20.30; let's see if I can finally get some writing done, now that the worst of the heat is over here in Recife, Brazil. After a great but hectic year, it seemed like a good idea to take things a bit slower for a while; so my wife (who's from Brazil), our little daughter and I decided to spend some weeks in Recife, in the Northeastern part of Brazil. And although the visit was mainly meant as a holiday and family visit, I thought it was also a good opportunity to pick up a project which I'd been thinking about, on and off, for a long time.
I started doing capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art, years ago. Calling it a 'martial art' doesn't really do capoeira justice; it's an art form with its own music, songs and instruments as well. One of the instruments used is the caxixi, made from a type of rattan, a piece of gourd and plant seeds to create a rattling sound, and I've always loved the simple but elegant shape and construction of it. Also years ago, I had the idea that the caxixi's basic form could be adapted to work as a mulifunctional light. However, I was never able to come up with a good way to design and create the parts for positioning and replacing the light bulb and I didn't take the project any further. Then two things happened: I found out that our friend Cabral Elastico, a capoeirista and craftsman from Recife, was making some really nice variations on the caxixi; and Shapeways came along, of course. So when we were planning our visit for this year, I decided the time was right to give the project another go. I created the parts to replace the original gourd piece, so that they would take a replaceable light bulb. I also had a sort of weaving mould made, so we would be able to create a slightly more controlled shape.
So one day, Cabral shows up on our doorstep, with his bike full of materials that we would use for the project, and we got going. The series of photos below shows the process of creating KXX; not all that complicated in principle, but involving a lot of skill for the choice of the right material, preparation of it, controlling the density of the weave and finalizing the shape in a well-detailed way.
Preparing the fibers
Shapeways 3D printed part
I couldn't be happier with the product; it confirmed my hunch that the basic shape of the caxixi would work well as a light. It looks great when it's standing on the floor, but also works well when hanging from a hook on the wall, and its shape invites one to use the light in various locations, making it quite a practical piece as well. The natural fibers give a nice quality to the light from either a fluorescent or traditional bulb.
But besides yielding a good result, doing the project was a fantastic experience. I really enjoy working with Cabral; someone with a very different background from my own, but, in his own way, a designer as well, and we found each other when talking about the details of material, construction and design. I love it how two such different production technologies, 3d-printing and the weaving that Cabral does, connect seamlessly to create a beautiful and functional product. And lastly, I found it very rewarding, and easier than I expected, to complete a project in such different circumstances from how I normally work, and so far from where I usually dwell; but it was surprisingly easy to take my laptop and a few peripherals, and open 'Michiel Cornelissen Ontwerp, Recife'. I did most of the design work at home in The Netherlands and brought the parts with me from there; but given enough time, I could have done all that here as well, and in fact, when the prototype was finished I straightaway ordered some new parts from Shapeways, to be sent to Recife, so hopefully we can make a few more proto's before we go back. The 'photo-studio' I used here (our daughter's bedroom with my small desk in it) was even more improvised than what I normally use, but it sort of gave a nice flavour to the images, I think. I created the webpages on my site, uploaded images to Shapeways and Facebook, and am now writing this blogpost, all from our simple but pleasant house in Recife.
KXX is not for sale yet; I'm hoping to be able to work with a design and/or fairtrade brand to bring it to retail channels, and bring some more business to people like Cabral in the process.