If the top of the wick is blackened and frayed, you can trim it with scissors so the top of the wick is clean and bright again for use.

    Don't pull the wick too hard, or it could come out entirely — if it does, you can use a thin piece of wire to pull it back down through the lighter. If the wick for your Hard Edge runs out, you need to replace it. Here's a tutorial for how to do that.

    THE FLINT

    Flints are quite small, and although they are good for up to around 800-1200 sparks, they do wear out the more your lighter wheel is flicked. For a lighter to work properly, the flint needs to be long enough to be in direct contact with the wheel. If the flint is too short, and your lighter stops sparking, it's time to replace it. Here is a video tutorial for exactly how to replace the flint. If the flint appears to be long enough but still isn't working, try using the instructions in the video to take it out and put it back in again, but upside down.

    When you're replacing the flint for the first time, there's a spare flint in the flint-pocket on the bottom of your Tsubota Pearl lighter. After this is used up, you can always replace your flint with a pack of Zippo flints purchased at any smoke shop.

    After replacing your flint, make sure to tighten the screw on the bottom of the lighter enough that it does not feel loose. If your new flint is so stiff that it causes your lighter wheel to stop turning, press the wheel down on a slightly soft surface like a cutting mat or stack of newspapers, then push the lighter forward. This will help break the flint in.  

    THE WHEEL

    Make sure your lighter wheel is free of debris. You can always use an old toothbrush to clean it.

    How to maintain a Tsubota Pearl Queue Stick or Sigaretta lighter

    THE ALIGNMENT

    Maintaining your Queue Stick or Sigaretta lighter is quite similar to maintaining your Hard Edge lighter, except for one key difference: They require proper alignment to function. That entails two special considerations.

    • First, these lighters have a red dot on their wheel unit, to help you ensure that the inner casing is always properly positioned. If you're having problems with these lighters, the first thing to check is that the red dot on the wheel unit is facing the correct direction (as seen above). The dot cannot face the flint, it has to face away from it for the wheel to spark. Whenever you take the inner casing out of the lighter and then put it back in, you need to check that the dot is facing the right way.
    • Second, if you do remove the inner casing, always pull the wheel unit straight out. NEVER twist or turn it as you're pulling it. That's because if you twist it, the flint cap (see diagram above) could get stuck inside the lighter body. If this happens, try putting only the top of the wheel unit back into the body (without the flint or spring) until it hits the cap, then turning it clockwise to screw onto and catch the cap, so you can pull it back out. 

    THE FLUID

    Refilling the fluid levels of Queue Stick and Sigaretta lighters is similar to Hard Edge lighters. Both lighters are covered in our in-depth tutorial (and video) posted here.

    For troubleshooting, though, note that it takes some time to fill your lighter properly. You need to add a small amount of fluid to the cotton inside until just before it overflows, then wait a few moments for it to soak in. Then you need to repeat this (even up to 4 times) until the cotton looks grey-ish and stops taking any additional fluid in. At that point it should be ready to go.

    THE WICK

    For Queue Stick and Sigaretta lighters, you need to maintain a wick length of just over 3mm. You can get a more visual sense of how tall your wick should be in order to light properly by using the image above as a guide.

    If the wick is too short, use a pair of pliers to grasp the wick and pull gently and slowly until the desired length is obtained. If the top of the wick is blackened and frayed, you can trim it with scissors so the top of the wick is clean and bright again for use.

    Don't pull the wick too hard, or it could come out entirely — if it does, you can use a thin piece of wire to pull it back down through the lighter. If the wick for your Queue Stick or Sigaretta runs out, you need to replace it. Here's a tutorial for how to do that. There's also a video tutorial posted here.

    THE FLINT

    Similar to the Hard Edge instructions above, if your Queue Stick or Sigaretta stops sparking, you need to either reposition or replace your flint. A good rule of thumb is to change the flint as soon as it is about 1/3 of its original size. Otherwise, the spring in the Queue or Sigaretta's flint assembly will lack enough power to push it up against the wheel, resulting in the wick not lighting. 

    Here is a video tutorial for exactly how to replace the flint in these two lighter styles. 

    As noted above, after replacing your flint, make sure to tighten the screw on the bottom of the lighter enough that it does not feel loose. If your new flint is so stiff that it causes your lighter wheel to stop turning, press the wheel down on a slightly soft surface like a cutting mat or stack of newspapers, then push the lighter forward. This will help break the flint in.  

    THE WHEEL

    Make sure your lighter wheel is free of debris. You can always use an old toothbrush to clean it.