Material (Dis)Honesty

Despite recent suggestions that irony is dead, we’ve recently seen a minor flood of products wherein the key design concept is an ironic shift from one material to another. Early examples include the Happy to Serve You coffee cup, a ceramic version of the iconic New York City diner paper cup, and several quasi-art pieces from the often clever Vancouver-born designer Tobias Wong. More recent examples typically retain a familiar form (the plastic water bottle or the paper cup) while replacing an environmentally dubious material with something more acceptable or, at least, less disposable. Others seem to juxtapose a mundane or malevolent form against a more refined or benevolent function. While we reserve judgment on the enduring cultural significance of these products, we are obliged to acknowledge that they strike a chord, with I Am Not a Paper Cup being among our all-time best-selling gift items.


I Am Not a Paper Cup, Ceramic Coffee Cup
? 2007: James Burgess

Almost inconceivably popular, this double-walled porcelain cup, with its silicone drinking lid, is virtually indistinguishable from its disposable paper analogue. An odd mix of the advantages and disadvantages of both the paper cup and the ceramic mug that you will either love or find annoying on every level. Either way, it is dishwasher safe.


also available are:

I Am Not a Paper Cup Lids

These silicone lids fit both the I.A.N.A.P.C. and a standard “Grande” paper cup.

Set of 3: $11.95


We Are Happy To Serve You, Ceramic Cup
? 1963 (2003): Leslie Buck & Graham Hill

Created in 1963 by the Sherri Cup Company (now a division of Solo), more than 180,000,000 Greek key Anthora (sic.) cups are carried out of New York delis and coffee shops annually. It can be spotted in virtually any film or television that features an authentic-looking New York cop and a cup of joe. In 2003 Exception Lab began producing a ceramic version of this quintessential New York icon. Dishwasher friendly and certified lead free.



Seletti Porcelain Estetico Quotidiano (Daily Aesthetics) Line
? 2007: Design Selab & Alessandro Zambelli

From their website and product lines, one gets the impression that Seletti and Design Selab would like to think of themselves as the Italian ‘Droog’. Their Estetico Quotidiano series of porcelain and borosilicate glass serving items appropriates the forms of throw-away food and beverage containers to create an ironic table setting. All items are microwave and dishwasher safe.

Glass Water Bottle, 1L: $44.95
Porcelain Detergent Bottle Vase: $59.95
Porcelain Storage Can: $24.95
Porcelain Espresso Coffee Pot: $29.95
Porcelain Coffee Stirrer: $2.95


Fred Worldwide Glassware
? 2009: Liz Goulet Duboi for Fred Studio

The enterprising and prolific Liz Goulet Duboi repurposes the ubiquitous cardboard milk carton and plastic sandwich bag to produce a curious creamer and candy dish in borosilicate glass for Fred Studio.

Half Pint Milk Carton: $19.95
Unzipped Glass Zipper Bag: $29.95

Or, for a more intentioned take on the concept:


Villa Delirium: The Art of Krafft
? 2002: Charles Krafft

A working artist for decades, Charles Krafft (known facetiously as “the oldest promising young artist in Seattle”) finally achieved notoriety in the late 1990s with his “Porcelain War Museum Project”, recreating the AK-47s, pistols, and hand grenades of the Balkans conflict in a series of Delft-painted porcelain objects, produced in collaboration with Slovenian artists collective Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK). The first monograph on this idiosyncratic artist, Villa Delirium samples Krafft’s entire body of work in sixty colour photographs. (2002: Grand Central Press / Last Gasp; ISBN 0867195746)



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