Brothers Jake and Patrick Morris of Boskke first denied the naysayers by growing plants upside down. Now the designers are once again deconstructing the traditional flower pot.
In the six years since brothers Jake and Patrick Morris of Kiwi creative Boskke turned the ceramic pot on its head with the Sky Planter – the world’s first hanging upside- down pot for urban plant growing – the London-based designers are continuing to provoke.
“Three years ago people were like, ‘don’t be ridiculous, you can’t grow plants upside down’,” says Patrick. “But now enough people have seen them and are familiar with the concept through seeing them in people’s homes and offices.”
The Sky Planter’s success and international design recognition has now set the stage for the business to embark on its next big adventure with the release of the Boskke Cube.
It’s a transparent re-imagination of the original Sky Planter, giving you a new appreciation for plants by putting all the inner mechanics of growth on display. The Slo-Flo watering system controls water flow so you don’t have to water your plant as often, and the design makes it easier to tell when your plant is getting a bit thirsty.
Patrick, Boskke’s creative director, says they wanted to build on the original Sky Planter design but maintain the dual functionality of the product.
“It’s aesthetic, so we looked at our idea of the flowerpot and thought about how we could deconstruct that,” he says. “You’ve essentially got the container, the water, the soil and the plant, so we wanted to re-stitch those together in a visibly interesting way but also make the product more functional.
“One way was to make it so you had to water it way less often, but the other is to have a plant that you can quickly look across the room at and check whether or not it’s watered.”
The Slo-Flo watering system essentially allows each plant to control its own water flow.
Patrick says this allows people to be more creative with what plants they choose because you could have three very different plants on the Boskke Cube Triple, be it herbs for a kitchen or a feature for your office.
“Your traditional plant pot recedes into the background whereas this comes to feature prominently, so you can enjoy it as a design feature as well.”
Being around creative people during his Master’s degree in Product Design at the Royal College of Art (RCA) has helped Patrick spark his inspiration.
“Sometimes you need to get out of business mode and be in a more creative workspace with creative people,” he says.
Patrick won this year’s James Dyson Innovation Fellowship, an annual award that supports a RCA student with commercialising their work. The coup gives Boskke a business partner in the development of a new product.
Last year, the Boskke Cube featured in London’s Design Museum and Kew, the Royal Botanical Gardens. This, along with exposure from a leading design magazine in the US, has generated excitement from designers on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Matakana-bred brothers say the differences in the US and European design worlds have presented them with opportunities to modify the product range.
“Anecdotally, we’ve had major European distributors tell us that the design market in the US is quite small in fact, it’s much more mass market-driven. The really big opportunity is in those big home stores and your Home Depot.”
For this reason, Boskke is in the process of developing a lower price-range of Sky Planters so they hit the right price points for these retailers.
“The plant is the main product, really,” says Jake. “We just really want to encourage more
and more plants inside. So the Sky Planter and the Boskke Cube are really the second act on the stage supporting the plants. It is important for us to get those lower price points if we can so that they are more accessible. If you live 20 stories up, that’s when you need it most.”
The brothers say mastering the Sky Planter to begin with, rather than spreading their focus across a range of different products, has allowed the company to nail its distribution channels and marketing, laying the platform for future success.
“Once you’ve got that first product, it’s much better to spend that extra money on marketing, distribution and your sales network, because once you’ve got that set up, you can really go out and start making new products,” says Patrick.
Going international early on based on the advice of director Ross Stevenson has also been key to the company turning heads in the design world despite its infancy.
“He’s been quite instrumental in keeping us focused on the main design markets in Europe, rather than spending too long focusing on the New Zealand market and building that up and then going to Australia,” says Jake. “We went right into the key design markets of the UK, France, Scandinavia and Germany, and then we came back to New Zealand 18 months later and by then we’d already had some great recognition in the European design markets.”
Patrick says that now the company’s infrastructure is well set up, Boskke will aim to release a product annually and collaborate more with other designers.
Boskke recently teamed up with lighting design company Plumen to create an eye- catching product that combines hanging plants and lights.
“Because there are a lot of other similar-sized design brands around, we’ve been collaborating to a certain extent with a company called Plumen, and they do a really innovative range of eco light bulbs,” says Patrick.
“You’ve got the hanging nature of the Sky Planter and the hanging nature of the light bulb, so the combination of plants and lighting in a really interesting arrangement is proving very successful.”
The Sky Plant Clear has received some rave reviews during displays and could possibly be the next product to be commercialised.
Jake says networking with similar-sized designers has provided a number of fresh ideas and will continue to do so in a bid to stay ahead of the pack.
“It’s great networking with other small business owners, and cross-pollinating ideas. We’re all coming from slightly different angles and you come away with some really interesting ideas.”