We had the incredible opportunity to meet Marcus Engman, the head of design at Ikea for the launch of its collection Ypperlig, a collaboration between the Swedish giant Ikea and the promising Danish editor Hay. Our first question was about the name of the collection.
“Ypperlig” means “Excellency” in Swedish, so is that a way to produce new classics? A way to link Swedish and Danish design into a new generation of Scandinavian design?
For us in Sweden, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish design are very different, but for the rest of the world, we all seam to speak the same formal language, the differences do not seem that visible to you guys. But yes, Ypperlig was about finding a new language, especially in terms of colours and technical innovation.
Yes we are very pleased with this collection because we managed to bring great design innovations to affordable products. For instance, if you watch closely the Ypperlig chair, it has different thicknesses all over it. Usually plastic chairs are very homogeneous and made in the same thickness, because the way you make them is injecting liquid plastic into a hot mould and if your chair or any other plastic object doesn’t have the same thickness all over, the parts do not react the same way. Some parts can get burnt and some are not heated enough. So we had to reinvent moulds out of different parts, set to different temperatures, in order to deliver this very simple and fluid result.
Same with the shelves, it’s not noticeable at first. You can think that the process is very similar to the other shelves, like the Ivar for instance, but in order to get the simplicity of horizontal and vertical structures without any cross braces, we had to think the process throughout. It’s always the same, to get a simple result, you must conceive a complex process.
Brilliant! But what strikes me with Ypperlig is that you are quite bold, borrowing from the what I call “Arte Povera design”, such as the pieces of Hella Jongerius or the first pieces of Droog, when you add a simple climbing rope to the wall shelves of the collection, or when you mass-produce imperfect pottery like the Ypperlig vase.
Oh if you think this vase is bold, wait until you see all the new items we are preparing, we are going to have plenty of those!
But I simply cannot stop wondering, if Hay is what you like in design, this very efficient minimalist and trendy formal language, how can you deal with your own taste when your goal in life is to achieve some kind of a universal design?
If Ikea was about my taste, it would be like me, rather boring (he laughs). I find that the task of finding and creating beauty of all styles is much more interesting and stimulating.
Thanks a lot Marcus for this inspiring interview, I will try to remember its lesson: you can find beauty in any style (this is something I have always believed in, but have not quite yet been able to verbalise).
Anne Holtrop: on Possible Architecture, or discovering the architectural possibilities of some pre-existing drawings
I first met Anne when I was 23 years old. I was a very young art dealer at the time. He bought my favourite work of art in the gallery, the one I would have liked to buy myself. I was very glad that it ended up in his collection as since then, having seen Anne’s work in magazines, I really understood that this drawing was meant to be his. It was made by two girls and the idea behind it was that neither of the two should really understand the purpose of what the other one was doing, and yet use it as a constraint. It was the constraint that became the starting point for imagination. Reading this article, you will understand what I mean when I say that it is a fantastic metaphor of Anne’s work.
What’s your story ? You live between Bahrain and Amsterdam ?
At present, I live in Bahrain because in 2015 I was invited to take part in the competition to design the National Pavilion of Bahrain for the World Expo in Milan, and I won it. It was an extremely rapid project that took us only a year to build. It consists of 2000 square meters, the same size as the museum we built in the Netherlands, but that took us five years of hard work. So this project was exceptionally fast – only one year – and this includes the gardens, the design of the exhibition and everything. It was really fast! But also extremely exciting !
And then, through my work, I met my wife who was already working in Bahrain. She’s a Palestinian and she works for the ministry of culture there. So I moved.
So it’s a beautiful and romantic story…
But it was also exciting for me to go somewhere that I did not know. So we took that step and now I still have my small studio in Amsterdam but my work is mainly in Bahrain.
Recently we have been working on another project, a big project, for the heritage buildings in the old city. We have been asked to do restoration of the heritage buildings and to design new buildings next to them. They will become museums, a boutique hotel and things like that. And one of the museum spaces is devoted to pearls, natural pearls, because Bahrain is known for having the best natural pearls in the world. Cartier used to come here, to Bahrain, in the 1950s to buy pearls. So we will make a pearl museum in one of the houses of an old pearl merchant and we will show old jewellery, also Cartier jewellery. We will get it on loan from their collection, to show it here at the museum. So this is why I ended up here.
For Maniera… Amaryllis Jacobs, who started this gallery, asked Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen from Belgium to design some furniture. They agreed to do it but only on the condition that it would be a kind of dual exhibition. So they asked me to join them and that was how the first exhibition came about. From then on she has always done this dual thing, which is very nice because it brings perspective and dialogue to the work exhibited.
Yes I really find this approach to exhibitions of design incredibly interesting. It is a wonderful gallery!
The design of Office is very geometrical and is based on grids. My work is the opposite in its form. It’s not so much of a system. So… I was looking at this collection of stones by Roger Caillois. I had this old book, his original book, called L’Écriture des Pierres (The Writing of Stones). There is a collection of stones in it. Marguerite Yourcenar has written a very nice introduction to that book. And the whole text is about the fact that stone as a material has a certain presence and beauty. But for Caillois the interest lays in the fact that you could read stones, so there was a kind of spiritual aspect to them too. He said that the secret cyphers of the universe is hidden in stones. And I really like that because you have, on the one hand, the physical presence and on the other, you have something that you can read or imagine. It could represent a lot of things, not literally of course but in the imagination. So I liked that duality. I said to her, listen I would like to work with these stones and the shapes of these stones and their image. But of course real stones are very small. And we don’t even have them. So I needed to find a sort of translation, to see how to make these stones on a scale of a piece of furniture. Then I discovered this “faux”-marble school in Brussels. It is called Van der Kelen and it has been teaching this painting technique for nearly a hundred and fifty years now, the same technique. I met the third generation of the founders of that school and the grand-daughter, Sylvie, painted all this furniture. I gave her the images and then she reproduced those images using the Van der Kelen technique on the pieces of furniture. I thought : “This is an interesting way for me to deal with furniture because it is not only the object, there is a whole world basically hidden in this object.” I see them as small environments. I gave each of them a very simple name : this is a desk, this is a shelve, you know it’s like very simple understanding of furniture and on the other hand, there is this small world hidden inside it. And that linked them to architecture.
The Maniera thing was a way to have a two dimensional project inside a three dimensional design. What is your approach to dimensions and their changes?
