For a visual primer on how crystals refract light, look no further than the cover for Dark Side of the Moon. When light enters the prism, it slows down to different wavelengths and different colors emerge from the opposite side. Designers Thomas Vailly and Laura Lynn Jansen harnessed this natural phenomenon in 101.86°, a project that artificially recreates the natural properties of a particular crystal that’s apparently only found in the highlands of Iceland.
“The Vikings used its light-polarizing property to tell the direction of the sun on cloudy days for navigational purposes,” Jansen says. “Using the stone and the naked eye, the polarization of Arctic sunlight can be detected and the direction of the sun identified to within a few degrees in both cloudy and twilight conditions.”
Vailly and Jansen worked with scientists at the Museum Boerhaave to study the crystal’s characteristics. After viewing it under a microscope, the translated its optical properties, the beauty of all the different geometric shapes and crazy colors into a larger scale with 101.86°. The clear, treated glass refracts light so that when the sheets are layered, different hues emerge. Rotate the glass and, like a kaleidoscope, the colors morph right away.
While this is a sublimely gorgeous aesthetic exercise, Vailly and Jansen have thoughtfully applied the material technology into a functional and marketable product: a clock that tells time through color. As the hands move throughout the day, they constantly produce new, mesmerizing combinations.
“It has a magnetic or hypnotic effect, every time you look at it, it’s different,” Jansen says. “Almost like an up-scaled laboratory petri dish, the clock translates research into the natural phenomenon from a mineral to a minimal object.”
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