Celebrate the year of the rat with laser cut envelopes


I really must get out more its July already and I only just found out that it’s the year of the rat. To celebrate this year’s zodiac animal, the Rat, Tram Pham and Dominic Andrea have designed a new laser-cut envelope featuring the rodent. Apparently the rat is a sign of leadership, charisma and order. The red envelopes are a traditional part of the Chinese New Year (February 7). Money is placed in the red envelopes and they are handed out during the Chinese New Year, usually adults give the envelopes to children. Apparently the first digit of the sum of the money given should be even as odd amounts are associated with the cash given at funerals. The envelopes are also commonly used for cash gifts at weddings or birthdays.

Home Delivery: Part 2


The work of Architects Jeremy Edmiston and Douglas Gauthier is also part of the Home Delivery exhibition. They are building their Burst*008 concept for MOMA on the vacant lot. While on holidays last week I saw the original prototype (Burst*03, completed in 2006) and snapped the pic above of the back/street side of the house. The idea of the Burst* concept is a client would be able to sit down with the architect to discuss the specific needs and site conditions. The architects would then enter the information into a computer program and a design suited to each situation would be generated. The house design would be generated in a matter of seconds with only a few tweaks required before the design is completed. The architects say “the Burst* housing prototype is a method of prefabricated building akin to a kit of parts. Each house is composed of thousands of jigsaw-like pieces of plywood locked together and held taut by the insulated skin. No two Burst* houses are alike; each one is made to meet specific site, climate, and client needs.” The parts are either CNC machined or laser cut and then a beautiful house suited to the environment can be erected easily and quickly. The original house in North Haven, Australia was assembled by Architecture students.




Home Delivery: Part 1

The Museum of Modern Art is currently holding an exhibition called Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. As part of the exhibition MOMA has invited five architects to each build a house on a vacant New York lot. One of the houses to be constructed was originally designed in 2004 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology associate professor Larry Sass. The project was called Instant House and attempted to “harness the speed and precision of laser cutters to fabricate simple shelters quickly and inexpensively.”


The design features grooves and notches so that the laser cut plywood panels can interlock without any traditional fasteners. The first prototype was assembled by five students who were equipped with only rubber mallets. Amazingly they were able to fully assemble the entire house in just two days. It’s estimated that in large scale production the houses would only cost about $40 000.


It’s inspirational to see a design using the same materials and technology we have here potentially doing so much good. “An iteration of the Instant House called Digitally Fabricated Housing for New Orleans: a 196-square-foot one-room shotgun house intended as one proposal for the rapid reconstruction of New Orleans, a major topic of debate since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005.”

Stitched storage cubes


David Knott has been my favourite designer of the last few months. I first wrote about him and his pendant light here. The other product of his that I really like is his 2001 “matrix” storage cubes (I wish they had been called “a space odyssey“). They have a laser cut polypropylene shell that is hand stitched over a cardboard frame. Cardboard seems to have become a popular material for furniture, most of the stuff I’ve seen uses the laminated cardboard method made famous by Frank Gehry. I think Knott has come up with a very innovative and aesthetically pleasing combination of materials. It’s a very subtle use of cardboard that seems to be very effective. The cardboard provides the polypropylene with strength while the polypropylene provides a durable and beautiful surface.

Designer Coasters


I’ve never given coasters much consideration in terms of design. I guess because the majority of the coasters I encounter are usually mini cardboard billboards for a brand of beer. I think they would be an interesting object to have a go at because the function is extremely simple so that gives you the freedom to play around with the shapes. I wasn’t really excited by the huhu coasters the first time I saw them but for some reason they have really grown on me. The designs are laser cut from 3mm sustainably produced hoop pine and sealed with a hard wearing lacquer finish. I’m not usually a fan of the “natural motif” idea but I think it works for these coasters. The thing that really brings it all together into a nice product is the packaging and the branding that is laser engraved into the coaster: it’s very simple and elegant.


The designers are Otago Polytechnic Graduates Tim Hunt and Griff Humphreys who combined the first two letters of both their surnames to form the name huhu. They are a limited seasonal release so they update the design regularly. The coasters are available through the vanilla design store.

