By: Rafael Tonon
Artists and companies are creating new tools to transform how we consume and how we think about our food
Much is said about what the food of the future will be like, but little is discussed about the tools we will use to eat them. If the food as we know it has been evolving in the last decades (think about meat replacers, 3D printed food, lab-grown beef…), we are still tasting it with the same old cutlery and dishwear.
Since prehistoric times, humans have ingeniously devised sharp knives and rock bowls to eat. Technology in the kitchen has to do more with the humble tools of everyday cooking and eating than with the modern equipments that are launched every week – and that soon might even start cooking for us. These tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume and how we think about our food.
Because of this, artists and design companies are using design to reshape the relation we built with forks, knives and spoons. Since Steinbeisser was founded in 2009, its partners, Jouw Wijnsma and Martin Kullik, pursued the idea of creating experimental gastronomy initiatives. Their goal was to totally rethink the concept of a meal – and much of this passed by the tools we usually use around the table.
They started to work with “artists who create cutlery and dishware that celebrates experimentation and the search for new ways to enjoy food”, as the Dutch duo say. Last year, Steinbeisser’s online store Jouw… was launched to present a collection of cutlery and tableware created by more than 25 artists they have been working with for the last years.
This collection gathers pieces that don’t follow the normal rules of usability.
“Instead, they challenge you to reconsider preconceptions about the relationship between tableware and the user. They can be loved for their thought-provoking function but also for their beauty”, Kullik and Wijnsma point out.
Among the pieces, there are some from Nils Hint, an artist who is aiming to upcycle and reshape old cutlery and tools from the era of the Soviet Union. Or Maki Okamoto’s spoons that propose a mutation that contains the regular cutlery’s raw materials, but the function is no longer obvious. Her spoons invite us to use our imagination and to find out different perspectives, whilst becoming a part of the creation.
Julian Watts, other Steinbeisser’s contributor artist, based in Oakland, California, uses traditional wood carving to explore the real functionality of an object. The result is an ecosystem of both sculptural and functional works that challenge the viewer to reconsider their preconceptions about the objects that make up the world around us.
For one experimental dinner proposed by Kullik and Wijnsma, he created a four-edged spoon with which four people could eat from at the same time – if they could balance the piece, of course. The idea was to create a relation between four stranger guests that didn’t know each other, the spoon used as an ice-breaker, as Watts explained. So, these pieces can also reshape our social relations around food.
But the future of cutlery and dishwear is not only about experimentation. OTHR is a company that uses 3-D printing to create more innovative luxury home goods. Made by famous designers, they use materials not usually associated with 3-D printing, such as steel, porcelain and bronze to create bottle openers, sugar bowls and juicers.
Each product is printed and shipped to order, and all of them are individually numbered, making them really exclusive. The point here is to use technology to create high-design housewares and, more than selling the object itself, market the design behind it. More than the item, what matters is the functionality and the aeshetic.
“Our long-term vision is that if you buy an OTHR object, you’re printing it at home”, said Joe Doucet, CEO and a co-founder of OTHR, to the Wall Street Journal.
OTHR have plans to also create a subscription service, allowing its customers to download and print their items at home, in a more affordable way than the retail price.
Whether creating a “strangeness” or allowing us to print them at home, these new cutlery and dishwear objects may transform the way we are going to eat in the near future. Since our own food seems to be suffering radical changes, we will need to have the perfect tools to deal with it. And that’s what these designers and artists are trying to create.