The editorial team introduces young designers in loose series, who attracted our attention at the DDW 2017 with interesting concepts and exciting designs.

Roxanne Brennen – ‚Dining Toys‘

Roxanne Brennen is a graduate of the Eindhoven Design Academy in 2017. The graduation thesis of the young Designer from Paris is titled‘ Dining Toys‘.

Roxanne Brennen

„Experiences are part of our daily life. Whether their are quotidian or occasional, they shape our lives and way of being. Giving the possibility to experience those common happenings or create ones that are atypical opens up the view and thoughts on what surrounds us.“ Roxanne Brennen

Some people compare the pleasure of eating with the pleasure of sex. After all, the sensual qualities of a juicy steak or a sweet treat cannot be denied. But perhaps table manners keep us from fully enjoying the most ancient pleasures of eating?

Playful‘ Dining Toys‘ in sensual shapes and colours are inspired by a world of ideas borrowed from sexuality. They encourage their users to serve and enjoy food in an innovative way. And they should help to rediscover food as a pleasurable experience.

For Roxanne there is no doubt, that our brain reacts very similarly to sexual desire and the pleasure of eating. In the entertainment district of our brain, the neon signs start to flicker and endorphins, which are up for any mischief, swarm out. Sexuality and eating are part of the human primary needs and instincts. As such, they are on the one hand influenced by the senses, but also by experiences that are intensified by a loss of control, the desire to discover and experiment.

Western civilizations have regulated the process of food intake by etiquette and table manners. The tableware also draws clear boundaries of decency and expresses them formally. Our behaviour at the table, how we eat, what we eat and when we have to eat it, the way we handle the cutlery and the social contact at the table are subject to quite strict rules.

If we believe the French-American designer Roxanne Brennen, cutlery, bowls, plates, plates, glasses and cutlery are the tools created together and in accordance with this Code of Conduct. But Roxanne is also convinced that the eating experience and the sensual feedback on the food could be intensified if we would keep the reins a little more relaxed. Taste, scent, consistency and even the sound of food could be experienced and discovered much deeper and more intensively. That’s why she designed erotically inspired, playful and sensual dishes – a kind of frivolous toys that make another, more sensual meal possible. Her‘ Dining Toys‘ are supposed to bring back the playful joy of discovery and ease self-control to such an extent that we can once again experience the action of eating and eating with pleasure.

DESIGNBOTE Editor Wolfgang Linneweber spooks to Roxanne Brennen

Roxanne, what has inspired you for this project? How did you approach the idea of sensual cuisine? (Maybe you are French? That would explain a lot.)

„I come from France where food is a very important matter! I remember being a kid and wanting to participate in the dinners my mum would have at home with friends. People would sit around the table and eat, drink and talk for hours. It was a whole social ritual revolving around the food. They were so long that when I was small and too tired, I would take my teddy bear (that was at the time twice my size), and lay under the table. I loved those dinners! And growing up I started having those with my friends. When I moved to the Netherlands, the attitude people had around food surprised me. I felt like a lot of people were only eating because it was a need but not a pleasure. It seamed like business and not a ritual. I think this is how the idea of working on how we eat started. The sensual cuisine concept came when I started research the reaction our brain has to the act of eating and saw that it reacted in the same way has it does when we have sex. The pleasure centre of our brain is activated and releases endorphins.“

“ Storytelling is a way of communicating on a more personal level. It gives the possibility to comprehend situations or others at a deeper extent. It allows us to relate emotionally and therefor creates bridges between different world that do not always connect.“ Roxanne Brennen

The Netherlands are not exactly famous as a culinary hotspot. Can your dining tools be considered as a kind of therapeutic approach to the land of Friet en Mayonnaise?

„Haha! I believe my first answers is also part of this one. My dining tools, also create slower way of eating. People pay more attention and need time to understand how they feel like they want to taste the food. So maybe it could be seen as a therapeutic approach but I should first talk to an expert about it before telling you that it is!“

On your website I read: ‚Storytelling and Experience Design‘. How do these driving forces influence your work? Let me have a guess: You are very communicative and adventurous…; 8)

„I would love to answer : „Yes! I am very adventurous and communicative“. However the communicative part is maybe not my strongest point! At least socially speaking! I believe though that it is why I use design to tell stories. I think many people and event have stories to tell and that matter. And, just as for my social skills, some of those stories are not communicated to the world. Design gives the possibility to communicate in different creative ways stories that should be heard, seen, touched, felt or more depending on what media fits.

For the experience part, which I think links to storytelling, I have always been interested in the daily experiences we have and never question. What if there is an other possibility? What if we can experience it in a better way?

