Contemporary design seems to be marked by the growth of craftsmanship, so it is only logical that electronics should be the next step in this process. Gadgets full of invisible functions dominate the market, but French designer Sibylle Delclaux has designed a range of household electronics that lays bare the perplexing workings of these items.
Ageless Objects consists of an alarm clock, a radio, a set of speakers and a light switch made from ceramic, wood, gold enamel and cotton wire. Minimal in design and function, each object uses its original typology to illustrate its service, all the while reinventing the way we normally see them – conical speakers and bell-shaped alarm clocks are as old as time, but the pureness and fragility of the materials employed give them a poetic and ephemeral character.
Delclaux plays with well-known rituals to create accessible and obvious objects. Chorus, for instance, is a set of speakers that comprises three detachable cones. When placed in their respective spaces on a wooden board, they rest on two gold contacts, and the volume is controlled simply by turning the cones to the left or right. Similarly, the volume for Orator, a portable radio, is adjusted by sliding the cone up and down a wooden rod. Moving a peg between a series of slots changes the station.
The designer was able to experiment with different sounds and the tactile qualities of porcelain by working closely with skilled craftsmen and the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres factory.
“The desire to work with porcelain came first,” Delclaux says. “It is a fascinating material that has attracted me for a long time and that I wanted to experiment with. This is usually my approach to design – to discover a material in order to better use and emphasise it.”
Gold enamel was chosen as the conductor to simplify the products. Exposed, the gold highlights a circuit’s function and makes its use intuitive. This allows Delclaux to reinvent the light switch as a game of balancing the tip of a hanging ceramic teardrop in a gap that provides the contact point. “This simplification gives them a kind of educational aspect,” she says. “The user becomes an observer and an actor as mechanisms are revealed.”
Delclaux aims to create objects that have a sense and meaning. “A product should have a legitimacy and usefulness to see the light of day,” she says.