Design History, Fossilized In Glittering Crystal

“It’s the secret of the chef,” Belgian designer Isaac Monte tells me when I ask about how he’s able to grow clusters of gorgeously colorful, super-saturated crystals around vases, cups, and other objects.

At Ventura New York, Monte exhibited pieces from his series Crystal Icons, an ongoing project in which he “petrifies” classic design objects, encrusting them with glittering shards of crystal. This time, he picked a Michael Graves tea kettle, a Stelton carafe, a Philippe Starck juicer, a Richard Hutten sippy cup, and an Aalto vase.

[Photo: Isaac Mont/courtesy Ventura Projects]
Monte’s work focuses on finding ways to harness biological processes to fabricate design. For Crystal Icons, he developed a mineral solution that hardens into stable crystals. To make each piece, he heats up this proprietary solution and lets it cool slowly; when it starts to harden, he suspends an object–a carafe, maybe, or a vase–in the liquid, and crystals begin to form around its shape.

“I’m creating fossils and preserving them for the next generation,” Monte says. Essentially, he’s turning objects into something not unlike rock candy. Crystals naturally form through geological processes, but here Monte is adapting the chemistry involved to yield a very specific color and texture. “It’s a collaboration with nature,” he says of the project, which emblematic of the design world’s broader interest in cultivating a more sympathetic relationship with the earth and a deeper understanding of natural processes.

See the pieces in the slide show above.DB