In the end of the day, what I want to create through design is simply showing others that there are more options and possibilities than what is shown. Let them experience it. From there on they are aware that things can be different and they can make up there own mind. It is about opening up the world. I know the world is big, but sometimes it is so big that we have closed up too much of it in our daily lives.“

What is your personal access to food? Do you cook yourself? Do you have a favorite dish?

„I love food! Not only for the tastes, colours, smells and textures but also because of what it says about cultures and people. In a way it is a storyteller on it’s own.

I do cook and love it. I never really follow recipes. I feel it. But cooking only for myself is not something I do so much. I enjoy it less. What I love is cooking for several people. Make a ritual out of it.

If I have to choose a favourite dish it would be Pasts Carbonara and rice with pork and pineapple. Just to be clear those are two different dishes. I am choosing those more for the memories I have with them than for the taste (even though they taste beautiful!). It was my favourite as a kid and my dad used to make them in an amazing way! I never found it or managed to make it as good. My mum is pretty good at the rice and pork with pineapple!“

Your tools are made of coloured glazed ceramics. Did you have a relevant professional background or did you acquire skills especially for the project?

„I did not have a background in ceramics. So I learned a lot about it for the project. Mostly trying and failing and learning from the mistakes!“


I find ceramic cutlery, at least if it is not made of very smooth porcelain, unpleasant in the mouth. Is matching cutlery made of metal or suitable soft materials in the realm of the imaginable?

„Yes it is! I thought a lot about it before starting creating the toys. I chose ceramics for the moment so people can relate it to tableware. The next step will be slightly different and include an additional material.“

How can we imagine the process of form finding? Trial and error?

„Loads of inspiration in nature and sensual pictures. Mostly the toys are all made by hand so that I could feel the shape and it’s relation to the body. Of course there was plenty of trial and error as it should in a design process. While learning how to hale the clay I also broke a lot of my piece before they could be fired. So a lot of frustration and „silent/invisible crying“ at first. All of that than turned into a very zen attitude. if something broke it just meant I had to work on it in a different manner and started it again.“

Have you been confronted with production- or food technological questions so far? 

„Honestly I was not until a week ago. Those questions are coming up now. It is the right moment to think about the evolution of the project and taking the next step.“

Have you put your tableware through a practical test with real food and test persons? I imagine such a dinner to be quite sensual, but also a little‘ messy‘.

„I have made three different dinners with different people. It was very interesting because every person used the tableware in a different manner. I think the Dining Toys can be used in very different ways. The reactions and behaviour will also be influenced by the people eating together. It is one of the aspects of the project I like the most. The tableware can actually be simply used for people that would love to lick their bowl in a restaurant but can also become a very intimate tool for eating if the person(s) feels like it.“

Can specific foods, preparation forms and consistencies be assigned to individual ‚tools‘?

„One of the next steps I want to do with this project is to collaborate with a chef. Creating recipes and toys side by side and making sure there are different types of toys that could be used for different foods. However I want to specify that I do not wish to serve the food directly on a certain type of toy. The concept is for people to discover how they instinctually feel like tasting the food. There for they would choose what they wish to eat and then choose what toys they would like to use.“

Do you see the areas of application of your ‚tools‘ more in the private household or in catering trade?

„For now I believe the project should become a complete experience. I have started with the tableware but the tables and the shares are also controlling how we are supposed to act. This is also part of the experience and a part of the next step for the project. I would love the tableware to be in high end restaurants where the taste is supposed to be a powerful experience but the tableware restricts your instincts completely. Why not have the experience as intense as possible?! Once this has happened I would like to create a production for households, but in that case I will create an other line. A household has different aspects and rules and therefor the line of Dining Toys will adapt to that.“

Dining Tools‘ by Rosenthal … Was there any interest from the ceramic industry? Are you thinking about serial production?

„I am starting now to get interest from the ceramic industry and I am thinking about production a lot these days. Some of my pieces are very thin, for the reason that in that way people will handle those toys in a more delicate and gentle manner than some other toys. With a serial production it will be impossible to get such fine pieces. I believe my choice will depend on the area of use.“

What are your next projects? What will Roxanne Brennen do in five years?

„Ideas are not a problem. There are plenty of them that I want to work on. But for now, I want to go on working on this project. I believe it can go a lot further and it is in my eyes not yet finished! But if you really want to know about the next idea in my mind that I would like to work on I can give you a hint. It is still about ceramics and it is inspired by Cycladic art. That is all I will say at the moment. As soon as it is „en route“ I will let you know!“

What’s Roxanne gonna cook tonight?

„I am at the moment in Greece and I am planning on eating outside! One of the things I love is kolokithokeftedes (κολοκυθοκεφτέδες) among a lot of other amazing dishes! I am sure I will have that and for the rest of the meal my mind has not chosen yet!“

Thank you Roxanne