First of all, when I graduated from the school of architecture, I worked for quite some time with Krijn de Koning. I was his assistant for five years and this helped me in my own work as well, because I began to work with a bit more autonomy. So after I worked for him, my first project was the Trail house that I made for a museum, for an exhibition. The request was very simple – they had this land behind the museum and they said “Propose something for this land”.
For me, one thing was clear: I wanted it to be about architecture because that was my training, my education, but I also wanted to work with forms that were already there somehow. When I started looking at the site, at the paths there, I wanted to discover the architectural possibilities of it all. So on the one hand, there is this element of autonomy, let’s say this form that does not have any relationship with architecture yet, and on the other there is me, who is trying to find those architectural possibilities. I call this also the “Possible Architecture ”. It is always present in my work: a non questionable element in the work. A form made by itself, or an appropriated form.
So as Aliki van der Kruijs said in her interview with Hlow when speaking of her project Made by Rain, there is a place for randomness in your work?
No. I think it is almost the opposite of randomness. It’s like a very strong constraint somehow. I force myself with those constraints. I decide that this is the form or the formal language that I want to work with and that is all that’s possible. So all the solutions of how to make a building have to come from there.
Saint Augustin said something about the only moment you are totally free is when you force yourself to follow the decision you have made. So freedom would come from constraints, which is somehow the opposite of freedom. I guess your technique is a climaxing example of this.
Yes the furniture I made inspired by Caillois’s book, came from cut stones, which had an oval shape. And that for me was the difficult part. I didn’t know how I could make something out of that shape, especially when it was transformed into furniture. Then I started to cut the stones. So in fact I used fragments of the stones, so suddenly I had straight edges and I could start putting them together. It seems so simple when you see it, but really it was rather tricky. I also like to mix stones, to use several stones, so in the desk the back panel is one stone, the desk itself is another and the side is yet another. This creates a certain kind of collage, a complexity. I like the fact that there is this kind of irrational part in the work. It needs to be as straight forward as possible with that constraint. In order to do that, we often take enormous detours in the work because we don’t always understand straight away what the constraint is exactly, and how we can work in a very simple way with it. I don’t like it when the work gets extremely complex. I want it to be simple in its understanding but it should have the irrationality of the constraints.
I do a lot of Zen mediation, and one of the interesting teachings is that there is no duality between inside and outside. Actually no Manichaeism. Everything is nuanced and intertwined. I find a lot of this in your architecture. For example when Jean Nouvel created the Fondation Cartier, everybody bragged that there would be no outside nor inside in the architecture of the future, it has become a sort of architectural cliché. But in your work, I perceive this Zen theory not just as an effect, because nature is one of the premises of your work…
The Fondation Cartier was basically a glass building.
He made this first wall before you enter in order to blur the lines.
Yes, but for me, it is more to do with the nature of the work: a simple consequence of the fact that I simply follow an abstract drawing.
I also like the fact that in architecture the thickness of the walls remains the same. It creates a continuous line.
In baroque architecture the interior is something on its own and the exterior is something on its own. The difference between the two is concealed in the difference of the thickness of the walls. So a baroque church is an intermediary between the inside and the outside, between the holy and the earthly.
So for me this line, because it just has one thickness, always has direct implications on both sides. So when the line bends a little, you will feel it from the inside as well as from the outside. I understand now that that’s something that I really like, it is simple and I like the consequences of it. An outside form can look fairly smooth and continuous whereas on the inside, because you only see a part of it, you see a kind of strange fragment of it. It’s like you cannot really ever understand it as a whole. The only way is either to be on the roof of the building or when you look at its blueprint …
Or you simply consult a magazine about your work, which has the overall picture…
Yes that’s when you have the best overall view, the geometry of the thing, but when you walk through it, it is like a collection of mysterious fragments. That’s one of the consequences of this approach. But these consequences are also quite convenient in some way.
It forces the visitor to participate in the creation process, he has to struggle, and make his imagination work…
Yes, exactly, and it’s part of this bigger puzzle. You feel the work as a unity, but at the same time you constantly see something different. It’s like everything in life. I like to redo the things that I enjoy doing and every time it gives you extra experience and that’s great!
Yeah, and it’s never exactly the same feeling each time…
You created your own style based of your own lexicon and you’ve been using this vocabulary in many places in the world. Do you think that architecture should be the same everywhere and if not, if you want to refer to the environment you build in, how should it adapt itself to the environment without losing its style? I sort of guess from what you already told be about your constraints as premises, that you are going to tell me that the particularities of each project are part of this very narrow starting point, that sort of dictates a big part of your design, but…
I’m actually quite happy to be in Bahrain because there is not so much contemporary visual culture here yet (no good contemporary art museum or contemporary architecture), so there is not so much distraction. And it’s actually nice to be away from all these things. And of course, the place where you are, influences your eye. I love Arabic writing, its calligraphy. And the nice thing is that so far, I cannot read it. I know a few letters but I cannot read it, so the text has no meaning, it has only a form. I can enjoy it freely. Free from meaning. It influences me. And another thing that I use now is the constraint of working with existing buildings. So there is already something. They are the limits as far as shape goes. These limits are not perfectly geometrical spaces. I really like this unevenness. And then the question is what I can add to it, how can I create something new that did not exist inside of that limit. If I was doing heritage buildings in Italy it might have been the same process, but the limits would have been completely different of course.
Could you give us some of your visual references?
I am now very much into the art from the Arab world. It is quite exciting for me because it is quite new for me. I didn’t know much about it until recently. Certain things give me a new insight on things. A lot of contemporary artists here are into storytelling, which I am not so much into. I think I am more into the concrete…I mean my work is not about metaphors, just the material. However, there are a few artists here that I find really exciting: Mona Hatoum for instance.
There is also a lot of storytelling in her work of course but there’s also this other aspect to it. A very physical presence of the work. VERY PHYSICAL! And Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, the Iranian artist working with mirror mosaics.
I associate it of course to Persian architecture, which is also very exciting. Especially when you start studying some of her work where there is quite a difference between what you think you are seeing and what you really see. It looks very formal, but actually it’s not so geometrical. There are beginnings of it that are geometrical, with for instance rose-like shapes, but then these are not placed in a geometrical way. And then there is all this invention of how to relate one shape to another. It’s a really beautiful technique. There’s also a nice story to it. I read somewhere that these glass mosaics were made in many old places because large mirrors would brake during transportation. So this tradition came from a kind of necessity to work with small elements. And you also see this in India, in Rajasthan, in the palaces. Of course there was a lot of exchange between Iran and India. There’s a very nice mystery there. I saw a lot of them in India, unfortunately I haven’t been to Iran yet, but I would love to see them there.
