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BREAD&ROSES low-tech ideas for a hi-tech world STEWART TODD SMITH

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Low tech ideas and products designed by Stewart Todd Smith


  • BREAD&ROSESlow-tech ideas for a hi-tech world

    StEwARt tODD Smith

  • BREAD&ROSESlow-tech ideas for a hi-tech world

    StEwARt tODD Smith

  • I am not a professional industrial designer. I have, however, been fortunate to have known people who, by example, have given me a sense of good design. My father, Alden Smith was graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago during the mid 30s when former Bauhaus designers were teaching and practicing there. His MFA degree resulted from a thesis on Japanese architecture having traveled to Japan and India for two years on a Fulbright grant. Dad was a sculptor, architect, industrial designer, master calligrapher, and craftsman par excellence. He had a high regard for tools and he knew how to use them. His various studios in Detroit were filled with the latest and greatest power and hand tools as well as tools he fabricated to facilitate the production of his large scale wood, plastic and metal sculpture. He also designed and produced all kinds of furniture and table lamps including commercially produced pieces like stainless steel painting and drawing easels that were virtually indestructible. On rare occasions he bombed out. The steel frame chairs in our living room with eight inch upholstered foam seats and backs were, shall we say, a conversation piece. Dad was also chairman of the art department at Wayne State University which meant I grew up knowing a lot of artists and art teachers. Detroit in the 50s and early 60s was a vibrant place for design and craft.

    I moved to New York in 1964 on a 4-year scholarship to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I majored in graphic arts and photography and graduated Cum Laude in 1968. My first real job after graduating was with a manufacturing company in Queens. Berkey Technical Corporation was a conglomerate of several formerly independent mid-sized but well known professional photography equipment makers. Berkeys industrial designer, Jim Aneshansley, also a Pratt grad, hired me as a graphic designer and assistant. My job consisted mainly of package and logo design and display panel layouts on the various units of equipment we produced. Since my job required interacting with several departments, I was able to freely move around the factory so that I could watch and talk with engineers, machinists, and assembly workers. This was form follows function design in the extreme, and Jims clean and thoughtful approach to design made a strong impression on me. One lesson I got from Jim was that there is very little glamour in the nuts and bolts of getting things made. He used to say that 95% of his job was figuring out cost efficient ways of manufacturing. The other 5% was spent on the luxury of aesthetics.

    left: G.Alden Smith at work in his studio c.1960cover photo: mold forms and prototypes for various plant sconcesopposite title page: Plow designed by the authors great grandfatherabove: todd Smith and his wife Debbie Foster

    In 1981 I left the corporate world in NYC and moved to Concord, Hew Hampshire where I established myself as a freelance graphic designer. I chose Concord mainly because of a job offer from a good friend who had moved there the previous year. Richard Kathmann, an artist, historian and fellow Pratt grad was uniquely qualified to transform what was in 1979 a neglected remnant of a 19th century Shaker village into a well attended and well maintained museum. During my ten years as graphic designer and photographer for Shaker Village I was exposed to a good deal of Shaker culture and developed a high regard for all things Shaker. The Shakers were brilliant inventors and skilled craftsmen and their simple aesthetic remains uniquely timeless.

    This is a sketchbook of both produced and unproduced ideas for a variety of products. Some are useful and even life-supporting, others purely whimsical. Although some of the objects in this collection have gone into commercial production, most of them exist as only ideas or prototypes. Needless to say, I would be delighted to see any of them mass produced and marketed. If you have the interest and the means to make this happen, please contact me to discuss the possibilites.

