Noticed: Kaii Tu

Vas Kinris of San Francisco’s Zinc Details has an eye for smart, sleek, functional but charming design and exceptional talent, and when he curated Zinc Details’ SF Local Design Market, we knew we’d see some great things.

We instantly fell deeply in love with designer Kaii Tu‘s Valence System. Why? Because the Valence System was less a product than a process that solves a small, but not inconsequential problem.

It’s the problem of heirlooms.

Let me explain. Let’s say you inherit heirlooms. There’s an egg cup (but you like yours scrambled, thank you very much). There’s an odd-sized, odd-shaped fork (but you can’t identify what it is, despite a long trawl online). And a sherry glass. (Really?) These are all very nice, but these can easily become space wasters and dust catchers.

But what if the heirloom that’s passed along is a mold for glassware: one that allows you create your own glassware for a variety of purposes? Kaii’s modular mold can be configured any number of ways around a sleek, simple design: soy sauce dishes, tea cups, bowls for cocktail nibbles, glasses, saltcellars,  etc. It’s about the way you live, not your grandfather.

Naturally, the mold itself is a work of art: cherry wood, crafted with the help of CAD and a computerized router. If you really use it as designed, it’ll gain the patina of use over time, which is also an inherent part of its heirloom quality.

What we also like is that it directly engages the hiring of a glassmaker in customizing the heirloom to your needs. As Kaii says, “This brings into close proximity the craft and consumption of the objects we have in our daily lives.”

Of course, what would you expect of a designer with a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard, a diploma from the famed Design Academy Eindhoven, and then from California College of the Arts? Exactly.

He says, “It was in Eindhoven where I discovered that the worlds of conceptual art, craft, and design need not be separated,” and Valence brings this absolutely to life in a supremely accessible way.  And for this joined up thinking, he was awarded a Windgate Fellowship for 2012, one of the largest awards in art and design.

Well done all around.


All images courtesy of the Kaii Tu

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