What would your advice be to young people starting their creative carrier now? How should they proceed ? How to be patient, how to be visible, how not to copy each other…
I was the head of a Masters programme at Sandberg, which is the Masters programme of the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. There I had a Masters that I invented myself and it was called Studio for Immediate Spaces. It was based on the idea that in many disciplines we are concerned with space. So I wondered how can all my various students develop a practice that deals with space. So I had architecture students, but also students coming from fine arts, photography, from graphic design, textile and all kind of different backgrounds. The only thing they shared was this interest in a “spatial practice”.
Then the muezzin started his rather beautiful call to prayer. It somehow covered our skype interview and reminded me that Anne was now talking from very far away, even if everything he said seemed very close to our visual universe. But he seemed really used to it and went on…
“Spatial practice” in the sense that it is dealing with space. That was the only guideline. For the rest they had to reinvent what it was all about. And now, after four years, I stopped teaching at that school. Now I teach in Switzerland, in Mendrisio, the architectural school, and there, the topic is “Material Gesture”.
Yes I know … this is our soundtrack, a few times in the day…
So to make an architecture that starts from the material and the gesture that you find beneath this material, or that you apply to yourself as a maker to the material – the way you cut something, the way you cast it, smear it, whatever you do…I like students to engage in something with no clear reference but to find their own reality. With a certain kind of constraint or focus on something and then, from there, their own work can emerge. And that occurs especially in architectural schools but also in art schools. There are always a lot of references, not always visible, sometimes they are hidden, but we can recognize them. And my job is to see them in my student’s work and to remove them, to clean the work from those references. So they have to go back to their own approach and the consequences of these approaches, to develop their work. This takes a lot more time of course. The result is much slower. But in the long run it is a lot more interesting. That’s what I try to teach them. And also to have faith in themselves, to trust themselves because it doesn’t always look good straight away. I often say “When it doesn’t resemble anything, you are on the right track.” It can also be a big failure but it’s worth trying out as it might also be a big success. Because you cannot understand anything outside of what you know. It’s a good moment when you reach that point.
There are three mosques here in the area, and they all call for the prayer.
Anne, thank you so much for this incredible voyage in both time and space. And also for the generosity of your explanations, which will, I am sure, be a source of inspiration for many of hlow’s readers. And all the best with your pearl merchant’s project.
We have come across Michael Schoner’s work last year, when he released his Crest & Trough bench. We were tremendously attracted to this neo-Memphis yet very personal and witty universe. Humour is everywhere in his joyful and well thought work. We at hlow wanted to know more about this young man.
Who are you? Where do you come from, where do you live and work?
I’m an Architect and Designer. I grew up in a small village an hour north of Frankfurt (Main), Germany. Later I moved to Darmstadt to study architecture. I have also lived in the States (California and Alabama) and one year in Barcelona. After my studies I got a job at NL Architects in Amsterdam where I worked until starting my own studio. Two years ago my girlfriend, my daughter and me moved to Rotterdam. Besides my own studio I’ve also just started working for a studio called Carve. We design playgrounds, skateparks and landscape architecture.
Being an architect, how do you link design to architecture?
Design and Architecture are closely related. If you look at buildings like e.g. from Mackintosh he designed everything from the building from the volume and layout of the spaces to window detail, to the lamps, clock and furniture of the building.
With furniture Architects tend to construct more then the average designers I once heard. That is also true for me: my furniture are mostly constructions. Actually mostly they are small architecture studies.
I read in a great post about you on Sight Unseen that you were about to move to your own house + workshop at the time. Did you manage to do so?
We (my girlfriend and me – Selina Parr from Noman Studio) bought an apartment in the centre of Rotterdam. (The Dutch say “House” even if it is only an apartment). It’s in a street of 1930s buildings and we where very lucky, because it turned out that between the main walls everything was held up by a steel structure. That meant that the middle wall could go and we nearly broke open everything towards the back facade. There we look onto a huge garden from the neighbour. The centre of the house is now a kitchen block – so one can run circles around it.
The other special thing is that it has a direct stair from the street to the first floor and then two flights of stairs through the neighbours apartment to the half of the third floor, where the sleeping rooms are. This is funny enough quite common in Rotterdam, but our first stair of 1st towards 3rd floor is ending up open in the open kitchen so the connection seems more open. As it goes with projects that you build yourself and for yourself for a big part things are not yet finished. Now we are in a phase where the basic functions are working and all the finishing is interrupted by life and other things that need to happen.
What are your visual references in general and perhaps, more in detail for three of your creations: the Crest and Trough bench, the Vault side table and the Sunrise lamp? We can see in your work a lot of Memphis and Alchemia, right? But not only, right?
I wouldn’t want to limit my references only to Memphis. Its true I embraced it because it allowed to break free from the Modernist Form Follows Function dictatorship. I like sculpture so if one is always rational things can get rather boring. On the other hand – If I don’t have a reason to do something I reconsider it, because then it becomes decorative. I like graphics and shapes, but they have to develop from a logic. My girlfriend once said what I try to do is “Minimal Maximalism”.
The Sunrise Lamp was actually a mind game following me seeing an industrial potato knife. It was a pyramid of knifes where potatoes would be shot through. I thought what would happen if the object was round. Then the legs couldn’t be like the top and a wave can grow easily out of a surface. It meant not having to make real “legs”.
Vault started very modernist.
There are so many great engineers of the last century. For instance: Frei Otto,
and Felix Candela.
I discovered though if you flip a barrel to the side, you get a niche, and that is a very old architectural leitmotiv! It would remind one of temples and churches. In the end, I like the constructive principle, though, that a bend surface can be stronger then a straight one.
This is also true for the bench Crest + Trough. I liked that corrugated steel gave extra strength to the side walls of the Trough, but at the same time it is very graphical! It’s a furniture. I had in my mind in different ways for over two years. It’s somehow an archetype. Funny enough after I had made it, I found similar furniture in wood from the 17th century in a French book. Then it was made for washing clothes – so basically a washing machine. I think we have a collective memory about shapes and their multiple meanings.