    [email protected]

    Stewart Todd SmithAsheville, NC, 2013


  • Philosophy

    Over the past century the top soil in this country and in the world has eroded dramatically. Greed, fueled by technology has led to short sided management and environmental disaster. Our arrogant fascination with the alchemy of science has produced machines and drugs that prolong life but do not improve health. We live longer but with less vitality and our stressful lives have become increasingly prone to immune deficiencies, cancers, chronic fatigue and a host of psychological problems. We are slowly sterilizing and weakening our biochemical environmentour bloodwith food made from genetically altered vegetables designed to be dependent upon chemical fertilizers. Our bodies are the product of our soil. The food we eat is literally the medium for transmuting soil, air, sunlight and water into blood, flesh and bone. As the minerals in the soil get used up, dispersed and depleted or replaced with chemical fertilizers, our bodies, dependent upon a precise balance of those minerals, suffer the consequences. Instinctively, people are gradually seeing that things are out of balance. Although it is happening in pockets and spurts, a greater part of society is embracing the idea of prevention, natural medicine, and a healthier lifestyle. But, despite sporadic back-to-the-land movements since the Industrial Revolution I believe we are still under the spell of urban culture. Unconsciously or not, we continue to move off the farm and towardif not the citythe glitter of high technology. Simple, practical solutions to illness are often overlooked because they require a change in belief that seems too radical for most of us to swallow. Even burdened by heavy insurance and medical expenses most people will choose pills and complex hospital treatments over a simple and natural lifestyle. We desperately need to reverse this spiral toward more complexity and the illusion of control over nature.

    Growing vegetables in New England is not an easy task given the obstacles of a harsh climate, limited open land, and the ubiquitous black fly. By providing a gardening system that uses natural economy, we hope to make gardening more easy and productive while benefitting the environment.

    In nature, the environment determines what grows where. Minerals in the soil, moisture level, temperature and sunlight encourage the proliferation of certain plants while discouraging others. Intrinsically economic in their ability to absorb the right nutrients, wild plants grow in broad, often uniform patterns thatnot surprisinglydo not include rows and furrows. And yet, for the most part, we confine the vegetables in our gardens to narrow lines.

    The SeedSow system provides a simple and elegant way to bring natural order back to the garden. By imitating natures design of spreading vegetables uniformly over larger areas, it allows them to grow to their full potential while using far less space. Terraderma answers a call for simplicity. Our system requires very little land, time and energy to grow a worthwhile amount of good food. Hopefully this opportunity will encourage people with busy lives and limited means to spend more time doing what is natural and essential.

    By making organic gardening easy, creative and productive we all move closer to regaining good health. Todd SmithPenacook, NHApril, 1995

    todds garden in Asheville, NC laid out using a SeedSow Roller.


    Eat from your gardencompost excrementREtuRn it to the soil

    Google Humanure

    SuStainabilityis in your hands

  • History

    The concept for SeedSow came to me after weeding my carrots of young shoots of grass. After pulling out half of them I discover the weeds were in fact baby carrot shoots. A little ticked off, I turned my attention to the lettuce and noticed that there were big gaps between some plants and too many plants bunched together in other places. As a graphic designer, I often use a grid to bring structure to my designs. I got it. Why not lay out my garden in an orderly grid, giving each vegetable its own ideal space to grow in. After a series of impractical or cumbersome inventions, I finally arrived at a simple and elegant tool for making equi-distant impressions in the soil. I then consulted with gardening experts in order to arrive at a grid pattern which accommodates the ideal requirements for practically all vegetables or flowers.


    Each plant has an optimal sphere-of-growth dimension. SeedSow is a tool designed to describe a variety of equally-spaced holes in the ground for seed planting. By either rolling a series of rows or stamping a given area, this tool creates hexagonally patterned holes in grids of either 3, 6, or 12 inches. Selective seeding by alternating holes provides grids in any multiple of 3 inches. See enclosed diagram of grid layouts.


    The Roller is designed for larger garden areas. It is a black plastic cylinder 21" long and 12" in circumference. Plastic pegs are positioned in a grid at 3" intervals around the cylander. When rolled on moist, well-groomed soil, the tool will impress a series of holes suitable for direct sowing. The roller is accompanied by a heavy-duty, welded steel frame and neoprene rubber clad hand-grips which allows for good even-pressured rolling. Suitable for small production farmers or all gardeners who are providing food or flowers for large families or communities on relatively limited land.

    The Rocker consists of a single convex-curved plastic block, 12" x 10 1/2" with pegs laid out in the identical 3 grid. It works in a step-and-repeat manner, each impression adjacent to the next. The Rocker is designed for backyard growers who use flat beds or raised beds.The Rocker will hold the same pegs used in the Roller but the entire product, including the hand grips will be molded from the same die.

