Graves’ whistling bird kettle is designed to bring users joy

Michael Graves’ Whistling Bird Teakettle launched in 1985 and has been Alessi’s number one seller for the past 30 years, with over 2 million units sold.

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A french poet, who wrote us a post card, it said “I’m very grumpy when I get up in the morning. but when I get up now, I put the teakettle on, and when it starts to sing it makes me smile – damn you!”

In 1980, Alberto Alessi wanted to show off his company’s manufacturing might. He hired 11 architects to design a sterling silver “Coffee & Tea Piazza,” which he would exhibit at galleries and museum shops. Despite its $25,000 price, Michael Graves tapped into public taste and his set sold best. From there, came the commission for the now famous 9093 kettle, as well as more than 150 other objects.

As described in the Harvard Business Review, unlike a kettle that simply signals that water is boiling, Graves’ whistling bird kettle is designed to bring users joy. And while the wide base of the kettle makes the water boil faster, Graves’ design “showed its greatest originality in broadening people’s expectation of what a kettle was and did and, indeed, the nature of the breakfast experience.”

The 30th Anniversary Tea Rex Kettle 2015 (left) and Michael's concept sketches for the special edition dragon whistle (right).

Timeless charm and appeal

Shown in countless magazine features and movie sets, the little kettle has continued to charm the public ever since it was first launched and can be found in the permanent collections of museums and international institutions all over the world including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Australian National Gallery and the MuDe: Museum of Design and Fashion in Lisbon.

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