Can it!

In Danish, the function of opening and closing is called “vipp,” which is also the name of a design company that’s been producing iconic pedal bins since 1939. To celebrate their 70th anniversary, Vipp has partnered with Design Within Reach to hold a charity auction that will benefit DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS). Being auctioned are 35 Vipp bins that have been customized by Ralph Lauren, David Rockwell, Calvin Klein, Nigel Barker, Yoko Ono and others.

While you can’t rub elbows with these celebs at the actual auction (it’s by invitation only) there are two other ways you can participate: Five bins are on eBay, and through October 28, all 35 bins are on display and available for bidding at the DWR: Tools for Living in SoHo. And I don’t want to make your head explode or anything (thus, needing a bin for a beastly task) but the SoHo store also has a new window design by artist Mike Perry.

Of the 35 bins, the award for the farthest-flying Vipp goes to Michael Aram, who sent the bin to his workshop in India to be transformed into a golden pear.

A Vipp Bin in size medium at left, and a Vipp Bin transformed by Michael Aram into a Golden Pear at right. (Pear photo courtesy of Christian Larsen.)

“In the world of mythology,” says Aram, “pears represent bounty and gluttony. What’s more perfect for a receptacle of waste than a golden symbol of excess?” Sporting an oxidized bronze stem (the leaf was lost in transit), the brass body was hand-hammered from the inside to give it the somewhat nubby texture of a real pear. Perhaps, however, it was a bit too realistic, as the bin ended up stuck in Customs when it was deemed a botanical and flagged as a possible restricted item for entry into the U.S. Fortunately, the Homeland Security folks didn’t blow up the suspected Trojan Pear, but I’m guessing that at least one of them jumped when they pressed on the pedal and popped open the top.

From a symbol of gluttony to an example of what’s at stake if we do not curtail our habits, the Vipp bin customized by Nigel Barker is wrapped in a photograph he took when he spent two weeks on the ice in northern Canada.

Nigel Barker, and a Vipp Bin wrapped in his photograph titled “Frozen Cauldron.” (Nigel’s portrait courtesy of Nigel Barker LLC. Photograph of customized bin courtesy of Christian Larsen.)

Barker took this photo in 2007 when he went to investigate the horrors of seal hunting. Since then, there have been significant changes, including strong bans on seal product trade, thanks to the efforts of the Humane Society. The seals, however, are still at risk. A few years ago, the ice melted earlier than usual and hundreds of thousands of baby seals drowned because they were not old enough to swim. The concept behind Barker’s Vipp bin is that it provokes the user to think about the climactic effects of waste before throwing something away. He selected his photo “Frozen Cauldron” because “it’s beautiful, and yet the ice also looks a bit angry, as if Mother Nature has something in store for us.”

David Stark with his Vipp bin transformed into a cactus. (Photo courtesy of Christian Larsen.)

To appease Ma Nature, designer David Stark used a material that is normally seen as trash to create his Cactus bin. Made of simple cardboard, the cactus was hand assembled out of 279 individual and uniquely shaped laser-cut pieces. When asked about his inspiration, Stark said, “it was a trip to Arizona and the various sculptural forms of cacti throughout the landscape, along with my ongoing interest in turning everyday unsung materials (including trash) into extraordinary objects.”

The fact that Stark chose a cactus – a plant covered in sharp thorns – is also interesting. As if to remind people that there can be painful consequences to the items we throw away. Congratulations to all the designers who participated in this special event for DIFFA.

Gwendolyn Horton

P.S. To see a Vipp bin transformed into a xylophone, click here, and to see a video of the Can It! exhibit in SoHo, click on the video below.