As a kid, Swedish product designer and builder Love Hultén obsessed over circuits. “I used to tear electronic toys apart, trying to understand their insides,” he says. Hultén attended the local design school in his native Gothenburg and, while there, discovered his true calling in the woodshop. The cases he crafted were a perfect complement to the creative electronic projects he’d been experimenting with since his youth. Hultén went on to a career making expressive and tactile synthesizers, retro-inspired game consoles, and other truly funky audiovisual contraptions that combine the organic and the electronic.
Hultén’s studio is located in a Gothenburg community called Konstepidemin. The buildings were originally constructed to house the sick and dying during mid-1800s cholera epidemics. “My studio is in the basement where the nurses used to do laundry, I think,” Hultén says. “Could be worse, I guess. I have a sculptor friend who’s in the old crematorium.”
The hulking green band saw and table saw in Hultén’s workshop were passed down from his father, a cabinetmaker. These daily drivers are old and heavy, so he keeps them on wheels. “Mobility is mandatory in a small workshop like mine,” Hultén says. “I keep almost everything on wheels … I mean everything.”
Hultén keeps his white tool cabinet meticulously organized, a necessity in his small space. “It gets messy real quick,” he says. “I’m not a big fan of hunting down screw bits lost in the haystack.” While Hultén has many hand tools, he says his L squares are indispensable. His old cutting machines are “a bit rusty” and can’t really be trusted to keep things true.
Hultén prefers this laser cutter to a 3-D printer, because it delivers lines that are more precise. “I tried a 3-D printer once, got bad finishing results, and never used one again.” Among other things, Hultén uses the cutter to fashion the metal control panels that screw onto the faces of his creations.
Hultén pays homage to the world's most famous brick with an oddball suite of electronic toys. His Brix System is comprised of a series of 6:1 scale versions of Lego blocks. There are a couple of synthesizers, an effects machine, a speaker, a microphone, two simple computers for playing games, and even a telephone.
This tiny synthesizer design—the hyper-portable Bivalvia—has a built-in speaker. It comes in a wooden clamshell housing that looks like a jewelry box, and instead of keys it has Cherry MX switches like those found in a mechanical computer keyboard.
Hultén’s Noistation would look and sound perfectly at home onstage with Phoenix or Radiohead. The mahogany case houses a programmable hardware synth controlled by a three-octave keyboard. The faders on the face adjust frequencies and modulate the synth filters. The tones that come out of the 40-watt speaker range from cold and plinky to lush and fuzzy. Want one? PayPal Hultén $3,000, plus shipping from Sweden.
Hultén builds every product by hand, even soldering circuits at this desk. “I design, I build, I polish, I assemble, and I even make the packaging—it’s my own isolated chain,” he says. Some of his projects involve dozens of parts and more than a hundred solder points, but he insists on laboring solo. “Like most craftsmen, I’m obsessed with control and don’t trust people.”
This article appears in the August issue. Subscribe now.