Mid-Century Modern Memento Mori Spinner

Joshua Beijer

Mid-Century Modern Momento Mori Spinner


The idea for this project was birthed out of a realization.

A morbid realization at first glance, but maybe not under further inspection, summed up by the Latin phrase, “Memento Mori”. A phrase meaning, “Remember that you will die”.

I first discovered this phrase in the context of ancient monks, who would keep a skull in their prayer chambers to remind them of the human condition. That every person has a 100% mortality rate.

When I learned about this I felt something stir inside of me.

I have found myself throughout my life getting caught up in trying to just make it to ____. Whether it be spring break or summer or graduation, I have had a bad habit of putting my head down and just trying to push through. And I do not want to live like that. I want to put my time and energy and life into the only thing that has lasting significance. As Jim Elliot famously said,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.

Luckily, it is never too late to start living this way. And I wanted to have a reminder of this because we humans are really good at two things:



The design goal I had for this project was to create a reminder of my mortality that I could bring with me into my career. The best way I could think to do this was to create an orbital spinner desk toy. While I had first planned to use a gothic aesthetic, I realized I wanted to emphasize the non-morbid side of this idea. The beautiful and lasting part. So I chose to use a mid-century modern aesthetic to incorporate a wooden structure and a golden accent piece. The pictures below show some initial concept ideas that show the aesthetic I was aiming for.


Dalle-3 – Copilot – Designer

Once I had this idea in mind I created a CAD model in Solidworks. The pictures below show the major design revision I made. The rings would be made of laser cut wood and the center would be made of a resin skull inside a resin ball. The skull will be gold to represent the non-perishable things we can accomplish with out lives. The pins will allow the rings to rotate creating a gyroscopic spinning effect.

CAD – SolidWorks

The final product, seen below took many attempts to perfect (See post 12 for more).

However, I am very happy with the final product.

The rings spin very smoothly with a satisfying clicking as they slow down. Functionally this project exceeded my expectations in this manner. It also is very sturdy, surviving several unplanned drop tests from my desk.

The largest triumph, however, is the aesthetic. I believe this presents a perfect blend of mid-century modern and a more gothic memento mori aesthetic. The laser-cut wood creates a nice fade from dark to light on the edges. The wood grains are vibrant and visible. There are no visible joints of fasteners besides the shiny and dark metal fasteners that add to the look. The gold flake inside the skull creates awesome reflections that are accentuated by the magnification of the clear resin ball. The magnification also distorts the skull when looking at it from other angles, which I originally did not care for. However, once in the rings this actually adds to the aesthetic. In the same way that the skull is distorted, we tend to distort the idea of death in our culture. We prefer to look at life as a big golden ball and ignore the skull that is looking us dead in the face.

Overall I am very happy with the outcome of this project, and I thank you for coming along on this journey with me.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Matthew Osborn
    May 8, 2024 4:20 am

    This turned out to be really cool! I love how the light plays with the stone in the middle of the rings and displays different things. I really like the combination of midcentury modern with subtle hints of a gothic aesthetic. This looks very well made, the quality is very impressive!

  • Katie Schutt
    April 25, 2024 4:25 pm

    This is a really cool final product! I really like how the first half-ring is inset to the base. The gold glitter and the cut wood compliment each other nicely. Also impressive that it has survived some unplanned drop tests! Overall aesthetically pleasing project with evidently a lot of thought put into its meaning.


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