12 Dozen Egg Cups
Here at Sight Unseen, we have a pretty strict bias against kitsch. But every so often we stumble upon a project that, while somewhat gimmicky, injects so much fun into the daily routine and has such roots in formal and material investigation, that it’s impossible to deny its utter lovability. We discovered such a project from the Leicester, England–based creative duo 12 Dozen Egg Cups, whose initial outing to a pottery class at a local community center developed into a challenge to repurpose the ubiquitous egg cup 144 different ways in the space of 12 months.
A filmmaker (Dave Briggs) and an illustrator (Alex Brady) by day, the duo has found that their different approaches to making push the project in sometimes opposite directions. “Alex’s inspirations come mostly from familiar images and objects, whereas I like to test form and function with each design but don’t care much for practicality,” says Briggs. The result is that function and humor are equally entwined in every iteration: Egg Cup #14 (Larry David), for example, is both an uncanny likeness of the man himself and holds an egg rather steadily.
With more than half of the challenge complete, we spoke to the duo about the project, their process, and their favorites so far — cracks and all.
You guys have such disparate backgrounds. How did the project begin?
“For a while, we had been wanting to try pottery but couldn’t find anywhere suitable. Then when we moved to Leicester, we found out about a local community center with a ceramics studio. Even though we were beginners, they let you make whatever you want, no set routine. We just turned up, picked up some clay, and asked one of the staff if we needed advice.”
“When we got there, we simply didn’t know what to make. As this wasn’t going to be a full-time venture, we decided that by making something small in repeat, we could develop our skills and ideas. Also, it had to be concept-driven rather than purely process. At the end of the day, we’re not product designers, and we aren’t interested in achieving particular glaze effects or even making our work look perfect. It was more important for us to keep developing new ideas and to have fun. We chose egg cups because they were the right size, but also because they are familiar objects with a standardized design that until now has largely gone unquestioned.”
“We decided to make 12 dozen egg cups as a challenge to ourselves. A time period of 12 months was set to ensure we weren’t too precious about the design and making process. It allows for quick thinking and evaluation: a brainstorm where you have to follow through on every idea.”
What are the inspirations behind each cup? Do you know before you sit down what you’re going to make?
Dave: “We have very different approaches to making the egg cups. I come from a fine art background whereas Alex is an illustrator with a background in design. Alex’s inspiration mostly comes from familiar images and objects, repurposed as egg cups. I like to test form and function with each design but I don’t care much for practicality. We work well together because we have different ideas.”
Alex: “You might think we’d be running out of ideas by now, but they generally flow quite naturally. Often I don’t know what I will make before I arrive in the studio. Dave has a dedicated egg cup sketchbook of rough ideas, mainly so he doesn’t forget them. As we have to produce 144 in a year we don’t devote much time to sketching or make prototypes, resulting in spontaneous designs we aren’t so precious about.”
What have you learned in terms of what makes a good or a bad egg cup?
“As everyone knows eggs vary in size. Making shapes that can hold different sized eggs securely is harder than you might think. But we try not to let this get in the way of a good idea. Even if the egg doesn’t fit well, we’d rather create the thing rather then not make it as all. We’ve obviously learned about technical process, but we try not to get too obsessed with the finer details of the craft. We’ve found that it’s always better to take risks. What makes a good egg cup is subjective and is something we don’t always agree on anyway; some of Dave’s favorites are Alex’s least favorites and it’s often surprising when other people tell us theirs. We have both found value in being able to forget the rules and knowing that you can learn a lot from making mistakes.”
Which egg cups are your favorites?
“Alex likes #28 (the foot) because it’s absurd and a bit gross to be eating an egg out of a foot, and #14 (Larry David) because it’s a good likeness to the man himself. Dave likes #11-#13 because although they aren’t pretty, they were made quickly (as a result of thinking we were behind schedule, I just grabbed three lumps of clay and within two minutes molded some egg cups). We both like #41 (the sharer) because, being designed for two people, it’s unique, and we’re old romantics at heart!”
Which ones are the most successful?
“In our opinion, from a design point of view, the most successful egg cups have to be those with dual functions such as #22 (coffee cup/egg cup) and #33 (bowl/egg cup). Also the ones which suggest new ways to eat eggs, such as #49 (ice cream cone). If any high-street manufacturer was going to steal a design, we think it would be one of these!”