April 8, 2007
Swept away by Jesus
A design firm’s brush with Christianity:
Cleanliness, as the saying goes, is next to godliness. But combine these two virtues into a single product and some consumers may take offense.
That is the lesson Ian Stallard, a partner in the London design firm FredriksonStallard, has learned from creating the Cross brushes, a set of cleaning tools shaped like Christianity’s most sacred symbol. “Some people have become very upset about it,” said Mr. Stallard, recalling a number of vitriolic e-mail messages his company has received. The negative feedback doesn’t really bother Mr. Stallard and his collaborator, Patrik Fredrikson. The Cross brushes were meant to provoke controversy, although the designers say that blasphemy was never their goal.
… The brushes were inspired by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “There was all this religious hysteria at the time,” Mr. Stallard said. In response, he and Mr. Fredrikson planned a series of seven to nine brushes, shaped like the world’s best-known symbols of faith, including the Islamic crescent and Judaism’s Star of David. But the designers ultimately decided to make only the cross, in part because of its simplicity, but also because it seemed like the symbol least likely to cause an uproar.
“I find that Christianity is the most accepting and forgiving religion, generally,” said Mr. Stallard. “I think Christianity may be a little bit more open to criticism.”
FredriksonStallard commissioned a brush maker in rural England to make two one-of-a-kind versions of their designs: an oak brush with pig bristles and a cast-iron brush with steel bristles.
In 2003, the firm exhibited these products at 100 Percent Design, a trade show in London. A representative from Citizen:Citizen, a San Francisco distributor of imaginative products, loved the brushes and worked out a deal with Mr. Fredrikson and Mr. Stallard to produce them in the United States.
… Citizen:Citizen wound up producing and selling two versions of the Cross brushes. One is intended for scouring tiles and tubs; it went on sale in May 2005. The other is meant for removing lint and hair from clothes; it was introduced a year later. (The cast-iron version, initially envisioned as a boot cleaner, never went into production.) Both brushes are available through Citizen-Citizen.com — the scouring brush for $128 and the lint remover for $95.
Mr. Stallard said that he didn’t know how many brushes had been sold, but that he was surprised by the products’ popularity among religious consumers.
“People have told us that they’ve bought it because they like having a Christian artifact,” he said.
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