Droog Design has been connected to my old bosses of NL Architects since the 90ies. The Boombench was a project they initiated for the Urban Play Exhibition in 2008. Since, I had come up with the idea, I worked it out as well. Since then, the Bench has been in various exhibitions of Droog.
The Pop-Up Cafe was a temporary event space in Amsterdam set up by two girls Eline Mul and Karoline Buurma. It involved a lot of the young creative scene from Amsterdam most of them related to the Rietveld Academy at that moment. Back then I made some stoels for them with a water cutter.
Later Karoline did something similar at W139 in 2012 and asked me to design a chair for it, which became the Brett Baguette. Basematters is producing my chair Brett Baguette and we have added two tables and a barstool to it. An upholstered version is in development.
I started working together with Objekten and SV in 2013. The first ideas for the Vault series was for Objekten, but since they wanted flatpack it wasn’t in line with there philosophy. Luckily this is why the shelf exists, now.
For SV we looked into a modular meeting room system. Pavilions within bigger spaces. Bend glas panels would have been the construction.
I have pitched ideas for masks derived from the A3 Animals for the G-star Sunglass Campaign 2015. Ultimately the whole mask idea for the campaign was cancelled. Nevertheless I’m happy with the Fox and the Bear I developed through it.
There is also the last work I developed for Dutch Invertulas for DDW 2016. It’s more a research then a final product but here are some images.
Aliki van der Kruijs is a designer who humbly accepts randomness in her work. She leaves it to nature, or to rain to be more specific. She has created a few years ago the project called Made by Rain and is about to start an e-shop of her extraordinary natural creations that will make you look at rain in a total new way. Let’s try to learn a bit more about this queen of the rain.
What’s your story? Where do you come from, where have you studied? Where do you live and work?
My origin is Dutch, but I grew up in Nigeria, Africa, the first years of my life. After that I spend my youth in the east of the Netherlands in Wageningen before moving to Arnhem for my study Fashion Design. After graduation I worked for the denim-company G-Star but quit the job to start the master Dirty Art Department a.k.a Applied Art at the Sandberg Instituut. Nowadays I live and work in The Hague.
Could you explain what the Made By Rain project is? I perceive it as the very root of everything else you have been creating, am I right to be thinking that way?
While growing up in Nigeria I experienced rainfall very intense due to the monsoons. In the Netherlands it rains differently than 20 years ago. More comparable with the monsoon in the tropics. During my graduation the question was: ‘Why is it alway raining in my memories’?At that time I received as an inheritance from my grandfather, a notebook in which he wrote down the weather condition every day. It really made me start investigating rain as an actor in my work. With the prevalent rains in the Netherlands and its history of struggling with the elements, rain is deeply rooted in Dutch culture. I questioned what it would be like to capture the experience of rain fall on textile, to make it possible to ‘wear the weather’. For this I developed my own technique of ‘pluviography’; photographic recordings of rain precipitation on textiles with a film coating that is sensitive to water. The textiles form a collection of weather data: visual recordings of a drizzly day or even a monsoon, imprinted on textile. Each unique cloth is accompanied with its actual precipitation data of location, time and weather conditions. There is a collection of scarfs for purchase. The process is documented in a book and responds to the increase in precipitation intensity due to climate change using collaborative projects in fashion as one of the messengers. Made by Rain is an ongoing project and my aim is to make a rain-atlas with all the imprints I collect. Yes you see it right that it is kind of a root of my practice. Actually it all started in the project Weer Blauw (Weathering Blue). This is a direct translation of the calendars of my grandfather. While documenting the process of the blue pigment fading due the weather conditions, I photographed rain drops on the cloth. Seeing this, I realized that there might me a possible way to imprint this WITH the textile instead of only document it with a camera. So that’s how I took it into the next step by developing Made by Rain.
What are your visual influences?
Overall natural processes influence my visual language. Either I use rain, as something unpredictable. Or I create a work method where there is space for an uncontrolled element. I really like this tension between setting parameters and creating space for thing to occur/happen. My interest for natural elements dates back to the beginning of my work and sometimes when I look around in my studio it seems as if I was building a library of the Earth with projects about the weather, water, light, geology.
You’ve made great collaborations with various brands such as ZigZagZurich, Nike KD, Thomas Eyck, Studio Elsien Gringhuis, could you tell us a bit about these collabs? How did they start? Do you have one that you are particularly satisfied with?
The collaborations started most of the time because I was contacted after somebody discovered my project Made by Rain in an exhibition or online. I enjoyed the fact that due to those collaborations, I have been creating pieces I would not have been able to achieve alone. Made by Rain was initiated by an intention to ‘map the weather’ with the idea of creating a textile register. With the use of textile, it comes closer to a humans then when using a paper imprint, so the material was a deliberate choice. I did tests on paper and that works out as well, but I prefer the textiles and the more fluid quality of the material. With these collaborations Made by Rain is put into the domesticated space and that I really like. It is notable that after my textiles where applied into the duvet covers of ZigzagZurich or KD Tees by Nike, people knew better how to relate to the textiles and I got really good feedbacks from it. In the collaboration with the fashion designer Elsien Gringhuis, I used her framework (shape of the clothes) to come up with new ways to print and paint on textile. It worked as a playground for those new techniques. One letting the shape of the pattern dictate the print, and the more fluid result is a ‘fold-and-water’ technique that brings unique print results.
Laurence Leenaert is everywhere, all over the social networks, but also on the unmissable Sight Unseen which just released a great post about her. And there is a reason for that: she is about to develop her brand LRNCE, promote it to a whole new level and distribute it to the US and Australia. We at HLOW knew Laurence for a long time. I was selling her bags in my previous e-shop. But I kept on following her work and it kept on getting better, always new, always surprising. One reason for that is that she keeps on changing the place she lives in. Now it’s Morocco where she works with local craftsmen on ancestral techniques and creates incredible pieces mixing tradition and modernity, tomorrow it will be Thailand where she already know that she will be able to explore several sorts of techniques for fashion wear but also for home wear. I met her in Paris last month and the quality of the video (HLOW’s first – please be indulgent) was so poor that I was hesitating to even show it you, but one thing that I wanted you to see, was how modest and kind Laurence is. There is no doubt she is ambitious and talented, and no doubt she is acting for the right causes, instead of ordering big amounts from far away in countries that she would barely know, Laurence has decided as an altruistic and militant gesture to be living among the craftsmen who produce her pieces and to help them develop their business as well as hers. Very very well done Laurence! You give us hope and shows us how beautiful can do good.
