Talking Sustainable Design, Music and More With Cremacaffè

We’ve recently been testing Cremacaffè wooden stands and dust covers (see our Cremacaffè review). At ANR we’ve been actually following Cremacaffè’s work since some years already, and I took this opportunity to ask Andrea and Elisa a few questions about their path in the world of creative sustainability.

– Please tell us more about your background and the beginnings of Cremacaffè. I’ve read that your background is a pretty mixed one, where Finland meets Sicily (Italy). It sounds like a great adventure…

Elisa: Experiencing something that is so different from your native culture and nature, trying for some years to fit in, work, learn the language, study again – that redefines you and gives you new eyes when you go back. There is going to be much more that simply didn’t exist before, and that is where opportunities arise, right?
We took from Finland the can-do attitude: with the right amount of studying, and prototyping, and a little luck, you will eventually succeed in sharing your vision and creating something new.
We developed our first stand, the SPIKE, during our holidays in Sicily. It was just so easy and relaxed to come here and go to the laser workshop, where the owners would let us prototype for as long as we needed. Lots of coffee breaks in between, under the sun – and there you go with a name for the company, “Cremacaffè”! We wanted something that would express this easy-going feeling. Fun for body and soul, as our designs are intended to be.
When the SPIKE was ready, it was a new concept: a wooden, collapsible stand, no screws needed, compatible with more than 100 different devices. We presented it at the Helsinki Design week in 2014. Synthtopia found us, and wrote an article. From the beginning, customers from the US were the vast majority, therefore it was clear that ours was going to be a location independent job. We concluded that working from Sicily would provide us with the kind of freedom we needed at the beginnings of our small company, and moved back.
If you wish to see a little more of where and how we work now, here is a video we made last spring for Aalto Sustainability Day in Helsinki.

About our own background:
Andrea: I’m an IT and marketing specialist in the music field. I have been working for Roland in Milano, owned three recording studios between Italy and Malta, then worked for Genelec in Finland. I’m an entrepreneurial person, I love to draw and make music, preferably collaborating with others.
Elisa: I am an architect, I have been working in Italy and mostly in Malta (regeneration projects for the historical waterfront areas) then followed Andrea to Finland (in Malta he used to complain about the hot weather all the time!). I took up studying again there: Creative Sustainability at Aalto University, which is a mix of Design and Business with an eco-systems approach. I love to draw.

All of this somehow makes a very good skill-set for our company, although we would have never imagined anything like that was coming – Cremacaffè evolved organically, and circumstances really pushed us to insist and resist, until a simple idea became something real.

– Wood seems to be your favorite material. What’s behind its choice, and do you see yourself working with different materials such as metal or 3D-printed polymers in the future?

Music is a sensory experience, and we are bringing a tactile and olfactory quality to it, as the wooden stands sides are being burned through laser-cutting. This, and the process of assembling the stand yourself, contributes to take you to another place, where you are inspired, and music making is everything. So, yes, wood is our choice. It was also the best balance considered purpose of our designs, place of production, life cycle.

I find that 3D-printing has still too much environmental impact to achieve similar results, although I love the process of 3D sculpting itself, and hopefully will apply it in the future to our designs. Similar environmental and cost-efficiency considerations apply to metal: we do not mass produce, therefore we have to be super conscious when it comes to these matters, for the benefit of Cremacaffè Customers and ourselves. Besides, isn’t it nice when you enter a room and it smells of wood?

SPIKE XL stand with the Vermona Perfourmer MKII

– Let’s talk ergonomics, often a neglected topic and yet a fundamental one. Your stands certainly embody the attention you have towards it. Can you tell us more about it, and also what are your tips on the subject for our fellow musicians?

Elisa: In studio and when on the move, remember that your gear is mostly designed for portability, not ergonomics. Yet you need to feel good with your body. That makes a difference between feeling recharged, or drained, at the end of a music making session. Our stands provide more than one angle, and are portable, to ease this process. You need different angles depending on the task: if your eyes are doing most of the job, then we recommend 30-60-90 degrees. If you use keys, angles between 10 and 15 degrees will make your wrists comfortable. If it’s pads and knobs, it can go up to 30 and 60 degrees depending on the style of playing. That’s why we want to provide as much flexibility as possible. Changing position once in a while is good.

Andrea loves to play outdoors, and that was the primary reason for us to design collapsible stands. When designing your music cave, or just setting up your gear in a café, keep your body in mind. Make everything revolve around the most comfortable and fun height for your wrists, your eyes, your neck.

– Besides your standard catalog, you also offer customizable designs. Can you tell us more about this (possibly with some examples from your previous creations), and what is the weirdest request you had so far?

Communicating with Steeezo to make a custom case/stand for his 5 OP-1 was fun. We were writing between Sicily and Japan, I would send him a picture of the beach and he would send back a picture of Mount Fuji, and in between: “I want a stand like a lunch box”!
The “lunch box”, it took me some minutes to understand, refers to the beauty and practicality of Japanese bento boxes, which are very compact yet open up to reveal a full-blown meal with all the little details. So we made a rack like a bento box, which works as a compact carrying case to hold in place all the OP-1s when closed, opening up in seconds to get the whole battery ready for action! The carrying bag was hand-sewn using the concept of Japanese bento boxes too, with part of the stand doubling up as a handle.

Another interesting project was the one for Schtang, where I took inspiration from his Medusa-like locks to draw a 3D graffiti of him on all the sides of his custom SPIKE XL.

We also have Customers who are very talented artists, and we have been engraving their own art and logos on our stands. The precision of laser etching is a delight to watch, and it is always nice to think that somewhere in the world there is a unique design which was made at our workshop.

– I see your website now features a loops and samples section, featuring content from your user community (like the track above). I guess Cremacaffè wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the musical instruments and the actual music they help to create. Can you tell us more about your music making activities and your favorite artists?

Andrea: My father is the one who taught me how to play keyboard; he would write the notes on the keys with a marker, to help me create my first melodies, around the age of six. Since then I developed a passion for electronic instruments and enjoyed experimenting with different genres. I discovered computer music thanks to a DOS program called Sound Club, at a friend’s place. Quite soon I moved to the more complex and rewarding Fast Tracker II, where I made plenty of Mods; during those years I used similar softwares on a Commodore Amiga too. Later on and since then my sequencer of choice has become Cubase, even though I spent quite some time on Reason as well. Nowadays I prefer to stay away from the computer when relaxing and making music; I find myself more creative and focused within the “single box music” boundaries; hardware limitations enhance creativity! e.g. two of my favorite machines which embody that concept are the Korg Electribe MX and the Elektron Digitakt.

Elisa and I listen to a lot of music and different artists. Since a few years I fell in love with Nick Drake’s music, and currently I really like Laura Marling and The Notwist. We love discovering indie artists too; Cremacaffè Loops & Samples was born thanks to the connection between us and our supporters; soon there will be music albums too 😉

– What should we expect next from Cremacaffè?

We want to see our music-making community people in person! We are working at our Casa Cremacaffè in Scicli, Sicily, a place to relax and enjoy all the things we love most, music & design included.
Besides that, there are more stands in the making, and definitely more digital art projects coming up which revolve around music and illustration. Something new is coming up very soon, in the realm of fun music stuff. If you have a collaboration in mind, we are open for suggestions!