I’ll get to the spoon in a minute. But first I’d like to mention zippers. Because the guy who made the spoon once had a problem with zippers. He thought he could make a better zipper. Here’s what he came up with:
OK, the advantage gained may be awkwardly small (or just awkward), but that’s Dominic Wilcox. He’s part artist, part satirist, part engineer, part maniac. He likes to make things better, though “better” to him may feel suspiciously un-better to you.
Still, his ideas keep coming. I’ve got two favorites. The first is his GPS Shoe, a gorgeous pair of real soft leather shoes with teeny LED lights embedded in the leatherwork. Dominic says he “thought about The Wizard of Oz and how Dorothy could click her shoes together to go home,” and so in this video, he shows us a pair of self-directing shoes that would take someone “home” (or anywhere else they might want to go). He went to a Northamptonshire shoemaker, then to a computer-savvy engineer, and together they came up with a pair that, like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, allows you to click your heels, which then links your shoes up to a GPS satellite. If you’ve told your computer the street address of where you’re going, all you have to do is walk outside and look down.
Your left shoe points (with a teeny winking light) in the proper direction; your right foot indicates how far you have to go. In the video Dominic’s shoes take him across Northamptonshire straight to the gallery where they will be displayed. He comes to several corners and park paths that fork, and his shoes make all the choices. He just walks. He calls this project “No Place Like Home.”
Dominic Wilcox works mostly in London, takes commissions, and hires his designing brain out to big companies for what I imagine are big bucks. There is something deeply radical about this man. I can’t put my finger on it, but his inventions are in no sense tame. When a company hires him, he delivers their message, but he does it with such crazy power, such force, that instead of giggling and moving on, he makes you wonder, Are they mad? What were they thinking? The messages hit, but a little too hard. Which is his secret power. Dominic is so good, he’s subversive.
OK, now we’re ready for the spoon.
Dominic made it for the Kellogg’s cereal company. It’s a spoon with two googly eyes. Cute to look at and designed to be adorable, it’s a breakfast spoon for eating cornflakes or Rice Krispies. He calls it the Get Enough Robot Spoon.
But here’s the thing about this spoon. He’s given it moods. It starts sleepy, with its eyes closed. When you put it to use, when you scoop it into a bowl, it seems to awaken, drawing power from repeated scooping. The more you eat, the more awake it gets, to the point that—at the height of breakfast—its eyes start to roll in its head. It seems to be on a crazy cereal high, driven wild by consumption. But once you put it down, or should you choose to carry it with you all day long—yup, dedicated cereal eaters must always be prepared; see the video below—the spoon grows quiet from disuse, and falls eventually into a haze, then a heavy lidded quiet, and then into something that feels like a depressive sleep. I may be reading too much into this, but take a look. See what you think.
Do you get the feeling that if you stop eating cereal, you may be killing your pet spoon? I’m just asking.
The double-edgedness of his work doesn’t seem to hurt. Companies love him. He keeps getting commissions, keeps getting attention, and keeps producing new, startling experiments. He’s come up with a way to switch how his ears work, so the left one hears what the right one should hear, and the right one the left. He’s imagined a hotel elevator like no elevator in the world; he’s created the world’s first upside-down bungee jump, where instead of leaping off a cliff attached to a cord, the cliff … wait, I don’t want to tell you. I want to show you. His blog is where you can find most of his inventions, but probably the most pleasing way to discover Dominic is to walk straight into this short, beautiful video from Liam Saint-Pierre. But I’d avoid the square peas.
If you want more (and I’m thinking you do), there’s a Dominic Wilcox book, chock-full of drawings and imaginings, called Variations on Normal and that’s where you can find another part of him: his gift for getting even. While gentle in appearance, Dominic has a little Chuck Norris or Arnold Schwarzenegger in him; it comes out when he’s punishing people in his mind. Check out how he’d solve the guy-who-doesn’t-shut-off-his-cell-phone problem, and how he’d punish a litterer. He can be clever. Even fiendish.