Choose Your Own Adventure

Crooked Neck has a circuit bent drum machine & 2 battery powered amps built-in. The speakers for the amps are behind the blue & grey circles on the body.

Or does your adventure choose you?

If you’re an artist, usually a bit of both.

Ben Simon makes wonderfully whimsical and unique handcrafted electric guitars and other instruments.

After growing up all over the East Coast, he landed for a time in the Carolinas — a region with a rich history in woodworking — and immersed himself in learning the craft at Burch Company Wood Studio.

As a musician, Simon noticed that some of the more elaborate cutting boards he was working on were reminiscent of electric guitar bodies.

Taking 2 and 2 apart, he deconstructed an electric guitar, did some research, and in 2006 crafted his first custom instrument.

He went on to twice tour Europe playing self-built guitars and basses with his band Get the People.

The instruments themselves have evolved over the years. One was made using 18 different types of wood.

The repertoire is also no longer limited to guitars; pieces have been built that incorporate synths, drums, speakers and amps.

Bass made with exotic hardwoods

A true artist, one of Ben’s goals is to teach, and spread his specialized knowledge and discoveries.

As a member of the Brooklyn artist community center 3rd Ward (which it so cool that it gives all of its members free bicycles — yes, free bikes), Simon has access to a full woodworking studio.

He’s working on an instrument building program for disadvantaged youth featuring small classes there.

(This should be very popular with kids, who will see tangible, usable results from their hard work.)

To own your own one-of-a-kind musical art piece, you can consult with Ben ( and discuss types of wood, shapes, hardware and more.

Prices start as low as $500.

Check out more photos below after the jump, or on his Flickr stream.

The adventure’s just begun. Continue reading Choose Your Own Adventure


cubejigger2No, not as in someone addicted to Rubik’s Cube.

But for those addicted to appreciative of cocktails: the Cube Jigger.

Inspired by traditional Japanese sake cups, from which the drink is sipped at the corners, Philadelphia designer Josh Owen came up with this elegant bar tool in 2007.

Made from aluminum, the jigger provides an elegant way to mete out the six most common drink measurements, compactly arranged in a single 3″ x 3″ x 3″ cube.

Owen is an educator as well as designer, teaching at both UPenn and Philadelphia University. His design philosophy describes him as “simple, practical and quietly innovative” and states that he “defines function in humanistic terms.”

His other products range from clocks to socks to furniture and more, and have earned placement in museums and garnered many awards. (Love the Stoop Bench, created for DesignPhiladelphia 2009.)

Available online for $30 at Kikkerland or in person for $25 at Portfolio, the museum store at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Cube Jigger might just make it into our home bar collection very soon.

[via mealticketwe knew there was rationale behind our addiction to food blogs]

A Priori – Very Cute

Definition: A priori knowledge is knowledge which can be established independently of experience or reasoning from experience.


The beautiful new titling font by British designer Jonathan Barnbrook is named well. Priori Acute establishes it’s own rules of dimensionality.

Developed through experimentation, the font presents optical illusions of depth — using techniques similar to that of Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher — that present impossible perspectives.

Barnbrook also cites the shapes and angles of the Stealth Bomber as inspiration.

Though his graphic design, Barnbrook is active in political & social causes, and has a  stated ambition to use ‘design as a weapon for social change.’

The font is available for $50 from Emigre and comes packaged with a set of ornamental elements that can be tiled into mesmerizing patterns.

View the whole alphabet and some of the patterns after the jump. Continue reading A Priori – Very Cute

Off the Lawn

strap chair 1Tim Lewis is a furniture and lighting designer with a studio in Philadelphia whose Strap Chairs & Stools were recently featured on the popular design blog Core 77.

The clean, elegant wood frame is offset by the fun colors of the nylon that creates checkered patterns for the seat and back.

Over on Apartment Therapy, Kristen points out that Tim’s beautiful, handcrafted work is not cheap ($700-$1,600), but that it looks entirely worth the price.

We caught up with Tim via email and he was kind enough to answer some questions.

Read on for Tim’s thoughts on these re-imagined lawn chairs, the Philly design scene, how we should embrace a push to “buy locally” in artisan crafts  (just like the current “buy local” trend for food & drink) and his love of the pencil. Continue reading Off the Lawn

Steel Petals

girasolePhiladelphia’s Girasole restaurant just added a beautiful, original sign to mark its location, just off Broad Street on Pine.

Instead of neon or plastic, the metal frame of the sign surrounds hand-crafted steel sculpture.

An elegant rendering of the restaurant’s name in bronze- and silver-colored cut metal rests over a blue-burnished background.

At the top, the restaurant’s signature flower (Italian for sunflower = girasole) shines down like the sun.

The overlapping petals — appearing somehow delicate, yet strong — allow glimpses of the real sky to peep through and are different on each side of the sign.

It’s a wonderful example of the work coming out of Chora Leone Art & Design in Atlantic County, NJ.

