"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
When Israeli designer Izhar Gafni heard that someone built a usable, watertight canoe out of cardboard, one thought began to obsess him: What about a cardboard bike? The result is the world’s first paper bicycle, an uber-efficient, beautifully designed, and eminently sustainable tool that could change transportation the world over.
Gafni’s final product, a striking cycle painted in lacquered, waterproof white with a bright red seat, costs just $9 to $12 in materials ($5 for a kids version), weighs 20 pounds, and supports a total weight of up to 485 pounds. They key to the bike’s design is that paper’s strength increases exponentially as it’s folded — Gafni compares it to origami, noting, “if you fold it once, it’s almost three times the strength.”
The impact that the bike’s design could have is hard to underestimate. The project, which Gafni is currently raising funding for, could put wheeled transportation in the hands of those who couldn’t otherwise afford it. The $9 bike reminds me of the XO One Laptop Per Child project, which designed a cheap, accessible, Internet-enabled laptop for just $199 and created a program in which buyers could purchase an extra computer to send to children in third-world countries. Could we soon see a rash of high-design cardboard bikes taking over the streets of both New York City and rural India?
Check out a video of Gafni designing, molding, and riding his cardboard bike below.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)
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