A Smoking Hot Design

The Playful Skull-Shaped Ashtray that Reminds Smokers of the Dangers of their Habit

Good design addresses functional problems; it makes your life easier and hopefully does so whilst looking good. Product-designer, Christian Sjöström’s Skully Ash Tray achieves both. And perhaps it even goes one better. Yes it looks cool, its teeth are perfectly spaced to fit a lit cigarette and the eye holes make the ideal space for rolling ash. But Christian hopes it will also serve as a gentle and funny reminder as to the dangers of smoking at the same time.

“With deisgn you have the opportunity to affect people in many ways. Apart from the purely functional you can trigger feelings which in turn obviously can change behavior and get people to see and understand things in new ways, ” he enthuses. ”In this case I hope it both fulfills function and affects behavioral problems too.”

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That surely makes it the perfect gift for a well-meaning friend or relative to give to someone they love who smokes. The Plus managed to get our hands on a Skully Ash Tray. It’s reassuringly weighty in the hand, cast in solid concrete, with the industrial feel fitting the skull shape perfectly. Christian casts each piece by hand, adding a lovely personal touch, and each is numbered coming with a certificate from Christian.

We spoke to him to find out more about this charming product:

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The Plus: Are you a smoker or do you just sympathise?
Christian Sjöström:
When I developed the product I was a smoker and I don’t think I would have developed it otherwise. As a smoker you’re exposed to different kinds of ashtrays and I thought it would be an interesting product to look into. The ashtray didn’t help me quit smoking but since I still keep it around for other uses it works as a reminder. Nowadays I use it for coins and to store pens.

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TP: Other than smokers, who else do you think would be the market for this?
CS:
It’s the perfect gift for a smoker but I believe it could be used for many things. As I mentioned I use it to store different stuff. I would have loved to have one as a kid, it’s perfect when you are playing pirate! I have an idea to use it as a plate for a dish. I think it could be interesting when the skull becomes visible and then you smoke a cigarette for dessert. It’s also a product for people who likes nice objects and find the idea interesting.

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TP: Can you tell us about the major design decisions with this product?
CS:
It’s a difficult product because I didn’t want people to only see it as something cool. It was really important for me that it had good ergonomic smoking features. I wanted the functions to be really good. In a way; the better smoking functions the more offensive. The eyes and edges are perfect for rolling of ashes and the teeth easily grip a lit cigarette.
It was also important that it should be a handmade product and something I could produce myself. At the moment I wake up early to produce one before going to work. It’s really nice to start the day working with your hands.

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TP: Have you got any other guilty pleasures you’d like to confess?
CS:
Not today ; )

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TP: What’s your next project?
CS:
Me and my partner Elina Bergström recently started PUKK studio and we are just in the beginning of our first project, focusing on traditional Swedish craft. But what kind of product it will be, we don´t know yet. This week I’m also taking part in the FUWL summer workshop which is a lot of fun and inspiring.