He says, “I was surprised to see that most products today are essentially based on two materials, plastic or aluminium both of which have a number of environmental issues and when it comes to design form factors – probably because of this restriction in the selection of materials – most of the products look pretty much alike and feel very impersonal.”
Determined to remedy this, Salanave brought together design guru, Franck Fontana and master craftsman, Christophe Della Signora to create his product design company Orée.
It’s not just any Maple or Walnut. We source them from a well identified forest at a certain altitude in the French alps
Just because something is ultra-modern and hi-tech, it doesn’t mean it has to look that way. Salanave, who describes wood as ‘one of the most noble materials on earth’, has merged the organic and hi-tech worlds together with the wooden keyboard -the first design Orée has released.
Salanave says, “The Orée board is a portable wireless keyboard, it has a limited layout so there is no numerical keypad… it is intended to be used as a portable keyboard, something which is frequently being used right now for tablets, for example. It’s available in two wood varieties, Maple and Walnut and it is Bluetooth enabled, so it is compatible with any blue tooth enabled PC, smart phone or tablet.”
Della Signora, who does all the fine wood crafting on the keyboards, earned his title as master craftsmen – in France they are known as Compagnons – after many years serving apprenticeships around France.
Salanave says, “If you want to do the Compagnon apprenticeship you have to start at a very young age, around 15 years old. They have to go round France, we call it Tour De France, spending anywhere between 3 to 6 months for several years working with different master craftsmen. Through this they get exposed to a number of techniques and know-how that those master craftsmen pass on to each other.”
In the actual making of the keyboard they combine modern machine techniques with traditional hand made ones. While they use a machine to do the initial milling, when it comes to the finishing parts, Della Signora takes charge. Salanave says, “The polishing, the varnishing and the assembly involves some very traditional techniques around wood that he’s made relevant to a modern product.”
Della Signora’s knowledge was also essential in choosing the right wood. Salanave says, “When we say Maple and Walnut, it’s not just any Maple or Walnut. We source them from a well identified forest at a certain altitude in the French alps because otherwise they won’t have the characteristics we want.”
It doesn’t create any distractions in terms of the typing experience compared to a standard keyboard
So far they’ve had a lot of interest in the product. “When we exhibited in London, we had 400 visitors a day coming to the stand. We were showcasing three boards, one of which I had connected to an iPad so people could actually try it. It was quite fascinating to see the reactions. Basically, when people first saw it, they couldn’t believe it was a real keyboard and put forward one finger as if they were scared of it.
“When they pressed on it and a letter appeared on the screen it provoked an amazing reaction in them. The feedback we’ve got is that it doesn’t create any distractions in terms of the typing experience compared to a standard keyboard but actually enhances it because the wood feeling is something very different to the touch than plastic or aluminium.”
Other products are soon to follow though Salanave remains tight-lipped about what they actually are. We will certainly keep you posted, however, when the next Orée design is unveiled.