The Chronicle

Get to Know the London Design Duo Soft Baroque

This week on Tetra, we released an incense burner made by hand from a small piece of looped brass — an object that excites us as much for its elegant form as it does for the talents behind it. The Brass Curl ($35), pictured just below, was designed for the Australian incense brand Subtle Bodies by the London duo Soft Baroque, one of our favorite up-and-coming design studios of the moment. We thought we'd take a moment to introduce you to their work.

Australian designer Nicholas Gardner and Slovenian designer Saša Štucin, who met as students at London's Royal College of Art, founded Soft Baroque in 2013 and ever since then, they've been exploring ways of blurring the boundaries between actual objects and their digital representations. Their perception-bending work includes furniture made from a mix of physical materials and photos of those same materials printed onto textiles, creating a confusion between soft and hard surfaces; they once made a collection designed using Photoshop's hard round paintbrush tool, translating its chubby curves into lamps, shelves, and chairs. And in one of their earliest works, they made bright-colored furniture that served as a kind of green screen for projecting patterns onto in a digital space.

As exciting and experimental as their practice is, we love that they could also create an object as beautiful and understated as the Brass Curl incense burner, which is made by hand, so no two are exactly alike. We're really looking forward to living with their work, in addition to admiring it.


10 Iconic Designs by Achille Castiglioni

Achille Castiglioni was one of the most important Italian product and furniture designers of the 20th century, but even if you don't know his name, you've probably seen his work. The long, curved Arco floor lamp that he and his brother Pier Giacomo designed for the lighting brand Flos in 1962 is one of the most ubiquitous (and most copied) floor lamps in history, and it — like so many of the nearly 150 innovative objects he designed in his lifetime — is still in production to this day. One of our favorites, of course, is the Spirale ashtray he created in 1970, which is manufactured by Alessi and is now for sale in Tetra's online shop; to mark the occasion, we've put together a cheat sheet of some of his other greatest hits. Get to know the work of Castiglioni (and, in some cases, his brother) below.
1. Spirale Ashtray for Alessi, 1970
2. Lampadina lamp for Flos, 1972
3. Arco lamp for Flos, designed with Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1962
4. Alunaggio stool for Zanotta, designed with Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1965
5. Snoopy lamp for Flos,designed with Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1967
6. Mezzadro stool for Zanotta,designed with Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1957
7. Taccia lamp for Flos, designed with Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1962
8. Noce lamp for Flos, 1972
9. Gibigiana lamp for Flos, 1980
10. Cumano table for Zanotta, 1978

Click here to shop Achille Castiglioni's work on

Q+A with Designer Pat Kim

Pat Kim is an interesting hybrid. Born in Virginia, educated in Germany and New York, and now based in Brooklyn, he's a woodworker with a designer's eye; an artisan who's somehow managed to apply a common visual language to everything from toy rockets and dinner bells to extremely sophisticated one-of-a-kind vases and sculptural works. His pieces are in demand, yet often hard to come by — and he never makes any single object for very long. 

That's why we consider ourselves lucky that Kim recently developed a new collection of handmade smoking goods for Tetra, which includes an airtight container and a tray and brush set, all painstakingly hand-carved on a lathe. Like all of his works, they're minimalist, thoughtful, and timeless — and they won't stick around forever. Get to know Kim and his process below, then invest in one of the new pieces (shown below) while you can. 

Did designing toys cause you to fall in love with wood, or was it the opposite?

When I began working with wood, toys seemed like the most natural place to start. Wood is innately warm, familiar and comforting.

What’s your favorite property of wood, and what’s one thing it can’t do that you wish it could?

These days I think a lot about the sustainability of the materials I work with; the energy required to obtain it and work with it. Wood is renewable, versatile, and sequesters carbon. The fact that wood is a living material makes it a challenge to work with. Sometimes I wish wood would stay still, but it’s going to move and change with the weather no matter what you do.

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

A long day and on your feet or hunched over the lathe is hard on the body. Couple that with wearing a dust mask and ear plugs for hours on end, while concentrating intensely on the work in front you, and it makes for a draining work day. It makes it hard to be motivated to do anything after work. But I will say, I never have trouble sleeping after a hard day in the shop.

What’s been inspiring you lately?

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the water — sailing, canoeing, walking the Red Hook waterfront. I see a lot of interesting things happen on the edge of water and land. Forms eroded and polished by water and waves, things that look intentionally shaped but are incidental.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

A typical day in the studio involves cleaning up the previous day's mess, a quiet period to contemplate the day's tasks, slogging through the work that needs to be done, distracting myself with something fun to make, and then a mad dash to finish everything else.

What’s your smoking ritual?

When I smoke, I like to clean. Cleaning becomes a relaxing, almost meditative activity. Smoking is also the only time I think to light incense or candles — being a visual and tactile person, sometimes I forget to indulge the other senses.

Click here to shop Pat Kim's Rib Containers, Brushes, and Trays for Tetra