For centuries, incense has been used by people for spiritual purposes and as part of a religious practice. However, the smoke produced from the incense contains toxic gaseous substances, that can adversely impact our respiratory system. Burners can be messy too, with ash falling all around them. Addressing these issues, product designers develop alternative incense burners that can uplift the space both visually and aromatically.
Seoul-based Dawn Studio has designed an incense holder inspired by the visual of a mountain resting on an island. Titled Scent Island, it consists of a transparent plastic base intended to represent the sheerness of a water body and the actual holder shaped like a polygonal mountain.
The mountaintop has a tendency to turn sooty as the incense burns creating the visual image of a volcano. The underside of the base is made of wood, representing a tree.
The incense burner is as functional as it is beautiful. To prevent ash from falling everywhere, Scent Island features a base tray that accumulates ash in one spot. It is relatively easy to dispose of ash by simply lifting the tray and separating it from the holder.
For those who would rather go 100% ash-free, there is Calla incense burner developed by Soomin Kim that helps get rid of the waste that normally comes with lighting an incense stick or cone. It is an advanced device that utilizes the technology found within e-cigarettes to gently heat up incense cones and slowly fill a space with the pleasant scent of the ingredients.
To use the burner, one has to insert a cone into the integrated hole and activate it by holding a button on the side for 2-3 seconds. This process doesn’t burn the incense, instead the internal hot plate gently warms the incense, slowly filling the air with an enticing aroma. Therefore, ash is never created. The unit can even be turned off, cooled-down and activated later on without the need for a new incense cone to save on materials.
The exterior shape of the holder is characterized by a minimalist design that moves away from the familiar aesthetic of traditional incense burners.
Kin Objects, a creative studio led by Bill Yen, an award-winning architect born in Taiwan, raised in USA, and with a design studio in Shanghai, has developed a series of minimalist incense holders that are truly contemporary and multi-cultural. The Terrarium collection comprises three designs inspired by mountains, trees, and volcanic lakes. The concrete terrariums sit under cylindrical glass containers mimicking miniature eco-system. Smoke flows down from the top and collects at the base prior to diffusing from the vial filling the room with the aroma of incense.
The incense burners have a unique brutalist design that has a certain raw appeal. Made of black concrete, these incense burners have a unique sculpted design that guides the smoke from backflow incense cones – an unusual type of incense cone where the plume flows downwards rather than up – down like a fog on a hillside, or a slow-moving waterfall.
The Caldera terrarium takes its name from the large cauldron-like hollow which forms when the magma reservoir empties shortly after a volcanic eruption. The Karst burner is a geometric abstraction inspired by the otherworldly clusters of cone-like hills found in Guilin and Zhangjiajie, while the Nelumbo piece takes the form of a faceted geometric cone – an abstracted form shaped after the Indian Lotus bud. The low-poly elements help guide the smoke in a magical way, its fumes overflowing into the large for lake below.
Hyang by product designer Dongkyu Kim is a device intended to replace a traditional burner. Relying on the fact that the steam is a healthier and cleaner alternative to the usual incense smoke, Kim has developed an incense humidifier.
The gadget features an incense-like stick, which emits steam when inserted into the base holder filled with water. The incense humidifier can be charged via a USB Type-C, so it need not be connected to a power source at all times, which makes it a portable solution.
The product has won several awards such as the iF Talent Award in 2018, The Asia Design Award in 2019, and the Silver PIN UP Concept Design Award in 2019.