  • Below are vegetables categorized by their optimal grid size.

    3 BeetsCarrotsGarlicLeeksOnionsParsleyParsnipsPeasRadishesSalsifyScallionsTurnips

    6 BeansCeleryChardKohlrabiMustard GreensLettuce (thin to 12)RhubarbRutabagasSpinach

    12 AsparagusBroccoliBrussels sproutsCabbageCauliflowerCucumbers (6 or 12)EggplantKaleLettuceMelonsPeppersPotatoesSunflowers

    24 PumpkinSummer SquashWatermelonWinter SquashZucchini

    The Grid

    Key to this system is the grid of soil impressions which define the location of the individual plants in the garden bed. Because root and leaf growth is essentially centrifugal, the ideal environment for each plant is a sphere. So if we want to grow a quantity of excellent vegetables in a limited space, each plant should have its own bubble of air and soil. The down-to-earth application of this a pattern of equalateral triangles producing a grid of points that are equi-distant from one another (See accompanying page with grid layouts). There is, of course, an ideal sphere for each type of vegetable. But virtually any plant will thrive at some multiple of 3. And so both the Roller and Rocker tool press a 3/4 hole at 3 intervals throughout the applied area.

    Hand Seed Drill

    A hand-held device designed to regulate the number of seeds planted in each hole. The funnel on top is filled with seed. The sliding metal rod holds various sized dimples for the appropriate seed. A simple flip of the wrist sends the seed/s down the shute and into the hole.

  • Garden Tool Storage

  • Organizing Tools

    When wall space is not available for hanging, the goal becomes using as little floor space as possible to do the job. My initial design is a box made from molded recycled plastic that can be easily assembled and that ships and stores flat when not in use. The internal walls are slotted house-of-cards style to create a rigid support grid of deep wells. No screws or tools are require for assembly.

    If re-cycled plastic rubs you the wrong way, I offer a plywood and masonite alternative of the same general concept. Opposing exterior plywood walls are lined with notched 2x2 pine on the top and bottom to receive the masonite inner walls. The remaining opposing side walls are then screwed into place.

    The Problem The Solution

  • the Indoor Garden A full range of accessories to accommodate a wide variety of tastes and needs for bringing nature into the home environment.

  • Plant Loop Detail

    Showing metal tab which is welded onto a steel oblong loop. Powder coated.

    The Indoor Garden System

    One of the keys things I learned working with an industri-al designer for many years is the importance of modular design, both for cutting manufacturing costs as well as aesthetic elegance. The more functional variations one can create within a relatively sparce family of elements, the better. Thus, the same wall bracket that holds a plant sconce will also hold a plant shelf, plant loop and plant pod. Most of the components, then, of this Indoor Garden System are interchangeable and/or work harmoniously with each other, including the pots themselves.

    Plant Shelf & Plant Loop System

    The idea here is a modular sytem for creating a broad variety of indoor plant containers. The same wall mounts and arms are utilized to support trays, baskets and shelves. Amd a single mount is used to support a small round pod shelf.

  • Universal Arm

    Powder coated cast metal alloy with machined stainless steel pin insert

    Plant Shelf & Pod

    The plant shelf system is a modular design that accommodates a variety of platforms for holding plants. All units attach to a common bracket and wall mount.

  • Sconce Pots

    One size fits all. Thin-walled porcelain pots designed to fit elegantly into a Plant Sconce saucer, Pod, or Plant Shelf. Glazed in a variety of colors.

  • Universal Plant Stand

    The four styles shown here all function identically. The welded steel plant loop onn the previous page acts as a structural element to the stand as well as a recepticale for various plant containers. The arm, made from cast aluminum slides up and down a central steel rod and is fixed in place with a small set screw.

  • The Plant Sconce

    The Plant Sconce was a comercially successful product that went through a series of early iterations. My first prototype (illustration on right) was a cast peice that reqired some machined details to accomidate the pin wall socket and pressure-fit saucer..The final version (below) utilized a bent steel arm and threaded saucer mount.

  • The Plant Sconce

    A longer version of the plant Sconce was developed soon after using the same saucer and wall socket but with a vertically positioned arm.

