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Talvi

Talvi is a luminaire, crafted to tell people the story about plastic. Combined with wood and dual-tone white LEDs, it becomes a magical object one can't quite classify in their head.

It was the result of Colour and Material Design course and was on display for six months in the "Enter and Encounter" exhibition in Design Museum Helsinki, along with several other fantastic works from the same course.

Header and thumbnail photos by Eeva Suorlahti.

2017
product designmaterial explorationelectronics
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Picture by Eeva Suorlahti

The humankind has enough plastic to last for the next century. One day, new plastics as we know them will be valuable because of their rarity. It's about time we start treating them like premium materials that shouldn't be thrown away in a whim. Plastic can be beautiful like glass. It can be smooth as satin to the touch. It can be heavy like metal. It also has its own, unique merits, like the ability to seamlessly bond with other materials.

Talvi was created to be an everlasting love letter to plastics. It comes from a time when few gave a second thought about how plastics are, could and should be used. Petrochemical-based plastics will go down in history as some of the most harmful materials to the environment, but as future generations discover the luminaire, it lights up to tell them the other, bittersweet side of the story.

Start with the material

Us industrial designers are inclined to approach design as problem-solving: determine and understand the problem, and develop a solution to that. It can be difficult and even scary to let go of this script and instead just go wild with exploring materials, without a clear sense of direction. To let the material and colour tell you where to go next.

That was the starting point with Talvi – just the material. I was fascinated by the optical quality and multi-material opportunities of polyurethane resins, so that's where I focused my explorative efforts. Lots test pieces were made, so through getting to know the material the direction started to become clear again.

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Picture by Eeva Suorlahti

Layers

Part of the fun was trying to come up with interesting ways to work with the chosen materials. As the epoxy resin hardens, the reaction releases a lot of heat, so not a lot of material can be cast at once, or it starts to become violent and release toxic fumes. Talvi being a solid 11 cm cube, this posed a challenge. How to cast the material without leaving visible layers?

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Yours truly monitoring the casting process – watching the plastic dry.
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It turned out the answer was to actually embrace the layers, by casting them not on top but inside one another. This was possible by spinning the acrylic mould on a potter's wheel, at various speeds and angles. Casting one cube takes about 10 hours total, because each layer needs enough time to set and cool.

By carefully controlling layer thickness and colour and combining that with a beautiful piece of Finnish maple with just a touch of moisture in it, a unique, organic, very ice-like object could be created. The iciness is where Talvi ("winter" in Finnish) gets its name.

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A touch of machinery

The wood was carved out with a CNC milling machine and fitted with self-built power LED drivers, controlled by an Adafruit Pro Trinket. A steel backplate that cools down the LEDs also doubles as a touch sensor, adding the final piece of magic to the mysterious cube that can glow in different shades of white.

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