Exclusive: The Condom Shaped Lamps of Jan Vacek
Have any of you ever felt a noticeable lack of contraceptive-inspired housewares in your living room? For those that have, we’re thrilled to introduce you to Jan Vacek, a Czech artist and designer who immediately caught our attention with brightly colored LED lamps crafted in the shape of condoms. Being that this is a design one does not come across too frequently, we reached out to Jan to learn just what inspired him to make illumination out of everyone’s favorite/least favorite sexual accessory. He had plenty to say and more on the genesis of this project, as well as a brief history on sexuality in the home, and his romantic affectations for Nicole Kidman.
It’s hard to pin down exact sources of inspiration, but how exactly did you come up with the idea for condom shaped lamps?
The condom caught my attention as a controversial object…as an arbitrary shape, which is finite, immutable. It can have different decors and surface structures, yet the shape will always remain the same as it simply cannot be different. As a symbol of life, it protects, but also as a symbol of life, it prevents. As a means of choice of freedom, the freedom to choose. The content of the condom tip captures life, similarly, light is vital for life which is the reason why the tips of condoms shine – hand cut tips have different decors the same way as different genetic information is captivated in the tip. This is why I thought of using a condom as a light. I do believe that the idea is best described by the words “ICON – CONDOM – FREEDOM”. I wanted the condom to have more aspects and meanings, but to keep it in its orthodox form, so the shape is evident and understandable at first sight. For me, personally, the condom is a symbol of freedom and freedom is fragile – so is glass. Besides, glass processing is a traditional industry in the Czech Republic. Czech glass is considered to be the best in the world.
What’s the construction process for these lamps like? Do you do it all yourself?
Not only the construction of the light itself, but also the development of the optimal technology for making the glass shapes was done hand in hand with the manufacturer, the Czech company Clartés. It was a by the books example of cooperation between a designer and a manufacturer – the perfect state of continuous dialogue resulting into a symbiosis at the level of feelings as well as opinions. The fact that the manufacturer has its own glassworks – all components were made and completed in one place and no subcontracting was necessary except for LED sources – was of great advantage.I think they really enjoyed it, especially the glassmakers who blew the shape into the mold, who will remember my design for a long time.
This series of lamps, as well as your previous collection Wood-Oo are both very playful…is it important to be playful in the world of design?
I cannot say whether it is important or not and in any case, it can hardly be planned in advance – I cannot imagine designing something with an idea of “playfulness” sitting somewhere at the back of my head. Personally, I do like this kind of thing – not only when things are playful, but also when they sport some hyperbole, something light and a point of view which is unusual. At the end of the day, adult people are in fact still children, only grown up and gradually transformed from a carefree life into the hectic and cruel reality. We are forced to live in an environment full of fight and violence which surrounds us and accompanies us wherever we go. These are the reasons why we constantly seek escape paths, we want to forget for a moment and become these carefree children again; we want to play, smile and have fun.
How long have you been a part of the art world? Did you receive any formal training?
I graduated from the Technical University in Zvolen with a degree in furniture design and from the Faculty of Architecture at the Technical University in Bratislava in interior design. Both of these universities are situated in Slovakia so when, back in 1993, Czechoslovakia fell apart, I, as a matter of fact, studied abroad. Right after the graduation, I started working in an architectural studio in Prague. After a year I quit the job and became a freelancer. In 2011 I and Martin Šmíd set up a studio “KDOMAZIDLIBYDLI” and ever since that time we have been designing under the brand “VACEK & SMID”. We design mainly interior articles such as furniture and lights, but also interior units – flats, restaurants, shops and so on.
Do you think that there is a place for sexuality in home décor?
Already in prehistoric wall paintings in caves, which were home to Neanderthal man, one can notice sexual motifs and inspirations. These form a natural part of environment in which we live, be it unintentionally or intentionally. You only need to engage a bit of your imagination when observing surroundings and you will find countless cases ranging from small-sized utility objects to large-scale architecture. However, we can also see it from the other point of view; manufacturers of sex toys are competing with each other in toys´ originality. These objects with clearly expressed purpose and function are approached as high-end design objects. They are beautiful. However, you do not necessarily recognize the way they are used at first sight.
What sort of home do you imagine the ‘condom lamp’ appearing in?
The Condom Light is a decorative and object lighting which is not supposed to be the main illuminating element of any area. Therefore I see it as a useful piece for public interiors, e. g. bars, coffee houses, clubs, etc. Within the scope of living space (flat), I can see it in a bedroom, but I do not want to plan for people where it should or should not be placed. I prefer to leave this to everyone’s imagination.
Is there a particular artist or designer you think is particularly exceptional?
There have always been many exceptional artists, designers or architects. When it comes to real breakthroughs and pieces of art, they have always been related to architecture, constructions, new technologies and their application – e.g. Mies van der Rohe or the German Bauhaus. I admire and respect exceptional deeds which come hand in hand with exceptional stories of their authors – e.g. the construction of the TV transmitter Ještěd in Liberec, Czech Republic by the architect Hubáček and the SIAL architecture studio – it’s a strong story of will, conviction, hard work and perseverance.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, alive/dead, real/fictional, who would you invite over for dinner?
That would be a long long list. Well some, I would prefer more than others. I like fighters, rebels and visionaries, so – Jesus Christ, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Leonardo da Vinci, Petr Parléř, Kazimir Malevich, H. R. Giger… and if it was to be a visual experience as well, I would go for Nicole Kidman. For me, she is a beautiful and charismatic woman. Let’s hope she reads this and gives me a ring. If I was to choose one person only, I would pick up my dad. He died last year and I feel like there are many things we have not been able to talk about together.
Do you think the condom will be around forever?
I do not doubt it. Well, I can imagine that the condom as such will be substituted by some sort of a spray for examples, but it will still be a symbol of protection and freedom and our civilization nowadays very well understands the meaning and importance of these terms for us and also for future generations.