I have come across your work in Basel, this year. I was totally fascinated with those pictures of stars that seemed to be made out of copper verdigri, that were exhibited by the gallery L’Inlassable_ according to us: one of the very few interesting things to see in Volta (one of the numerous satellite fairs that are taking place at the same time as ArtBasel). Could you talk to us about those incredible pieces?
For these works, my inspiration came from the James Webb Space Telescope – to be launched in 2018 by NASA. It’s going to be the largest infrared telescope so far. It’s composed of 18 hexagonal gold-coated mirror segments, which makes it look totally sacred, cathedral-like I think.
I decided to make metal segments in the same shape as the JWST’s, and used chemicals and fire to make nebulas appear. As in space, stars emerge from gas and dust, I tried to recreate theses conditions on a tiny scale.
You have studied at Paris Fine Arts and at Central Saint Martins in London, the end of school was only 3 years ago and yet we have noticed that you have already participated in many shows, are you somehow in a rush? Could you tell us a bit more about your life story?
Rather than in a rush, I’d say I’m making the most of every second. It’s true everything tends to go really fast nowadays, but what I want is to build a solid body of work, and that takes a lot of time. Each little step is important, you need patience, endurance and hard work. Although it’s sometimes difficult to resist the pressure of quick and constant production, it’s really important to keep in mind what counts and what’s left in the end, the work itself. The happiest I feel is when I’m creating in my studio, far from the social events of the art world.
You seem to be attracted with the idea of infinity and absolute, is it a metaphysical search, is it a pro-science posture, or both?
After meeting quite a few researchers, I’ve realized scientists and artists share many things as they observe the world. One of them is creativity, but the difference is you always need to prove your ideas in science, whereas there’s more freedom with art. My practice allows me to question concepts such as infinity without boundaries. I couldn’t affirm it’s a pro-science posture nor a metaphysical search, because it’s a very personal approach.
Your art pieces have direct visual impact, but they are also the result of sometimes complex processes? Do you need both: the looks and the meaning?
I like the space in between the idea and the process of making. Translating an idea, a concept through matter is very challenging. I try to always make it to the point, keeping in mind my first intuition. This goes through an economy of means. The choice of medium is highly important as each material already contains story, a meaning. I often like to work with coal, metal, graphite, because they have this timelessness.
A tough one: what is your aim in life and how do you think your art could help?
I wish to constantly keep learning, to keep exploring and risking things in my practice.
If people feel connected to what I make, spend an interesting time looking at it, even if it’s just for a second, that’s all I can ever dream of.
At another level, I hope I can contribute to raise awareness about environmental issues, by focusing attention on subjects such as climate, pollution, etc.
What is your story, how did this duo get started, how did you both start creating design?
Hannes and I were both active as visual artists. At the end of 2010 Valerie Traan Gallery asked me to create something for the gallery. Valerie Traan is used to show work which balances between art and furniture. At the same time Hannes and I were also remodeling/renovating our home. We had a problem in our living area with the electricity above our table, from this problem one of our first works sprung: table + lamp. In a few weeks time our collaboration arised and we had our first show at Valerie Traan Gallery in 2011. Muller Van Serveren was born.
Most of the people we interview love to blur all the boundaries, but with your work it is especially the case: the boundaries between art and design (some of your pieces are more sculptures, even 3D pencil drawings, than pieces of furniture, but others are real pieces of architecture), between solo and collective work, between minimalism and total fantasy, between harmony and contrast. Does the fact that you are artists producing design change your perception on design? Did you feel there was a special need to remove the partitions in design?
We definitely see it as functional objects. Lying on the borderline with arts, is due to the fact that we create furniture as visuals artists. It’s just our way of creating furniture, it’s not something we consciously seek, it’s more like a consequence.
It is very interesting to have a look at both of your previous work, to see what each of you puts into this duo. Could you tell us what is your function inside this duet? Fien for the colors, textures and the patterns and Hannes for the shapes and the concepts?
We don’t have a permanent/strict function in our cooperation. It’s always different for each object. Sometimes it’s Hannes that comes up with an idea, sometimes it’s me. Sometimes Hannes has an idea towards finishing, sometimes it’s me… However, we are in a constant dialogue with each other about what we’re creating, we draw on each others drawings etc.
But is never a predefined method or measured organization about the process of making an object.
The words « incongruous » and « absurd » are used in your biography. And we, at HLOW always compared your work to Jacques Tati’s furniture set in the movie Mon Oncle. When he was shooting the film, Tati was at the same time fascinated by the esthetics of modernism and making fun of its pointlessness. What is your link with function and dysfunction?
For us creating something that needs to have a function, feels liberating. Coming from the visual arts, we know that this restriction contains its freedom. That this our grip and the rest can be very free…
You have worked for Valerie Objects and collaborated with Fischli & Weiss? Could you tell us a bit more about these projects? Is it on purpose that we can find your pieces only in galleries or decorator spaces?
Valerie Objects came to life through the collaboration with Valerie Traan Gallery. At a certain moment Valerie Traan saw we struggled to design and to remain creative, because the production was taking too much time. The initial idea was to outsource a very big part of the collection to them. It proved to be a difficult process to mass produce all of the Muller Van Severen objects, so a couple of months ago, a large part of our design was returned to us.
Now we are trying to improve the organization via our atelier, but the objects remain close to us. Valerie Objects still produces a few smaller objects and this goes well. We are working on some new things for them. It’s a good cooperation, for Hannes and I, it’s a different way of creating furniture. The diversity of creating objects for both a gallery (who are working on editions, such as kreo) and for productions such as Valerie Objects, fascinates us…
Amélie Betrand was one of Artissima Art Fair‘s (Torino, Italy) stars.
Amélie, who are you? Where do you come from?
My name is Amélie Bertrand. I am a painter and I was born in the South of France, in 1985. I studied Fine Arts in Marseille. I live and work in Paris and I am represented by the Semiose Gallery.
What is your everyday life? An example of an ordinary day…
I wake up early, go to my workshop and come back late. This is my ordinary day. And I sell clothes two days a week.
