RE-OR’s interchangeable candles are colourful, modular and sculptural
Inspired by children’s stacking toys, design duo BCXSY and creative director Tony Chambers have launched the RE-OR interchangeable candle, a playful, colourful and modular design that invites reconfiguration
Colourful, modular and sculptural, the new interchangeable candles by fledgling brand RE-OR have the totemic qualities of Ugo Rondinone’s land art, the ethereal translucence of Larry Bell’s glass cubes, and the playful possibilities of a children’s stacking toy.
It was the latter that Amsterdam-based design duo BCXSY had in mind when they drew up the initial sketches for the candles, back in 2007. Freshly established and presenting at Milan’s Salone del Mobile for the first time, they introduced a collection titled ‘Play!’, translating childhood motifs and patterns into a grown-up environment. Among the realised designs were a coffee table inspired by a slide puzzle, and a see-saw bookshelf. The candle sadly remained in concept stage: ‘We didn’t manage to get it to look nice, and more importantly, we didn’t manage to get it to work,’ recalls co-founder Boaz Cohen.
Making of the RE-OR interchangeable candle
Happily, the technical challenges of creating such a modular candle – with a sliding mechanism that would allow its geometric elements to be moved around, a wick of just the right width so the flame would burn slowly and steadily, and wax cast from carefully shaped moulds to avoid seams and ensure precise forms – have now been surmounted. This was made possible by the involvement of new partners: creative director (and erstwhile Wallpaper* editor-in-chief) Tony Chambers, communications expert Davide Giordano (formerly of Zaha Hadid Architects), and a fastidious manufacturer based in Shanghai.
The turning point, Cohen recalls, was in 2018, when an intern at BCXSY, Beibei Wu, stumbled upon the sketches and asked if she could help find a producer. Then in spring 2020, just as the pandemic began, Cohen and co-founder Sayaka Yamamoto leafed through their archive with Chambers, who saw the potential in the concept and worked with the duo to refine and realise it. As of today, almost 15 years after its germination, RE-OR is finally on the market, available for direct sale in time for the holidays.
Each RE-OR candle comprises five elements. The white cylindrical candle in the centre is tapered towards the bottom so the other four elements can slide in and out, or remain in place as desired. These four elements come in striking geometric shapes: a wider cylinder, a sphere, a truncated pyramid, and a cuboid, each with an aperture so it can be inserted into the central candle. The user is invited to assemble the geometric elements in any order they wish, and then take the candle apart and reassemble it as often as they like, creating any one of 48 possible silhouettes.
‘One of the things we value most, and often try to achieve in our work, is the bond between the user and the product,’ explain Cohen and Yamamoto. ‘If you buy a normal candle, however beautiful it is, you would place it somewhere and that’s it. But because of the modular nature of RE-OR, you have to assemble it at least once, so you get involved with it in a way you normally would not with a candle, which reflects our perspective towards design.’
First-edition RE-OR candles come in five whimsically named colourways: Sir Gregory Grey (varying shades of grey), Wilhelmina White (pure white but with a bright pink central piece), Notorious RGB (the three additive primary colours, plus a bright yellow), and the self-explanatory Percy Pastel and CMYKay. Naturally, acquiring the full set would give the user the widest range of possibilities for configuration, promising many hours of contemplation and play.
As Cohen, Yamamoto and Chambers perfected the design in 2020, Wu was back in her native China looking for a suitable manufacturer. ‘It turned out that nobody in Europe had the expertise,’ says Chambers. ‘We were lucky to find this manufacturer in Shanghai that was really enthusiastic from the moment they saw our project. They really believed in it, and invested a lot in research and development.’
Importantly, the RE-OR candles rely not only on precise technology, but also sophisticated handicraft. The partners wanted the surfaces to be as polished as possible, but not so much that they appear sterile: ‘If you go to the cheapest shops and buy a spherical candle, the form would likely appear more perfect than ours, because those are mass-produced and pressed into metal [rather than silicone] moulds,’ says Cohen.
‘Our candles may come with very slight blemishes from time to time, as a result of handcrafting, and we like that – they are unique and they have more soul,’ concurs Chambers.
The manufacturer called on its sister factory to create the recyclable cardboard packaging for the candles, ingeniously designed so as to avoid the use of glue. Meanwhile, the branding and visual communication was done by Chambers’ creative agency, TC & Friends. The wordmark is set in Styrene, a sans-serif by Ilya Ruderman, Berton Hasebe and Commercial Type, which has the same simple elegance as the candles themselves. The graphics on the cardboard boxes, silkscreened in a pure white with hand-applied colour stickers, share a similar aesthetic while conveying a gentle sense of humour (the visuals that accompany the legally mandated safety notices – ‘Keep away from children and pets’, for example – are a delight). ‘It’s about getting the most from the least,’ says Chambers.
The launch campaign, shot by photographer Rick Guest, includes images and video footage of the candles artfully burning down as though a wax sculpture by Urs Fischer (because each candle has a burn time of 30 hours, Guest had to do a five-day marathon shoot). It’s proof that RE-OR’s candles are not only a beauty to behold, but a joy to use too. With the first edition available in limited quantities, we recommend buying your set now. §