Valentine's Saucers are a decorative piece I began designing while I was in the final year of my studies and finished after I had moved to Norway. Back when I started the project, me and my girlfriend were planning our years ahead. We realized that I would be finishing my studies a whole year before her. Both of us had always dreamt about getting a job outside our home country in Europe in order to be able to explore new place on the side of work. We agreed that in order to fulfill the dream of traveling while maintaining a healthy relationship, that we should see what job possibilities would arise. If I were to get a job in a nearby country then monthly visits and traveling would be possible. However I knew it would still be difficult so I started thinking about other ways of which I could make us feel closer.
In this article I will share my thoughts on the design process and show how I planed, designed and built, the Valentine's Saucers.
The Valentine Saucers are a pair of connected devices that sense heat and illuminate together. When one of the saucers is heated up from a hot cup of coffee, both saucers will light up with a gentle animation. This makes a cup of coffee and the saucers a medium for sharing the feeling of longing for each other from a distance. The other partner can respond by gently touching one of the two rings on the saucers, changing the color of the animation to any color of the rainbow. This lets the other partner know that they too are longing.
I general I think that the advancements of communication technology are good. However they have also come with their own set of problems. One of these have been the rise of the attention economy. Many of the communication platforms are living of peoples time spent within their applications, and are thus designed to be as captivating as possible. This is in many ways problematic, as this drives poor decision making. People are being nudged into making choices based on quick distractions. When we find us selves at unease from boredom, for just a split second, we can simply reach into our pockets to recieve our imidiate injection of fresh new captivating content. As we have just finished one video the next video plays automatically too keep our attention on the platform for longer.
With the Valentine's Saucers I've intentionally designed them for subtleness. I wanted to create a beautiful medium that one would like to have in their presence and thus naturally draw attention without it being exessive and distracting. The device should be simple, with only one functionality: the ability to showcase the emotional state of longing.
In the report Frog Trends 2023, 21 Frogs from 10 different studios describe the various trends they see for the future. One of these being what they have coined "Activating the Emotion of Things", Regarding the increasing amounts of E-waste generated. This Frog trend foreshadows that, businesses to a higher degree will design for repairability and personalization.
To me, this is very inspiring, and it aligns very much with the values I was taught, when I was interning in Kintsugi Design and became engaged in designing for disassembly and repairability.
The Valentine's Saucers exemplifies this with several principles.:
1. All parts of the device are held together with mechanical fasteners, instead of glue.
2. Waterproof sealings are incorporated to minimize the risk of damage by spillage
3. The entire construction is documented for reference here in this blogpost to make repairability possible.
Read on to see how!
Conceptualizing with SketchBook and SolidWorks
What started as an embarrassing heart stamped saucer, matured to be more sophisticated. I started by drawing sigital sketches to explore possible designs for the saucer. After settling on a shape and how it would be assembled, I modeled the design in CAD software and used image rendering to explore different materials for the saucer. With a refined design, I was ready to prototype.
Modelling the ceramic parts
Making ceramic parts was a fun experience! I hadn't worked with a turn table before, but with my design having a relatively low center of gravity it was a relatively simple part to make. I made a large batch of parts just in case I messed some of them up, which ended up being a good idea since only two survived firing and were able to be assembled with the other pieces. I believe that creating the ceramics by hand makes the project more meaningful and personal.
A big thanks to my friend and ceramics club instructor, Mikkel Krogh for all his advice on this part of the process
Programming and circuitry
In writing the code for Valentine's Saucers Industry40, Bhavesh Kakwani and Rui Santos have bee tremendous inspiration and help. Their tutorials on setting up a microPython based network with the MQTT broker HiveMQ and communicating over the network with the MQTT protocol have been foundational in my completion of the project. For reference you can find my two microPython scripts run on the two saucers at my public GitHub repository
Getting the diffusion of light just right
After laser cutting the acrylic light diffusing windows to a size fitting for the ceramic pieces, they went through a thorough surface treatment. I sanded them and the LED strips and finally painted them white. Thus, just the right look was achieved.
The Brass rings
When I was studying at DTU, I had the chance to cut the brass sheets on the water cutter. Unfortunately I didn't have that opportunity now. I figured my only option was, to saw it with a handheld multi cutter. This method didn't produce perfectly circular shapes like CNC-based methods, but i feel that the semi-circular shapes fit the saucers neatly.
In combination with the hand-thrown ceramic tops, the saucers have gotten a charming, handmade look.
The middle brass part
The middle brass piece was the one of all the parts that caused me the most trouble. But in the end I got the thermometer working like a charm and it's sealings keeping the top of the cup water tight.
3D-printing the bottom and the internal construction parts
The full assembly consists of the following parts: 3D-printed bottom, Sub-component of ESP32 and its power inlet, brass and acrylic rings, The ceramic top, subcomponent of brass top and thermometer and finally tightening with knots at the bottom.
I will be looking forward to moving together with my girlfriend this summer, but until then I hope that Valentine's Saucers will help keeping us close. I can't wait to see what experiences it will bring.
Thank you for reading! I sincerely appreciate your interest in my creation piece. If you have any questions, comments or feedback regarding the creation, please reach out, I'll love to hear from you and give you my thoughts.
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