Of all the realms of kitchen design, cutlery is a stalwart in maintaining function over aesthetic—how useful are beautiful knives if they don’t cut? This emphasis on utility can limit some designers in their experimentation around flatware, defaulting to traditional forms that err on the side of tried-and-true functionality.
Inspired by the challenge of bringing imagination to the dinner table, Antwerp design label Valerie Objects initiated the Cutlery Project, an invitation for leading designers to rethink flatware—a spoon, a fork, a knife or chopsticks.
Noteworthy about the project is its diversity in scope, both in design talent and concepts. Of the leading international designers participating—Jinhyun Jeon (KR/NL), Muller Van Severen (B), Maarten Baas (NL), Studio Simple (B/NL), Koichi Futatsumata (JPN) and Studio Wieki Somers (NL)—some had never designed cutlery before, while others had several flatware sets in their portfolios. Designs ranged from fully-functional utensils to luxury pieces, to cutlery concepts untranslatable into real life. “[We] let the designers think about the collection without a commercial impetus behind it,” says curator Veerle Wenes.
The ongoing project, which debuted at Paris’ D’Days design festival in the summer of 2015, has now taken two of its cutlery sets—designed by Maarten Baas and Koichi Futatsumata— into production. Baas’ designs are reminiscent of hand drawn, scraggly illustrations, while Futatsumata’s utensils mimic his tried and true drawing tools.
Studio Simple’s and Jinhyun Jeon’s sets will remain as concepts, limited by harsh angles and bespoke wooden designs not intended for mass production.
Regardless of the commercial profitability of each designs, Valerie Objects considers all cutlery sets a success. “It’s more important to have good designers in my portfolio than a huge number of pieces,” says Wenes, “creativity in food is huge. Tableware and cutlery should fall into that same area of creativity.”