    Material: Saucer and wall socket, cast zinc alloy.Arm, 3/8 steel rodPowder coated throughout

  • Indoor Sconce Design Concepts I

  • Sconce Design Concepts II

  • Sconce Design Concepts III

  • Sconce Design Concepts IV

  • Todd [email protected]

    Plant Hoop Variations

    Left page model is made with 1/4 inch rod spot welded to a plate metal mounting bracket. The 2-holed bracket shown along side it would hold a shorter version minus the truss supports. The hoop to the left is and even simpler design using spot welds and plane steel mounting bracket.Above is a cast aluminum version. The pin cylinder at the end fits into a standard Plant Sconce wall bracket

  • Sconce Design Concepts V

  • Less is More

    Plant holder on left page shows two sconce designs - each using a triangulated seat for a pot saucer. Neoprene strips and grommets are used to produce a slightly cushioned contact point allowing for the inherent irregularities in clay pots and saucers.The wall mount is fabricated from steel or aluminum tubing

    The Plant Hoop is sconce that almost isnt there. The steel rim, suspended by 30lb pull nylon cord, fits snugly just below the rim of the pot. Various size rims to accommodate standard pot sizes. Appropriate for outdoor use unless plant is in cashbough type pot.

  • Outdoor Sconces

  • Candlestix

    A modular system that pro-vides a matrix but leaves the ultimate design to the owner. Each piece is center threaded to receive a 1/4 x 20 machine screw which allows easy as-sembly and disassembly.

    Mater al: machined powder coated metal.

    Chess Set

    Cast aluminum, black anodized and glass bead blasted Candle Flame Reflector

    Chrome plated dish and spring metal sleeve coils around various width candles and can be adjusted up and down to parallel flame.

    Candle Snuff

    A simple cast aluminum or brass snuff that sits like an elegant wave

  • Torch Lights

    Utilizing the subtle brilliance of blown glass, the designs are based on natural forms without becoming imitations of specific flowers, etc. In other words, a synthesis of art nouveau and Italian modern. The luminosity level would be regulated by touch sensitive areas recessed into the surface of the brass or hardwood base platforms.

  • Compact Desk Organizer

    For old-school communication or for just paying the monthly bills. Theres ample room in this small footprint block of hardwood to hold paper, envelopes, pens, pencils, markers, paperclips, sticky notes, and stamp roles. Or maybe ever a smart phone.

  • Orbital Clock

    Time is analogue. And the most primal association humans have with time is through observing the orbital and axial movement of the earth, moon and planets in relation to our sun and to the countless stars that make up the 12 houses of the zodiac. In keeping with that idea, I have tried to emphasize the circularity of time with a symbolic sun that orbits the clock face.

    Here I have two options available. The real world versions would obviously require 2 separate clocks. The digital version, however would instantly change for daylight version to nighttime version at the appropriate hour of sunrise and sunset.


  • The physical versions of these clocks carry a rotating transparent circle within a thin translucence plane of either color or gray. As the plane rotates, the circle gradually reveals and highlights each hour. A more traditionally designed brightly colored hand points to the minute.

    Material: silk-screened metal and lucite.

  • Stackable fruit and Vegetable baskets

    A modular and stylish way to keep produce stored with maximum air flow. Units can be stacked to any height via threaded aluminum tubing.

    The baskets are molded recycled plastic screens at-tached to rigid aluminum rims

    Fruit, Salt, & Pill Organizers

  • Yin/Yang Salt & Pepper Shakers

    Keep them together where they belong.

    Extruded and machined aluminum.Anodized

    Supplement Container

    A way to organize supplements for travel. Load each of the sections with the days dose of capsules. The top hemisphere rotates to reveal individual compartments as needed. The center area provides a secret compartment accessed from the bottom.

    Translucent lucite

  • Playing Cards

  • During one of our weekly poker games, my friend Joe produced a deck of cards designed to replicate an early American deck. The cards had no numbers or letters, just the suit symbols arranged in formal patterns. We all hated playing with them.I created my own version with Arabic numerals and added some royalty.