How and when did you decide you wanted to become an artist and did you ever regret this decision?
I never really decided to be an artist. I therefore didn’t ever regret this decision. I come from a family who had a strong keenness for all forms of art. They painted, they drew cartoons and they listened to a lot of music.
I have always drawn and painted. But it’s only in high school that I confronted my work to the vision of others for the first time, which enabled me to develop a critical sense and a certain reflexion on what I would create. I discovered art history, the Trecento and the Quattrocento. Painting has started to take up all my time. It has become vital. As vital as to eat three times a day.
When we discovered your paintings at the 2014 Fiac OFFicielle, there was a whole bunch of us that were pulled up short by your paintings, the work of an at the time barely know young artist, without understanding why. I guess somehow we discovered in them a path to a future in painting, one that would reconcile what is expected and what is, painting and reality, old and new…I don’t know if this makes sense to you, but why painting? Why 3D images? Could you tell us, how, why and when you came up with your style?
Thanks! That’s actually a very interesting question. A few of these reflections can at one point gather into a thought process. I humbly try to place myself into contemporary art history using the tools that surround me. I want to play with the idea of reality, through lure. Our look is formatted by our surroundings. I paint to propose a sort of gap, a tension. I never try to create any real space, only painted spaces. All the elements are shaped to render an atmosphere, a weird aftertaste of “déjà vu”, a contemporary climate at the same time psychological and physical. I play with the depth effects, the perspectives and the proportions. All the drawing is made on Photoshop, where everything is permitted and possible. Photoshop enables me to constantly imagine new designs, new transformations. It enables me to open the realm of possible and in another way to completely distort it. This is why I don’t really use any 3D software. Everything would have been too accurate with it.
My father is a graphic designer and has taught me early on how to use Photoshop and Illustrator. I have had the impression of discovering simple solutions to painting problems. At the beginning of my Fine Arts School years, I have started by trusting the figure, the model, to try to convey in a very realistic way, an expression, a face or a posture. I was studying Cranach
And loved John Currin.
I used Photoshop for my compositions. I was working along the rules of oil painting, but the weight of the modele was soon to become too restrictive. My paintings were referring to art history. I went on to a study trip to Canada, where I discovered the systematic and rather frightening use of Scotch tape (or sellotape) and “masking tape”. They were completely uninhibited, and would use all sorts reproducible images in a merry mess. I have started to know better German painting, such as Polke
I have started to create compositions on Photoshop that were becoming more and more accomplished everyday, understanding that doubt did not have any place in composition. I have tested no other technique: nor engraving, nor silkscreen. Oil was taking all my time. I have been totally absorbed by this practice.
Is there a narration behind each of the pieces, of do you consider them as still lives or exercises in style each time?
The openness of the paintings enables different approaches. Several figurative elements are evocative of things or events, and are starting a direct dialogue with the visitor who loves stories: however the narrative element is never strong enough to make us forget that we are watching a painting. These are pictures that were painted with only one layer of painting. I need the eye not to be distracted by any shininess, or painting effect. The render has to be cold, tensed and synthetic. That’s why I am working with a system of tracing papers and stencils. The spectator has to be maintained at the surface of the painting. I do not consider them as still lives nor as exercises in style.
Could you give us some of your visual references?
Right now, I am seriously into the work of Ugo Rondinone
And Tomma Abts
And last but not least, because we at hlow are also design lovers, how did you come across the genius idea of a pink lino for your show Queens and Kings?
For the scenography, I work in close link with my gallerist. For this series of paintings, the whole color spectrum has been tried. We have decided to bring a neon glow to the ground and to the edges of the paintings, to bring a form of unity to my dance-floor! It is quite musical actually.
Vanessa Dziuba is a young French artist. Her drawings and her collages are more than poetic, they are no completely abstract and tent to make you recognize parts of it. It is never totally unknown grounds, somehow they convey a feeling of familiarity. We at Hlow wanted to understand why.
Young, woman, artist, does it work together? Are you happy Vanessa? What is your everyday life? What are your dreams, your projects?
I don’t think that these words go well together, nor that they ever did. However, this does not discourage me. I feel that I am in a positive dynamic right now. I get into a lot of interesting and attractive projects. I have a lot of discussions around me about the problematics created by the artistic works and systems, and about solutions that are available for artists…and this gives me the support I need. The fact that we ask ourselves those questions, even without responding to them, enables me to live a dynamic and proactive life.
My daily life is an interweaving of several things: I share my time between my workshop practice where I draw and experiment, moments when I write my new projects down, or when I manage collective projects, and other moments that are dedicated to other jobs that have nothing to do with my art (that’s why I need some strength to go back to my workshop practice). My problems lie more in the right organisation and balance of my schedule. I realize now that I am happy when I see a bit of evolution everyday. My projects and dreams are very varied! I am quite down to earth and concrete, I do not really know if I have absolute dreams, I have the impression I really do what makes me happy on a daily basis.
Could you tell us a bit about Coral Gables, about your relation to architecture, to tropical weather and to the absurd juxtaposition of the contemporary world? Why have you chosen the technique of collage for this series?
My first relation to architecture is the place I grew up in. It was in Nanterre in a building by Jacques Kalisz, at the 15th floor, with a view on the towers of La Défense (the Paris Business District, with skye scrapers and all…). My relation to the landscape has first been shaped by this view, this sort of striking composition.
The series Coral Gables comes from other previous series. I often proceed by interconnections. A series calls for another and it often happens that I find myself working on several series at the same time. Architecture is a recurrent theme of mine: space and scale are things that I love to transform with the angle I take or with the shapes I suggest. My shapes are often parts of existing and real elements. The choice of collage has occurred when I realized I wanted to superpose several things in the same image: I wanted the shapes to become independent, as if I was drawing using surfaces instead of lines. Collage came in naturally because it enables me to create some lines in another way.
From our point of view (we, being the hlow team), your drawings and collages have in common an infinite precision, a certain taste for patterns and a kind of abstraction, inherited from the aesthetics of the 70s and the 80s. Is it on purpose? Are you able to analyse where it comes from?
Of course, it’s on purpose. I love looking at architecture, I live un the 13th district in Paris, where I am surrounded by buildings from the 70s and the 80s. I also look at buildings from other periods of time, as the ones of the Bauhaus
or the architectures of Buckminster Fuller for instance.
