From Phone to Stone: Coastermatic

Instagram has created a vibrant social platform for sharing images and simply allowing millions of people to create photographs that are often more visually appealing than those typically made with a standard point-and-shoot or phone camera. A new service, Coastermatic, lets you take these previously ephemeral images and turn them into stone coasters, in sets of four.
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Tom Harman and Tash Wong started Coastermatic as students at School of Visual Arts' MFA Interaction Design Program. They both share an interest in "helping people create more personal environments." Tash explained how Coastermatic helps do that and more during lunch near Union Square in New York City.

The folks behind Coastermatic hope that their service will help create concrete conversational objects from ephemeral images.

From where did the idea for Coastermatic come?

Coastermatic lets Instagram users create a series from their images.

Coastermatic came out of a bunch of things: a school assignment, our shared interest in photography, and the desire to help people create more engaging spaces in the home. We thought that giving people the opportunity have their photos on the table, which is a conversational space, was a good way to do that.

We decided to start with using Instagram because we are both relatively high Instagram users. Instagram has a consistent file format—everything is going to be square, everything is going to be the same size. Because of a manufacturing restraint, our coasters are round. So you have to look at your photos in a new way, which is kinda fun. You refocus on them because they have a slightly different framing.What is important about the contrast of the ephemeral and the concrete?We think that the transition of going from something so digital and ephemeral to something that's really solid is interesting because it makes you think about what these images mean. As you're pulling them together you can start to tell a story with your images and see them separate from this mass of images you have in your Instagram flow. We think it's really interesting because we're all creating so much digital content now that it's really nice to translate that into something physical that you can have in your home. Otherwise all your photos end up in Facebook or iPhoto.What about the selection and grouping of four?

Images are printed by an American manufacturer on a sandstone aggregate.

The set thing has been interesting. A lot of people come to the site and pick four images from what they already have, or other people consider what they want to have on their coasters and take those pictures to make a set. A friend of mine put through an order the other day that was four pictures of woodgrain. What she wants to do is have her coasters blend into her coffee table.How did you find the manufacturer?We did a lot of research and it was difficult to find someone who would do individual prints onto stone coasters. They're based in the United States, and I'm going to visit them next month.What type of stone is it?

Tash organizes the "Brooklyn" coaster set, an East River panorama.

It's a sandstone aggregate that's proprietary to the manufacturer. What if someone doesn't use Instagram?

In the fall, Coastermatic will roll out limited edition sets created by designers and artists.

In the Fall, we're going to introduce limited-edition sets, so that will open Coastermatic up to people who don't use Instagram or don't feel like putting together a set. We're going to connect with different designers, artists, and photographers. For custom coasters, we're probably going to stick with Instagram because their API is so amazing and straight forward to use.


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