In the showroom: Nautilus Earrings


The summer jewellery design competition is now on and people are beginning to submit their awesome laser cut jewellery ideas. DSCulp has submitted a design that caught my eye called Nautilus Earrings. The design was very much inspired by nature, he says “the nautilus has survived relatively unchanged for the last 500 million years and is known for its unique and beautiful shell. This shell presents one of the finest natural examples of a logarithmic spiral. This same spiral shows itself in the construction of storms, the arms of galaxies, the behaviour of insects and birds, the blooming of a flower and even the nerves of the human cornea. It is for this reason that it is sometimes referred to as ‘God’s Fingerprint’ and perhaps why it resonates so strongly as a symbol of beauty.”

I look forward to seeing some more inspirational laser cut jewellery designs as the deadline approaches. Find out how to submit your design here.

Ample Sample Winners


I think the most interesting designs are often the designs that turn quite simple materials into something beautiful and useful. I wrote about a competition called ample sample a while ago that encourages people to do just that. The competition is about reusing carpets samples, 700 000 of them go to waste every year so why not turn them into something useful. Well the results are in and this year’s winner is the Rocking Horse Stool. It turns 40 carpet samples into a soft seat which you can ride, sit sideways on or use as an ottoman.


If you have over 150 carpet samples lying around (and I know some interior designers would) then you can whip up the room divider that won the peoples choice award.


Sadly my favourites didn’t take out the prizes but they were finalists. I like the elegant eco-vase, the rug dish and the carpet pet house. Check out the rest of the winners and finalist here or even take advantage of the free instructions and make one of the designs for yourself.

Interview with an independent furniture designer


Strange closets” has recently conducted an interview with independent furniture designer Michael Dreeben. He is the winner of Design Within Reach’s M+D+F show. It’s a really interesting interview that covers Dreeben’s influences, design process, challenges and his advice for young designers. Here is a snippet:

What is the technical process for designing furniture? What goes into it? What are the steps that occur before we can actually see a piece?

It varies. In general the wooden pieces start life as full-size prototypes, with at most a rudimentary sketch. Usually with these, we’ll build them three or four times to work out design kinks. Both the Billet Chair and Chaise started at plywood patterns, which were later translated in CAD models and produced on a CNC mill. The seats for both of these began as hand-sculpted positives.

Increasingly, I’ve designed directly in CAD (with the help of my friend and colleague Ray Doeksen)  which has advantages and disadvantages: we’ve found, for examples, it is extraordinarily difficult to model complex, compounding curving shapes. On the other hand, CAD is excellent for generating wire frame constructions that would be virtually impossible to prototype by hand.



Read more here

More than a lamp


What do you do with your coat rack when winter has gone? Jo Philippsohn, the designer behind dwell by jo, proposes that we use it as a lamp. Her stripped bare design “is the result of taking two seemingly distinct functions with distinct, recognisable forms and exploring their symbiotic nature”, I think that means she wondered what would happen if she (elegantly) mashed together a lamp and a coat stand. The design came about by thinking about how a coat stand could be useful the other 10 months of the year, given that the Australian winter is usually quite mild and short. The result is a simple design CNC machined from plywood with a coloured laminate on both sides which was shown at workshopped 06 and vivid. Its construction is based on a revolved profile that fits into two centre rings. I like the attitude Jo had when deciding to start up her business “if they can do it, I can do it”.


Working with acrylic: jewellery inspired by architecture and industrial design


Danielle Maveal is a jewellery artist who specialises in designing and hand making acrylic jewellery. The piece I was most impressed with was her abstract pendant that was sold on etsy. Sadly it’s no longer available but it was a very unique pendant necklace inspired by Danielle’s love of architecture and industrial design. She says “I really wanted to create an architectural piece that was still very simple, modern and organic. This flat frosted acrylic leaf has a little domed hot pink sill just outside its cut out window.” Danielle explains that “I just make pieces I want to wear and sometimes it’s a real hit, like the fake diamond.  Those designs that are a bit more personal, like my fascination with designer chairs, they don’t fly out of my hands.  But it’s worth it to see another chair lover be so excited to see something strange they love on a necklace”



Adding hand made elements to your laser cut jewellery designs is a great way to break free of the restrictions of laser cutting and ensure your designs stand out from the crowd.