. These awesome devices started popping up in local markets, taking old-school phonograph horns and projection items, and marrying them with newer tech to work with your cell phones as a decorative speaker that make a lovely display. Today we chat with the founder of these devices to talk about the work put into them and what else he has in store. (All pictures courtesy of iHorns.
Gavin: Hey Frank, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a 55-year-old husband, father
and grandfather, with a law degree, regular job and create iHorns as a creative outlet for fun and the pleasure they bring to people.
How did you first take an interest in audio works, both old and new school tech?
I have always loved listening to music, but I don’t have a musical bone in my body. In high school, my bus boy earnings went to purchase expensive Pioneer stereo equipment and vinyl, all of which is now considered “antique audio.” I love that iHorns blend the old with the new to create a one-of-a-kind visual and audio experience. It is synergistic.
Prior to iHorns, what other projects had you worked on over the years related to this same field?
In all candor, prior to iHorns
I never worked on any other projects in a related field, unless amplifying your voice to be heard across a baseball or football field is considered related. I have no engineering nor audio background. However, while experience is important, passion is probably the engine which drives art, creation, and innovation.
How did the idea come to utilize phonograph horns with cell phones?
Giving credit where it is due, amplification through a “horn” was probably the idea of a Neanderthal. Amplification of music through a horn was the invention of Thomas Edison and associates. My idea for iHorns was born from a metal Kleenex box cover. When my kids would shower, they removed the cover from the Kleenex box. I thought they took it off to make it easier to withdraw the Kleenex. Wrong. They were using it to amplify the music from their phones. From that, I decided to make a “speaker” from an antique phonograph horn which performed the same function–passive amplification without blue tooth, wifi, or electricity. The first iHorn was a Christmas gift. The reaction from those who saw it was great which encouraged me to do more. To be clear, iHorns are not limited in application to iPhones but rather are applicable to any portable device which has an external speaker located on the bottom of the device.
Without giving too much away behind your process, how does it work using an old horn on a cell phone?
If you want to know how iHorns work at the most base
level, cup your hands around your mouth and yell. Your hands function as the horn and your vocal cords are the external speaker
of the cell phone. Basically, they simply amplify the external speaker on any cell phone which has a speaker on the bottom. They are not Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connected. You don’t sync them. The iHorn is simply a passive amplifier, using antiquities coupled with modern technology.
What made you decide to start up your own business selling these to the public?
I decided to start selling iHorns to the public because I thought it would be fun and it has been. I market iHorns at art shows and Farmers Markets. It is an interesting business and so different from my day job. After I decided that iHorns had commercial appeal, I consulted with two mentors who have been in the art business for a long time, following their advice. Both mentors have been invaluable in terms of my basic understanding of the business. In the end, I hoped that iHorns would bring people pleasure. I think they do. While iHorns are still in their infancy, they have been well embraced by the public.
What’s the process like for you in creating a new horn, from design to final concept?
Each iHorn is unique both in appearance and sound. The process is a blend of being a picker, a woodworker, a mechanic, sound engineer, and historian. When everything comes together, the finished product is a blend of mediums which create a one-of-a-kind functional work of art which are hopefully both pleasing to the eye and the ear. After working through appearance and sound, the last part is to research the histories of the pieces and tell the story. Each iHorn comes with its historical origins and impacts which normally informs the future with an eye on the past. This is consistent with our vision in producing iHorns which is
to find the future through our past, by bringing joy through history, antiquity and technology–and telling the stories of American capitalism and ingenuity, diversity and hope.
What was it like for you first going out to markets and selling them to the public directly?
I love the markets. You get to gauge the reaction of people to your art. iHorns have a wide appeal, usually from teenagers up through people in their 90s. While the teenagers think they are “cool,” the elderly want to tell you the stories of their youth living with the antiquities which are incorporated into the art. The markets are hands-on sensory experiences where the reaction is positive and joyful.
Every piece you create also acts as it own work of art. How has it been for you essentially creating new designs each time so that people walk away with original concepts?
It is the individuality of each piece that keeps it interesting. Each piece has its own look and sound; its own historical roots. I have deep respect for assembly line workers, who have the mental and physical stamina to recreate the same product day in and day out. However, artistic mass production is not fun, so making each piece an original concept keeps the creative process satisfying. In addition, because each piece is unique, the consumer has something that appeals to them that no one else possesses.
Are you looking ahead to branching into other modern devices the same way, or simply focusing on phones for now?
For now, my hope is to make iHorns usable for not only cell phones with speakers on the bottom but also those cells phones with speakers located other places on the device. This will expand the user market. I am looking for different materials which will allow for the necessary balance, proportionality, and aesthetical appeal while producing the required amplification. There are good prospects which will expand the ability for more of the public to avail themselves of the opportunity to enjoy an iHorn.
For those looking to have a custom job done, how can they reach you?
Probably the easiest contact is through email at iHorns4U@gmail.com
. We have been commissioned to make iHorns for people on several occasions. We have a website
in development, but it is informational only and not point of sale. We haven’t focused on web development. People can follow us on Instagram: iHorns. I am not very good at the social media thing, and it is an area of business development which will undergo a substantial transformation as iHorns experience continued growth.
What can we expect from yourself and iHorns over the rest of 2016?
We hope to be displaying iHorns throughout the state of Utah at various art shows. We are in the process of applying for venues including the Utah Arts Festival, Kimball Arts Festival, Downtown Farmers Market, Park Silly, and several others. In addition, we will be applying to various arts festivals and shows throughout the western United States. We hope that in 2016 iHorns will continue to bring people a lot of excitement, joy
The crafting community isn't just bound to people working with basic materials to create awesome items, there are those with engineering know-how and a knack for electronic works who are producing a number of awesome technical pieces. Take, for example,