Recently I have visited the Le Corbusier foundation, and I have greatly appreciated the very peculiar blend of color, the fake simplicity of spaces, the details such as the removal of a baseboard, to avoid adding an unnecessary bit of wood.
Right now, I am really into Viallat’s painting,
and other artists such as Nathalie du Pasquier
or Betty Woodman.
I try to draw objects that have an uncertain scale, so that we are never sure wether it is a building in which we can enter or a piece of furniture.
We have met you in Basel, last June, on your booth in a fair selling only editions, where you represented your collective, called Modèle Puissance, of which you are one of the founding members. What is it exactly?
Modèle Puissance is the gathering of several artists under a same name, we do not produce images together but we have gathered to talk about our work and to make editions. We create books, editions, that we spread through the web or on editions fairs, salons or shows.
I am attracted to the book, as an object, by the print, and the editions in general. I love its autonomy and the fact that it lasts longer than an exhibition, it enables us to think of a different way to show drawings.
You have just took part in the MAD, the edition fair at the Maison Rouge in Paris, what are your projects? Any news you would like to share with us?
I have just participated in many editions fairs in the end of this year. I love to meet people and to discuss about my work in a context different than the one of an exhibition. I am presently working on several projects, among which another project of a collective called Zelig Leatherman. It is a sound project that will be broadcasted during the the salon Galeristes at the Carreau du Temple, in Paris, next December. And next January, I will show my drawings and editions with Jean-Philippe Bretin at the show called The Slope of Things in Orleans (France) at the Poctb art center.
Could you tell us a bit about the Collection zine?
Collection is a publication of interviews about contemporary drawings. It exists since 2010 and we are going to publish its 5th issue at the beginning of next year. I am part of a 5 people editorial team: Sammy Stein, Julien Kedryna, Jean-Philippe Bretin, Antoine Stevenot and myself. We meet international artists, emerging or recognized, to talk about their work. The form of the interview was privileged because we wanted the artists to speak for themselves. We discuss with visual artists, designers, cartoon authors but also unclassifiable personalities who develop a strong link to drawings.
Shana Moulton is a young American artist, who was exhibited a short while ago (until september) at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, but we, at Hlow, had discovered her work on the Internet long before, through her fascinating and facetious videos.
Shana could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where do you come from? What is your work mainly about?
I’m from Oakhurst, California–a small town between Fresno and Yosemite. I don’t really know what my work is about and I’m terrible at trying to describe what I think it’s about.
I have read in an article that your principal character, Cynthia, is “a hypochondriac and an agoraphobic, stuck in endless delusional attempts to find comfort while being plagued by Technicolor hallucinations”? Did you know from the start that this would be the personality you would give her, or did it grow from one piece to the other?
I didn’t know that she would be a character I would continue to work with. At first she was just a way to feature these dresses I’d made with medical devices embedded in the fabric, so her characteristics were initially defined by the dresses. As I continued to use this character the videos became more and more autobiographical. I am a bit of a hypochondriac and find it hard to leave the house sometimes, but my imagination and creativity thrives within these neuroses.
There a certain pessimism and feeling of unfulfillment in your work, but it is quite funny at the same time… Would you describe yourself more as a cynical, an ironical person, or someone, that is just interested in absurdity and derision? Or all three? And why?
I suppose some of all 3, but I don’t mean to convey derision, poking fun at something or someone (often myself) is a usually a gesture of love. And I can also be sincere and naive. I guess one purpose of the videos is to try and convey sincerity and irony at the same time.
Are you as interested in setting ups, in sceneries, as in the very stories you are filming? Is your attraction to narration bound to be linked to a certain visual universe?
Yes, the story is often driven by objects I find and the environments I create to contain those objects. The camera shots are usually static, and I build the sets to work for just one camera angle, so they are sort of like tableau. It depends on my studio situation, when i have a traditional studio I can build these sets from scratch, but sometimes I embellish pre-existing settings like my parent’s house. And yes the narration is totally bound to this aesthetic I create, the stories are based on certain colors or forms.
What are your inspirations: post-modernism, 3D low cost animation, new age esthetics? Could you give us some references that enabled you to construct the universe you created.
Inspirations: Pee-wee’s Playhouse
Saturday Night Live from the 90s
growing up in a senior mobile home park called Whispering Pines in the Sierra National Forest
visiting San Francisco every year as a kid and living there and in Berkeley as an adult,
coming of age as an artist in the late 90s/early 2000s, discovering artists like Mike Kelley
As a conclusion and because I am sure after this you will want to see more of Shana’s work, and to know more about her, I advise you this great biographic video:
Stromboli is a design and design auto-production label based in Paris and Mexico, created by the prolific Clémence Seilles, whose work redefines a new way to create, transcending today’s limiting segmentation. Clémence has very kindly accepted an interview while she was moving to Mexico. So it is a rather hectic moment for her, and at the same time, it is the beginning of something new.
What is your perception of the distinction between art and design? Is your aim to blur this frontier?
I have blurred the frontier maybe working as both designer and artist, and I think we can do that. It keeps in my character the dancing going from a system to another. Then I don’t provide or express the same expertise in those two different areas, which I don’t recognize as the same thing. It just happens to be clear that attitudes, logics, outcomes, goals and sphere of people are different.
My perception of design is very practical, as responding through object, furniture and space to “what is needed to be done”, as answering a need and make it function for the present situation. This is the dry and pragmatical first lead I follow before to reach the very subjective angle of style and attitude.
My participation to exhibitions in galleries or institutions answers to an ideal of collective actions, producing situations for exchanges and a formal experimental ground which finds a way sometimes to translate into applied objects. To choose two recent projects: the association Mortal Recordings I have created this year, which goals is to produce, record and perform impro music in a transcendental space inviting musicians, visual artists and poets to perform non stop on a handful of days. Mortal Recordings first album will be release early 2017. Here is a video of the last session in Paris La Villette.
And the late collaborations with Dutch artist Melanie Bonajo on developing cinema sets for her film series Night Soil, on view for their latest version at the Foam Museum in Amsterdam till december 7th.
Your studio is based in Paris and Mexico City, where does this double identity come from? How does it influence your work? What is the story behind Stromboli, when was it founded and why?
