While Sarah Swartz Wessel’s Tennen Studio works across disciplines — designing buildings, landscapes, spaces, furniture and objects — its ethos is rendered full in one of the agency’s smallest objects: its beautifully minimal and highly functional incense burners. The Agave incense burner is inspired by the spiky titular flora, which grows in the Sonoran Desert surrounding Tennen’s Phoenix home. Made in Arizona and rendered in a satin brass finish, it’s made to accommodate short stick, long stick, cone, and spiral incense.
Despite the Southwestern references, both the piece and the philosophy behind it are powerfully linked to aesthetics of Japanese design — and in fact combine “the inspiration of Japan with the spirit of the desert.” Swartz Wessel says these two, complementary forces, have played a foundational role in her work with Ethan Wessel, from their earliest days in partnership. Green tea and incense have been fixtures within Tennen’s physical office from the beginning, she says; these incense burners are the result of their efforts to develop one that was elegant in both form and function, allowing the user to easily remove the nub of the incense stick after burning. Clients liked them so much that they asked to buy one — and so Tennen’s line of lifestyle products, distinct from its architectural work, was born.