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"Mass of Time," A Beautiful Instrument That Lets You Touch Time

Since 2009, the design studio Kacper Hamilton (named for its young founder) has worked on a range of products and installations, including visual merchandising concepts for Louis Vuitton and the luxury crystal manufacturer Baccarat. More recently, the studio has begun to produce a selection of limited edition products conceived and designed in-house. Their whimsical and sometimes surrealist designs draw upon popular culture and, more frequently, drinking culture. (Case in point: the studio produced a sleek set of unstable port glasses inspired by the classical British story of the Bishop of Norwich.)

Compared to the studio's other exercises in product design, "Mass of Time" stands out for its utilitarian qualities and more quiet investigation into a theory, in this case, of time. At a minimum, the piece combines elements from two long-used methods of timekeeping: a system of weights (recalling the early weight-driven mechanical clocks of the 13th century) and the use of sand, as in the hourglass, a device that traces its roots at least to the early 1st century. According to Kacper Hamilton, the instrument also references a ceremony depicted in the "Papyrus of Ani" in an Ancient Egyptian text called The Book of the Dead. In this ceremony, the subject's heart is weighed against a feather to determine his fate in the afterlife.

In "Mass of Time," these concepts ?mythical and historical ?are deconstructed, reconsidered, and applied to a more tangible method of timekeeping. In essence, the user of this instrument can touch and feel time as solid matter.

The instrument consists of a brass frame that holds a borosilicate glass vessel. A weighing device, also constructed from brass, is suspended from this frame with two dishes on either end. Three machined aluminum weights are included with the device, each corresponding to a specific measurement of time ?3, 5, or 10 minutes. Placing a weight, or a combination thereof, on the dish held by three chains establishes a time you wish to measure.

At this stage, the scale becomes unbalanced and a blue hand at the top of the scale will skew to one side.

To set everything in motion, a stopper on the borosilicate glass vessel must be opened, causing the sand to flow at an even rate directly into the dish underneath the vessel. As sand fills the dish, the scale will slowly equalize, causing the blue hand at the top to return to its central position, illustrating that the established time period has elapsed.

All of the components in "Mass of Time," from the ebonized oak base to the geometric aluminum weights, are crafted and assembled in London, England. The components are delivered in a kit (requiring assembly) and the instrument measures 73 cm in width by 50 cm in height (and 30 cm in depth) when fully constructed.

"Mass of Time" was commissioned by Clarks (yes, that Clarks) and The Halo Trust. It premieres at the Design Shanghai exhibition beginning today, and will travel to other design fairs, including the Salone del Mobile in Milan and Frieze Art Fair in New York, before wrapping up its tour at three fairs in London.

Only one instrument has been made, and in the winter of 2015 it will be auctioned in London with all proceeds donated to The Halo Trust Charity (a UK-based organization committed to removing "explosive remnants of war" (like mines) from communities around the world).

For more information, visit Kacper Hamilton online.

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