Makers & Brothers

A Melodic Everyday Tool

When German industrial designer Richard Sapper was asked to design a kettle for Alessi, he readily agreed – with one condition. Not content with simply producing a beautiful, functional kettle, he wanted to push the boundaries, creating what he described as a multisensory experience.

He wanted to appeal to more than just sight and touch, and so went about finding a way to introduce a sound that would do justice to his striking aesthetic. Kettles at the time already made a sound, an anxious hissing whistle, so Sapper saw this as an opportunity. He set about transforming this noise into something melodic and pleasant, as uplifting as the prospect of a fresh cup of tea.

While Sapper was based in Milan evolving the design his sisters in Germany came across a craftsman in The Black Forest making pitch pipes. These small instruments each produced a single, pure note when blown, and Sapper found that the steam produced by a boiling kettle had the same effect.

"It's not enough for me to just design a beautiful kettle. I want to design a kettle that can be multi-sensorial. Not only to the eyes, but also to the ears."

By fitting two pipes together, Sapper created a harmony that gives a boiling kettle the sense of occasion it deserves. With the notes in place, the melodic 9091 Kettle was born. Two notes, floating, supporting and nourishing each other, announcing teatime and all that comes with it: relaxation, companionship, and sustenance. Kettle 9091 is a simple everyday tool bringing a joyful moment to the daily ritual of boiling water.

Richard Sapper sadly passed away in December last year. Maybe not such a well-known name Sapper was possibly one of the most influential product designers of his time. Starting out as a young designer in the studio of the wonder that was Gio Ponti he quickly set out on his own. From the outset he developed a reputation for an honest design aesthetic that did not hide its technical details and came forth in bold angular forms. Sapper's clients ranged from Alessi to Siemens and Fiat in-between. Interestingly he was the chief design consultant to IBM from 1980 until his death. This role there produced one of his most well know works, the ThinkPad, the “black box” with it’s signature red “nipple” a classic Sapper detail. He made the world a richer place.

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Quote by Richard Sapper

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Melodic Kettle

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