Material Thrills: Trompe-l’œil edition

Published August 25, 2009 by Molly

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It’s the trope that never dies. Humans are eternally stoked to find that things aren’t what they seem. Trompe-l’œil is appealing in any format, whether it be 17th century Viennese frescoes, t-shirts printed to look like tuxedos, meatloaf designed to look like birthday cake or candles crafted to resemble sushi.*

What happens when you combine eye-trickery with wit and a nod to sustainable design? Strictly 21-st century inventions like the We Are Happy To Serve You cup (above left), a no-nonsense ceramic vessel that replicates the classic NYC deli cup.

Unlike the disposable originals, the faux-cup has a solid weight to it, and it’s fun to register the surprise when you hand it to a friend who expects the flimsy paper original.

On a similar tip there’s also MoMA’s tote bag (above right), a sturdy item designed to look exactly like Charles Stillwell’s Flat Bottomed Brown Paper Grocery Bag, which he patented in 1883. Up close MoMA’s bag is made of synthetic material, but from afar it looks like an oddly supple grocery bag. Carry it as your own personal secret–an illusion to reveal to the chosen few.

*We’re using a loose definition of trompe-l’œil, here. You know what we mean.

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