Gadget Design Gurus Pick for Grating and Wine

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Two men who design what they call "gadgets for gadgets" talk about their favorite small tools. Aaron Lown and John Roscoe Swartz are the creative directors of Built NY, where they make neoprene totes for computers, cell phones, cameras, baby bottles and the like. Their favorite gadgets are a sharkskin ginger grater and a volumetric flask designed to be used in a laboratory — but instead used as a wine decanter.


This week at this time, we're hearing about gadgets from people who really know what they're talking about. Today, we're going to hear from two designers who keep a very close eye on gadgets because they make what they describe as gadgets for gadgets.

AARON LOWN: So my name is Aaron Lown.

JOHN ROSCOE SWARTZ: And my name is John Roscoe Swartz and we are the co-founders and -

LOWN: Co-creative directors of Built New York.

ROSCOE SWARTZ: Built New York is a design company. We focus on lifestyle accessories, specifically bags and totes. We have a new line tailored for electronic accessories like laptops, iPods, cell phones, that type of thing.

LOWN: I think a good gadget is something that I can, I think that looks great, something that I can appreciate aesthetically, but then something that works equally as good as it looks. And I think a good example of that is something that I brought back with me from Japan, which is a sharkskin grater. It's basically just a simple block of blond wood and it has a piece of white sharkskin attached to the surface and you use it for grating ginger, garlic, or wasabi, etcetera.

The texture of the sharkskin sort of looks like glass beads that are attached to the wood, and one of the things that caught my eye was just the texture of this sharkskin, which, you know, it looked like a beautiful pair of exotic cowboy boots. It was just such beautiful looking gadget. And that's really, that's really what made me purchase it at first. And it wasn't until I got it home and started using it that I was so wowed by it as a functional gadget for the kitchen.

ROSCOE SWARTZ: So, I have this love and fascination with laboratory glassware, the clearness of them and the way the volumes shift from being round, bulbous to skinny and then little spiraling pigtails of glass, that sort of thing.

And I found this - they call it the volumetric flask. And it's a brown bulbous bottom and then it comes to a very skinny neck, like the size of your - thickness of your thumb. And then that neck goes straight up for about ten inches. It's an amazing crafted object. And then I immediately thought of that this would be a fantastic for serving wine out of.

So I brought it home and it is. You slowly pour the wine down this long neck and you get to watch the wine spin and bubble and gurgle down to the bottom and it's getting air in it, which is really good for the wine. And then this long, skinny neck becomes this beautiful handle to pour it out of. And again, you get to watch the wine as it flows down the long neck before it hits the glass.

And it's just - it's also there's this beautiful irony between using the laboratory object in your home kitchen. I like that juxtaposition. I think I get a kick out of that.

SIEGEL: Aaron Lown and John Roscoe Swartz, creative directors of Built New York.

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