  • Beekers & SnozzlesOK, plastic products are not good for the environment. That said, there are degrees of harm with everything including plastic bottles. Polyethylene terephthalate and High density polyethylene are considered chemically safe but of course are still a post-consumer problem. Hopefully Snozzles and Beekers will be valued, collected and traded, thus minimizing their quick entry into landfills. The container examples Ive shown on these pages are only a suggestion of what is possible. Obviously glass is the gold standard, both for cost and green merit.

  • Beekers

    90% whimsy, 10% practicality., Beekers present a way to add a touch of crazy silliness to all manner of things that pour liquid. On the practical side, the various diameters of the beeks allow the user to control the flow rate of the liquid being poured. The tapered friction ribs are designed to fit a wide variety of bottle tops - glass or otherwise.

    Below are a few holiday specific ideas for Beekers.

  • Snozzles

    Snozzles are a fun way to encourage kids to drink healthy juice beverages and mineral water that can be prepared at home in reusable and recyclable containers. They also are a way in which kids can individually identify their own bottles of water in a world where bottled water is ubiquitous. The container itself is left to the individual consumer , the only restriction being a standard sized thread to accommodated the Snozzle.

    Molded from high density polyethylene, with moving elements that act like a water faucet.

  • Frog Webs

    The important consideration for these swimming aid gloves is the material - prbably some form of latex. The qualities necessary for maximum effectiveness and comfort are strength, suppleness, and ease of use. The web membrane should be somewhat elastic but firm enough to resist inflating under stroke pressure. In other words they should function quite like a frogs hands. I envision 3 or 4 sizes to accommodate most hand sizes.

  • Pinhole Camera

    My first pinhole camera was an oatmeal box loaded with 4 x 5 sheet film, and black masking tape over a pinhole punched through aluminum foil. It worked fine but reloading the film was a pain and without an industrial enlarger I had to settle for contact prints. So I made something more practical. This is an old brass prototype that I built with the help of a sculptor friend in Brooklyn. A 1/4 hole in a thin brass plate slides up and down a narrow sleeve to reveal or cover the tiny pinhole in the body of the camera. 120 or 620 roll film winds through shallow channels in the back plate and the entire film assembly slides into the bottom of the light-tight outer shell. I envision a mass produced version made of molded black plastic with tighter tolerances to insure against light leaks.

    Stable Table

    Is there anything more annoying than a wobbly table - especially a ping-pong table? This simple but extremely stable design employs 2 x 4 planar trusses joined with connector beams. Unfortunately the dimensions of a ping pong table are bigger than 4 x 8 plywood in both dimensions, so two sheets are required for construction. Massive priming and painting is require - even with exterior grade plywood. But, if done well its virtually in destruct able.

  • Chairs

  • Chair Philosophy

    Nature is efficient. And the most structurally efficient shape in nature is the triangle. Wobbly tables in cafes and restaurants have long been a pet peeve. And yet the majority of eateries persist in their four-legged fixation. Whats wrong with these people!.Of course, the same principle can be applied to chairs and stools, and so I offer here several stable solutions to the problem of seating.

    Plywood chair

    My goal was to create an inexpensive Eames-type chair that could be assembled with a few simple materials. The core of the design was inspired by the human spine and Eames House of Cards; flat marine-grade plywood with notched pieces that interlock and, with wood glue, produce a rigid frame. The seat and back are steam-molded plywood. All the components fit nicely into a large pizza box ready to ship. The finish is owners choice.

    Bentsteel Chair

    A welded tubular bent steel frame with asymmetrically configured back legs. The seat and back support pads are molded recycled plastic. Not shown in the diagram are the metal fixtures that attach and stabilize the back pads and seat to the frame. Machine screws drive into female threads imbedded in the plastic seat and in the metal back support frame.

    Bentwood Chair & Stool

    Laminated bent plywood technology much like Ikeas Pong Chair but with a much simpler design. Thin bent plywood seat and back attaches with wide-head machine screws that drive into female threads planted in the frame. Both stool and chair were designed to minimize carpet impressions.

  • back cover: Noah and Noahs wife. Part of a Noahs Ark wooden toy set designed and painted by todds mother, Jean may Smith