In Kai Jäger's small kiosk in Dortmund, he's generally busy selling daily newspapers, candy or soda. But these days, he could also be ringing up wallets made out of Irish linen, pendants of coal blocks and gold leaf, or toothpick holders modeled after a voodoo doll.
Starting Sunday, his shop is becoming one of 30 "design kiosks" sprinkled all around the Ruhr area, which for the next 100 days will feature handmade products from European designers – bringing two worlds together that might otherwise never intersect.
Jäger, 37, doesn't have any special affinity to design himself, but he knew a few employees of a nearby design agency who came by his shop regularly. Through them, he found out about the design project and got interested.
"We want to help young artists get a start," he said.
As the program gets underway, he's eager to see how his regulars will react to the unusual products on display in the shop. They range from the practical to the quirky to the very Ruhr, such as cloth rags from local designer Barbara Lange based on towels used in the coal mines to the aforementioned coal and gold-leaf pendants.
"Those are pieces that a lot of people have been asking about," said Sigurd Christian Sievers, the man behind the design project.
"With the project, we hope to make the corner shop a place where we can market design," he said. He added that the shops are places where Ruhr Area culture is really lived today, and the design objects could attract visitors to the region into the kiosks who might not normally go there.
None of the objects on offer cost more than €20. The 30 designers featured were chosen from a field of more than 200 who applied to participate in the project.
"We hope that something might develop out of this meeting of everyday life and design," Sievers said, adding that he hopes it gets people in the stores talking, even if the topic is how all this design stuff is a bunch of nonsense.