Shining levels: Swarovski to unveil crystal totem at V&A for London Design Festival

Zotem is an 18m tall sculpture embedded with bespoke Swarovski crystals.
Swarovski presents its latest collaboration, this time with London-based Norwegian designer Kim Thomé: Zotem is an 18m tall sculpture embedded with bespoke Swarovski crystals. Photography: Mark Cocksedge
(Image credit: Mark Cocksedge)

Fresh from the three collaborative crystal interpretations shown at Design Miami/ Basel (opens in new tab), Swarovski (opens in new tab) now presents its latest tie-in, this time with the Norwegian designer Kim Thomé (opens in new tab)Zotem is an 18m tall sculpture embedded with bespoke Swarovski crystals, to be unveiled at London's Victoria and Albert Museum on 19 September.

The double-sided monolith will be placed in the museum’s entrance as a defacto landmark for the London Design Festival (for which the V&A acts as a central hub). As with projects previously placed in this area, Zotem will encourage visitors to peer into the ceramics galleries upstairs and further explore different rooms of the building and its architecture.

‘When I first asked about the space that we would be using, I went up to the ceramics floor,’ explains Thomé, ‘I had always found it quite hard to get up there, even though it’s one of my favorite places in the V&A. For me it was important that the motions of the crystal patterns actually lead your eye upwards.’ 

His piece consists of a matte black aluminum structure cut into a geometric grid pattern, framing over 600 Swarovski crystals to create an enchanting, prismatic effect. A roll of printed mesh will continuously move inside the frame, creating dynamic colour action as the natural light shines through the sculpture and is refracted and reflected by the crystals. The elusive name of the project is a conflation of 'totem' and 'zoetrope', highlighting the work’s shape and its movement (a zoetrope being a rudimentary 19th century animation device and early precursor to film proper, the movement of which is similar to that of Thomé’s contraption). 

‘I am a big fan of basic linear patterns,’ explains the designer, whose work often features geometric use of bold colours. 'I was interested in using prismatic colours, all the colours of the rainbow. I just wanted to put the colours back into the crystals.’ He likens the final result to a chandelier's refractions of light, but enhanced, highlighted and transformed into a dancing show of colour. 

The designer calls his work ‘a basic optical illusion’, with which he would like to puzzle and confuse his audience. ‘I’d like them to try to engage with it and see how this concept works,’ he explains. ‘I’d also like them to come away having been on the sixth floor of the V&A and amazed by the crystal. That's the main part of it.’

Two images. Left, double-sided monolith at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Right, a man sitting in an art studio.

The double-sided monolith will be unveiled at the Victoria and Albert Museum on 19 September. Placed in the museum’s entrance, and it will serve as a defacto landmark for the London Design Festival. Photography: Mark Cocksedge

(Image credit: Mark Cocksedge)

A wall with many art and craft related items hanging from it.

‘I am a big fan of basic linear patterns,’ explains the designer, whose work often features geometric use of bold colours. ‘I was interested in using prismatic colours, all the colours of the rainbow. I just wanted to put the colours back into the crystals.’ Photography: Mark Cocksedge

(Image credit: Mark Cocksedge)

Pencil designs and geometry calculations in an open book.

The project was the result of Thomé's visit to Swarovski's headquarters in Wattens, where he explored the possibilities of designing in crystal. Photography: Mark Cocksedge

(Image credit: Mark Cocksedge)

A man sitting in an art studio.

The Norwegian designer at his studio in London. A work in progress of Zotem can be seen behind him. Photography: Mark Cocksedge 

(Image credit: Mark Cocksedge )

Two images of Zotem which consists of a matte black aluminum structure cut into a geometric grid pattern, framing over 600 Swarovski crystals to create an enchanting, prismatic effect.

Zotem consists of a matte black aluminum structure cut into a geometric grid pattern, framing over 600 Swarovski crystals to create an enchanting, prismatic effect. Photography: Mark Cocksedge

(Image credit: Mark Cocksedge)

A sketch of Thomé's initial ideas, showing his exploration around the shapes of crystal and their reflective, refractive properties.

A sketch of Thomé's initial ideas, showing his exploration around the shapes of crystal and their reflective, refractive properties. Photography: Mark Cocksedge

(Image credit: Mark Cocksedge)

A round mirrored object next to a piece of paper with a colourful triangular pattern on it on a wooden table.

The designer calls his work ‘a basic optical illusion’, with which he would like to puzzle and confuse his audience. ‘I’d like them to try to engage with it and see how this concept works,’ he explains. Photography: Mark Cocksedge

(Image credit: Mark Cocksedge)

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.