Charcoal by Formafantasma
at the Vitra Design Museum

| 1 comment

Charcoal inserts purify tap water in these blown-glass containers by Italian designers Formafantasma (+ movie).

Charcoal by Formafantasma

Pieces of wood were left to char inside a smoldering mound in the Swiss forest, then sculpted into a paddle, ladle, funnel and lid.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

The series also includes a lump of charcoal that rises like a mountain from a shallow dish and a bottle blown inside a charred hollow log.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

Formafantasma worked with illustrator and designer Francesco Zorzi to produce charcoal drawings that juxtapose these purifying properties with the pollution of charcoal burning on a huge scale.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

The project will be shown at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery in Weil Am Rhein, Germany.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

Called Confrontations, the show pairs designers working in the Netherlands with practitioners of traditional crafts in Switzerland, in this case Mrs. Wicki the charcoal burner.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

The exhibition opens tomorrow to coincide with the nearby Design Miami/Basel fair and runs until 1 September.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

Formafantasma also present a series of objects made from scraps of discarded leather at Design Miami/Basel this week - see our earlier story here.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

See all our stories about Formafantasma »

Charcoal by Formafantasma

Movie and photos are by by Luisa Zanzani.

Here's some more information from Formafantasma:


‘Confrontations’, an exhibition curated by Amelie Znidaric, Vitra Design Museum Gallery

In conjunction with a major retrospective on Gerrit Rietveld, Vitra Design Museum has invited five of the most innovative designers working in the Netherlands to join a partner from the region in developing a design proposal.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

The activity, deeply rooted in Swiss tradition, was economically important when charcoal was produced as a metallurgical fuel, but was banned in the 20th century due to deforestation and CO2 emissions. Despite the negative connotations, a few charcoal burners are still operating today.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

The passing of time has, in fact, morphed this elaborate production process into a nostalgic ‘happening’, often relegated to festive folk events. In other parts of the world charcoal burning is still a reality.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

In the Congo, for example, charcoal burning threatens the Virunga National Park, one of the nation's biggest natural reserves.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

Studio Formafantasma, whose previous work comments on the notion of tradition and nostalgia, draw inspiration from the tension between the dystopian connotation of charcoal, causing pollution and destruction, while also being employed in healthcare and water purification.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

Historians have found evidence that carbon filtration was used by the ancient Egyptians while in Japan it is still common today to use a few, simple charcoal branches to purify tap water. In collaboration with a glass blower and wood carver, the designers produced a series of jars and wooden ‘filters’.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

Over the course of a few days spent with Mrs. Wicki and photographer Luisa Zanzani in a forest in the surrounding areas of Zurich, the customized wooden pieces were left burning and deteriorating while the process was documented.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

The charred remains were further sculpted into a series of elements to be added to the jars. In addition a small glass bottle was blown into a hollow carbonized log: the resulting glass becoming opaque and textured where it came into contact with the charcoal, yet maintaining clarity in the rest of the body.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

During the opening of the exhibition at ‘Vitra Campus’ the designers and Mrs. Wicki will build a small oven.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

In the gallery, alongside the design pieces, black charcoal bread (baked following a traditional recipe to aid digestion) and purified water will be served.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

Participants will be invited to ‘raise their glasses’ to this tradition and experience what this meant in the past: twelve hand made charcoal drawings portraying trees burning, polluted cities, fumes and black rain, will be featured in the exhibition to highlight the misuse of charcoal through the ages.

Charcoal by Formafantasma

  • sara

    beautiful process and product.