PyroPets: We Interview Designer Thorunn Arnadottir About Her Cute and Creepy Cat Candles
I was the kid the after-school specials told not to play with fire. My unsuspecting parents, perhaps thinking I had a knack for interior design or science, sometimes indulged my candle fixation. We'd make a pilgrimage to this kooky candle store at the mall in our small Texas suburb -- I think it was called Wax Dreams -- and I'd spend every minute carefully examining every gleaming wax creature, deciding which was most deserving of a fiery demise.
Every birthday or Christmas I'd beg for the two-foot tall, liquid-looking Rearing Wild Horse candle, or the three-foot weirdly realistic Striking King Cobra candle. The apple of my eye was a sleek, housecat-sized Hunting Black Panther candle that satisfied both my love of kitties and burnable art. I never received the giant wax critters, as the price tag attached to them was admittedly absurd. I had to be content with the "two for $5" mini woodland creature, barnyard animal, and occasional sea creature candles that littered the back wall of the store. The end result was the same, so while I was often at first disappointed, my candle creatures were still treasured.
Fast forward 20 years and one very big match collection later, and I discovered PyroPets. These lovely, angular, little kitty candles (named "Kisa," which means "kitty" in Icelandic) start off innocently enough. However, light the candle and let the show begin. As Kisa melts, a demonic-looking metal cat skeleton is revealed, glowing under Kisa's pink or gray skin.
Like most cats, looks can be deceiving. PyroPet designer Thorunn Arnadottir was kind enough to chat with me, all the way from Iceland, about the evolution, inspiration, and future of PyroPets. She proved to be just as delightful and "wicked" as the Kisa.
Louise Hung: Thanks for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, Thorunn. I know PyroPets keeps you very busy. What sort of work does it entail? Do you work on PyroPets every day?
Thorun Arnadottir: Yes, I work on it every day these days, as we are just about to get our first production started and launching it on the market. At the moment it's just a lot of emailing and organizing stuff, but also some designing, packaging, website, etc. I'm also working on other design projects and teaching design.
You have a background in design and product design. What made you want to work in a wax or candle medium? Have you worked in such a medium before?
As a designer, I don't see myself tied to any one medium, I really like exploring new methods and taking on new challenges. I just try to work in whatever medium is suitable for the concept -- and vice versa, if I'm approaching it from that end. I had never worked in candle wax before, but I found the material and the object quite fascinating.
In my first tests I was just exploring what a "candle" is, playing around with its definition and seeing what would happen if I stretched some elements of it further, like making an extremely long wick, wrapping it around the dinner table, knitting it, dipping the table cloth in wax... when does it stop being a candle?
That's so cool. You're giving me ideas. The little fire bug in me is getting excited! I'd better stick to candle talk.
Your site says that you were inspired to create PyroPets while watching a Santa Claus candle melt. "I wondered if I could elevate this common place ritual sacrifice into a true theatre of the macabre in wax." Can you elaborate further? Essentially, why did you decide to create PyroPets? And why cats?
The purpose of candles in different shapes really puzzles me. Why make them into elaborate shapes when they are going to be all deformed and creepy when they are in use? I saw potential in there to make something more out of this experience. I wanted to play around with emotional attachment to an object that is designed to disappear. By putting a skeleton inside of a candle you get a stronger feeling about this act of burning and what you’ve done to that object.
A cat just seemed like a great fit. They look so adorable on the outside, but have you seen a cat's skeleton? It's like a little demon! Also, I just love cats and the mythology that surrounds them. Kittens are the symbol of innocence and cuteness, but cats have also often been associated with sorcery and witchcraft. There is a great mysticism attached to cats: They were praised as gods in ancient Egypt and now they rule the internet. And they have nine lives. It's very suspicious.
Indeed. (My cat Brandy yowls at my side. She agrees.) What sort of imagery inspires you? The Kisa strikes me as darkly humorous. Cute little kitty, melts and deforms, and becomes a striking (yet alluring) demon-cat. Was this cheeky humor intentional?
Yeah, my humor might be a bit wicked. I just really love to be able to shake people up a little bit, to make people think differently about a very mundane object like a candle. I know it's a bit cheeky, and I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I'm very happy how many people seem to get it and like the humor!
Candles are usually in the area of some sweet and cute home decorations. It's usually a very romantic no-nonsense product. People will just assume that it will melt down and nothing more. They know the story before they light it. I find it very satisfying to be able to create a new storyline in a product. It's like a romantic film that turns into a horror satire!
Have people been shaken up? What have been the reactions so far to your PyroPets?
AMAZING! I just wouldn't have imagined in the beginning that it would be such a success, this crazy silly little thing! You know, as a designer you're always thinking: "What do people want to buy? What do they need?" -- Turns out they want melting kittens!
What is your goal for the PyroPets company?
Kisa is only the first product. Our plan is to expand on the range and add more animals with skeletons to the collection. The next animal will be a bird, called Phoenix.
Do pets serve as inspiration for your work?
I have always been fascinated by animals, and yes, they definitely serve as an inspiration for a lot of my work. I've had a budgie, a dog, and a cat. At the moment I don't have any pets, because I have been traveling and moving a lot. But I feel the need to have a pet around me, I would love to get a cat once I'm settled a bit more.
What do you think is unique about having a PyroPet?
When you buy a PyroPet candle, then you're not just buying a decorative object, you're buying an experience; a little performance piece.If you would like a little performance piece of your own, you can preorder your Kisa on the PyroPets Kickstarter site. After November 22, Pyropets will be available at www.pyropetcandles.com. Happy melting!