Creator Q&A: Pinch

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Craighton Berman is a Chicago-based industrial designer who loves to cook. Hence, “Pinch” — a combination salt and pepper shaker which houses the spices within one, intuitively built device. When his initial prototype received wide acclaim at design fairs, Craighton decided it was time to bring Pinch to production, but he wanted to do it on his own terms. “The traditional way to independently manufacture a product meant a leap of faith on the part of the designer: they created an object, showed it to a few friends for feedback, maybe showed it in an exhibition and received some interest, so they put a lot of money up to pay for a production run and then hoped it would be a success,” he explained in a recent email exchange. And, even over the internet, he seems overwhelmingly pleased when he says: “Everything is different now.”

We also talked about inspiration, design, and “salt so good it will make you cry.” Check it out below. Support his project here

Was there a particular experience tied to your inspiration for this project?

My wife Emily is a chef, so we do a lot of cooking at home. Years ago I purchased a salt cellar for her to use next to the stove — basically an open ceramic vessel of Kosher salt that we kept next to the stove. I absolutely love the sensation of pushing my fingers into the large flakes of salt, pinching an arbitrary amount, and sprinkling it into the pan from above. There’s just something really pleasing about that tactile experience — there’s nothing between you and the salt. I wanted to bring that same experience to the dining table, where the shaker filled with standard salt just seemed banal in comparison — not to mention it didn’t work with any of the sea salts we had collected over the years, which have an irregular texture.

When you were working on the design, what type of chef did you envision using it? Did you have an “ideal user” in mind?  

I think I always imagined it would be a product for anybody who loves food — a perfect piece to leave out on the dining table. The open vessel of salt is protected from dust by the pepper shaker and the design is restrained enough to fit the landscape of almost any dining room, yet just sculptural enough to be interesting. It’s not screaming for attention, it’s just humbly waiting for you to use it.

What’s a favorite recipe you can’t wait to make with Pinch?

My favorite thing in the world is to simply slice up an heirloom tomato and sprinkle it with Maldon sea salt. Dead simple and delicious. If I’m feeling crazy, maybe I’ll throw a basil leaf on there as well.

How has your experience of using Kickstarter been so far? What was appealing about this platform versus more traditional avenues for finding funding?

My Kickstarter experience has been really excellent — I think I will launch every project this way in the future! The traditional way to independently manufacture a product meant a leap of faith on the part of the designer: they created an object, showed it to a few friends for feedback, maybe showed it in an exhibition and received some interest, so they put a lot of money up to pay for a production run and then hoped it would be a success. 

Everything is different now. The internet has encouraged designers to share their early prototypes and concept renderings with the public at large. With a few high profile blog posts, your product can be in front of hundreds of thousands of people within days of posting it. Excitement can build and feedback can be received before any production even begins. Kickstarter has been a great tool to collect that early excitement — in the form of a pre-order — thus ensuring I have the funds and backers to pay for production.

Are there any particular designs/pieces or designers who you admire or served as design inspiration?

I find inspiration in everything from high-concept design to everyday observations in the streets. In general I’m very inspired by design that is distilled down to it’s essentials. Not so much minimalism, but purity — purity of concept, purity of form, purity of intent. In Pinch’s case, I love thinking about the way we interact with the world around us, so it was directly inspired by food rituals and interaction. As far as specific designers, Pinch was also probably inspired by the everyday utility that is evident in so much of contemporary Japanese design. Specifically designers like Kenya Hara and Naoto Fukasawa and the work they create/curate for Muji — to me their work absolutely celebrates purity.

And — this one comes from reading one of your answers above — what’s the most unusual sea salt you’ve collected? I had never really considered the different types of available salts before. Tell me more!

Well I went through my cabinets and discovered we had over 12 different salts. I certainly can’t take credit for most of them — being that Emily is a chef — but we certainly have some interesting ones. There are a couple smoked salts — salts that have a smoky flavor of hickory and applewood. There are a couple of odd salts from the Korean grocery store down the street from us in Chicago, one is flavored with Green Tea. There are a couple colored salts like a black Hawaiian sea salt, and a pink salt of some sort that I picked up in Tokyo (I thought it might taste like rose, but sadly not). The Portuguese salt cream is like French Fleur de Sel — a light and fluffy salt raked from the top of the sea salt pile. Probably the most dramatic salt is the white truffle salt: if you’ve ever eaten truffles you’ll know what I mean…that salt is so good it will make you cry. But honestly, the ones that get the most use are the Kosher salt for cooking and my favorite, Maldon sea salt, which is a super flaky salt from England that goes well on anything.

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