Jose Chora and Judy Leone have been creating together for over 15 years, and last year opened a gallery in Somers Point, NJ.

I caught up with Judy via telephone and she was kind enough to send over some additional photos of their works.  He works with the metals and she does the mosaics.

Peep some of their other artworks below. Continue reading Steel Petals

In Living Color

What have all tiles been missing up to this point? Change. Most tiles, however beautiful, are static. Still. They are what they are.

Not any more. Moving Color offers up several lines of temperature-sensitive glass tiles.


Using anywhere between 20 – 80% recycled materials, this patent-pending product is offered in a multitude of styles and base colors.

moving-color-handEach tile changes color with the temperature, either ambient or via the touch of a human or of water.

The tiles can be carefully customized, with colors or patterns, so design opportunities abound.  Bob Tonjes uses them to create “paintings” that change throughout the day.

From refined to organic to psychedelic, these chromatic slabs can be applied indoors or out.

At $29 per tile, they are not for everywhere, but can be well-placed as accents on fireplaces, outdoor tables, showers and more.

To really get a better idea of the changing beauty of these installations be sure to check out some of the flash animations on the company website.


[Via Gajitz by way of @phi162]

Sticks & Twigs

But not the kind that only vegetarians eat.

Foodplayerlinda has made a design breakthrough in hors d’oeuvre-ature.

She was inspired to ignore the leaves piling up in her yard.

Instead, she developed a new method for creating and presenting “cheese and crackers.”

Read the story here. Recipe included!

The Art of Data

All images © Nick Hardeman
All images © Nick Hardeman

Nick Hardeman is an MFA Design & Technology student at Parsons in New York City.

He has created some surprisingly fantastic bauhaus art from data visualizations of the 1997 music video “Mo Money Mo Problems” from the Notorious B.I.G. album, Life After Death.

From Nick’s blog:

“The algorithm detects edges in the image and attempts to trace motion from frame to frame, using the initial frame as their starting point. … The bright colored track suits worn by Puff Daddy and Mase in the dark backgrounds make for good tracking and nice color combinations.”

Check the Flickr set of several of his renders for more colorful abstract enjoyment.

A recent “quick demo” created for a class is also quite attractive and interesting: he maps the newswire of the New York Times over the course of 24 hours by category.

This Flash/Papervision interactive web app shows what news is posted at each time of the day, giving some insight into the minds of the influential NYT web editors, if not the web news audience in general. Fun to play with.

The school can likely take a bit of the credit. Founded in 1896, Parsons was the first college to offer programs in Fashion Design, Interior Design and Advertising and Graphic Design.

This was thanks to Frank Alvah Parsons, a co-founder who became the school’s president. Anticipating a new wave of the Industrial Revolution, Parsons predicted that art and design would soon be inexorably linked to the engines of industry.

A recent Harvard Business blog post, entitled “MFA is the New MBA,” lends credence to this view, and shows it becoming more & more accepted.

Creativitiy -> Innovation -> Success.

[Via Visual Complexity]

Social Interaction

phila sketch clubI previously mentioned the Philadelphia Sketch Club, founded in 1860 by some famous Philadelphia artists on Camac Avenue (that of the wooden cobblestones).

Don’t think I ever read the historical sign that is currently posted in the Avenue, though. These signs, erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission since 1946, are studies in idea condensation.

Way before Twitter, the designers for these signs did a pretty great job compressing history, philosophy, biography and more into signs that measure approximately 1ft x 2ft and hold less than 250 characters.

This one holds a gem of a sentence. One that deserves more publicity than it’s small alleyway allows.

Artists found that social interaction enhanced the creation and appreciation of art.

Still does. Still does. Still going strong.

The Poet of Plastic

Karim Rashid - Ring Door for AlbedKarim Rashid is an incredible industrial designer.

I’ve run into and admired many of his designs without even knowing they were Rashids.

Such as the Method bath & body products. And Morimoto restaurant in Philadelphia.

What’s most cool is his statement on design philosophy, his “Karimanifesto.”

How to define design, today and what is its role?
Karim Rashid - Slice Precision Cutter

Design has been the cultural shaper of our world from the start. We have designed systems, cities, and commodities.

We have addressed the world’s problems. Now design is not about solving problems, but about a rigorous beautification of our built environments. Design is about the betterment of our lives poetically, aesthetically, experientially, sensorially, and emotionally.

My real desire is to see people live in the modus of our time,to participate in the contemporary world, and to release themselves from nostalgia, antiquated traditions, old rituals, kitsch and the meaningless. We should be conscious and attune with this world in this moment.

Karim Rashid - K-8 Dogbowl for Acme

This is a general philosphy for the advancement of society, and parallels the insta-, all the time, everywhere connectivity we are beginning to take advantage of as a species.

“We should be conscious and attune with this world in this moment.”

[Post inspired by idsgn]