John Willshire

John’s V Willshire runs an innovation studio called Smithery, whose core purpose is to help companies become more valuable, useful and attractive by making things people want, rather than making people want things. Trained in economics and with a background in advertising innovation, his particular brand of digital / practical insight puts him in high demand from organisations wrestling with how their past fits into the future.

John Willshire explains his thinking behind his CONTAINER object, So Hot Right Now, which is about financial bubbles, from inside one of London's original coffee houses, where the original financial bubble – The South Sea Company – was talked up.

So Hot Right Now

An exploration of perceived and actual value, and a joke that gets funnier as it gets older


115 x 85 x 20 mm

Acrylic, thermochromic strip, 250gsm card, nylon hardware, cut, drilled and polished, laser etched, screen-printed; digitally printed, assembled

Created exclusively for CONTAINER #1:Hot&Cold in an edition of 200



One of John Willshire’s many fascinations is financial bubbles. He runs two businesses, one is an innovations consultancy, Smithery, which helps organisations create better products and the other, Artefact cards, is a tool to help them innovate. Artefact cards are simple cards, yellow one side, white the other. So, it was inevitable that his CONTAINER piece featured cards. But, it didn’t start that way.

So Hot Right Now was an interesting example of something created and developed as it was made – a process that is fascinating simply because it is rarely, if ever, possible in regular commercial production, since clients insist on all details being finalised prior to sign-off. CONTAINER has no external client, so the collaboration between the contributor is smaller, tighter and more flexible – as was similarly demonstrated with Accept & Proceed’s piece.

Originally it was going to be this

We started with a simple piece of clear acrylic, with a routed panel into which was set a thermometer strip – a thin piece of self-adhesive plastic screen-printed with a liquid crystal thermochromic ink.  The production version was to be produced in a solid yellow acrylic since that is the Artefact card trademark colour.

Matching acrylic colours is not always easy as they're slightly transparent



After we’d ordered the acrylic, John had discovered the story of the South Sea Bubble cards and its obvious connection with his own artefact cards and the idea then took a different direction around how we could incorporate the cards into the piece. So, it developed into an acrylic ‘sandwich’ holding the cards, but John wanted something very mechanical to hold it together and for their to be a deliberate action involved in taking it apart and putting it back together again – see the video for his reasoning.

 The general idea

The general idea

A rather frantic evening spent dashing around West London’s DIY stores yielded some rather disappointing nickel-plated nuts and bolts and these didn’t seem in keeping with the solid coloured acrylic since there was no other metallic finish.

 Perfect satin finish black nylon

Perfect satin finish black nylon

However, eBay kindly offered a solution – black nylon nuts and bolts made for cycling accessories – which we could buy in exactly the right length to accommodate the set of cards and the acrylic plates. Though we’d already bought the acrylic panels – or one set of them, at least – we resisted the temptation to stick with them as they were too thin and bent when clamped around the cards, so the thickness of the acrylic was increased from 3mm to 5mm, at which point it took a pleasing solidity and a nice mechanical feel.

The cards were printed digitally, which automatically solved the collation problem and John worked in a nice visual pun on the back of the cards – a simple graphic that, when turned on its side, echoed the initial trace of the Facebook share price.

 Laser etching solved the problem

Laser etching solved the problem

The only other problem that remained was that the CAD routing of the panel that housed the thermochromic strip left rounded corners to the panel, which meant the strip didn’t sit exactly in it, leaving the corners to sit up or requiring an extra space around it. We wanted it to sit exactly flush with the surface, with no visible or obvious awareness of the thickness of the strip, so we opted to laser etch the panel.

Though not the intention at the beginning, So Hot Right Now became the single most complex piece to manufacture with a total of ten materials and processes involved in its production.