The installation of a studio in Mexico City is the big news of this year. It’s has been a huge crush with Mexican culture and environment when I first went two years ago, discovering the very alive and diverse Mexican crafstmanship as much as industrial potential. Therefore I organized to partially move my activities from France. It is a good moment first personally, I just turned 32, so “hey, why not?”, nothing is so strong installed yet that I have much to loose, and it corresponds with setting up Stromboli Associates in February 2016, which among collaborations with brands, intends to develop toward interior architecture and production of our own lines of furniture. I keep the studio in France, as part of the double identity of Stromboli Associates, which will only gain I believe from the duality of the two worlds. It is too early to say how it influences the work, but Mexico City and Paris surely don’t offer the same opportunities neither the same dynamics, and Stromboli Associates is developing on both sides.
Could you tell us a bit more about the Dirty Art Department?
I co-founded the Dirty Art Department at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam in 2011 on a joyful and critical urge to create a study program for designers and artists interested into applied situations. Students develop individual or collective works inside situations brought from the department most likely such as a restaurant, a rave, a hotel, a market….or from students themselves as the Post-Norma squat in 2014, where living, working, performing and sharing were all to be invented in a huge free space in north Amsterdam, from which doors had be broken to get in, and a start to learn this skill. So the dirty art department intends to support and initiates situations and actions that move individuals toward a certain independence.
You have collaborated with several tremendously cool brands/designers/artists such as OXYDO Eye-Wear brand, Andrea Crews, Elisa Valenzuela, Fabien Cappello, Travis Broussard, Theo Demans, Melanie Bonajo, Sanks design label and Mortal recordings music rooms? Could you tell us a bit more about these projects?
Every collaboration has its own way to go with their own intentions. OXYDO Eye-wear brand commissioned me for 2 collections. It went really smooth and fast due their great knowledge in production and management giving me pretty much “carte blanche”. On the first collection I studied architecture of antic bridges, which resulted on dramatic glamorous shades. On the second collection coming out now, the intention was more to bring super light glasses, with simple round shape and playful inserts of acetate, quite cartoonesque.
The collaboration with fashion label Andrea Crews was really engaging with the production and revisit classics cuts of the brand into craftsman batik production we undertook in my atelier, at the time in Berlin, that’s already back to 2010/11.
Sanks Design Label was an ambitious collective experiment I took part to set up from Amsterdam with 6 other designers to create in 12 hands collections of table wear objects on the moment of “Salone de Mobile Milan“. We develop 2 collections.
Collaborations with artists and designers are always showing on the pass as encounters and opportunities re being pushed. It’s definitely a character of Stromboli Associates to include external collaborators.
As a conclusion I wanted to add some quotes of Clémence I have found on the interview page of her website: « I tirelessly dodge having to justify myself as an artist or a designer and explain why I created the “dirty artist” designation, which symbolises that universal position of the creator before the historical split between applied arts and fine arts ». Clémence says in another interview: « A designer evaluates a need, a context, and answers it consequently with the intention of creating a useful response. » and « I am a designer because I am concerned with setting up life situations, and present inspiring outcome for people, and that’s what a designer is doing. » So looking at the way Clémence has answered this interview despite a very complicated schedule, and at the way she defines her ideal vision of a creative mind, to be at the disposal of the people, I would say that her creativity _ her contagious love of dirty esthetics _ becomes more of a generous act of giving and improving things for others. And perhaps that is why she is still a designer even though she is definitely a great artist. This is not the last time we talk about Clémence in Hlow.
How old are you, where do you live and where do you come from? What is your story with design, how did it start?
I am 26 years old and I was born and grew up in Ljubljana, Slovenia. During high school I was part of the Improv theatre that strongly influenced my way of working. I wanted to study film direction but I somehow ended up at this new course (ceramic and glass) at the Academy of fine arts and design in Ljubljana. In the last semester I made an exchange in Goteborg, Sweden, where I studied ceramics and new media (paralel). I went to Design Academy Eindhoven where I graduated from Contextual Design MA with an installation that connects design, performance, improv, technology, poetry and humor. I like to work with different mediums in order to shape my projects from different angles. I constantly try to learn the techniques of mediums/materials/softwares I haven’t yet used as well as the new technologies. I am interested in how I can effect other people not only trough objects or design/art but through everything including myself as a person.
I am currently back in Ljubljana, renovating my apartment that will combine some living spaces with workshops, dining room with restaurant and living room with gallery/theatre which will serve as some sort of an experimental residency.
In your bio, it is said that you « act on basic human gesture » with your « experience in improvisation theater ». And when you graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven, in 2015 it was said in Dezeen about your project, a series of absurd electronics, that they were « purposefully ridiculous » and « that (they) only work(ed) in response to unconventional movements ». Would you say your design applies to humans as much as to the objects? In that sens you would be more of an experience designer…
During the years when I was active in the improv theatre me and my friends build a very special relationship between us. On stage, you have to listen and be aware of yourself and your surrounding. Every movement is registered and amplified. This mindset is also present in our everyday life so a simple gesture as sitting on the chair is not simple anymore, we constantly consider life as a play. With my graduation project “Electricity is just like… WOAH!” I made objects and situations that would provoke people to be closer to this mindset which I wish it would be more present in everyday life. I think products often offer too narrow scenario of use. Every object used by a person creates an experience.
Your website is full of joke sentences or absurdities like “Actually when we lick ice creams we pretend to be dogs. » or « The battery holds frozen electricity. » And your design projects are as much inspired by the toy industry as by the Memphis era. Is the purpose of this new relation between man and object regressive? Are you nostalgic of a certain cartoon playful and colorful child life and of the fun and magic it use to everyday life?
I am nostalgic of the feeling of being a kid where people don’t limit your behavior. Theatrical play and child’s play works with the same principle of imagine and pretend. In fact, we all do that all the time, we just have a ton of filters and walls around it which I think should be broken. Fiction is already part of our everyday life and I like to embrace it.
What is your news? Would you like add something?
In fact some stuff I made after the graduation and are not on the webpage (which only served for the graduation project):
- Few months ago I made a music video for my friends called FFX:
- And here are new lamps I presented at Rossana Orlandi’s space during this year Milan Design Week:
We are both born in 1983, it must be a special year (:-D), and being exactly from the same generation is perhaps why I am so receptive to your work. I read that you created your own studio in 2010, but what did you do before? Studies, assisting other designers? Did you study design straight away?
Actually, I graduated in Interior design in 2006. The I practiced the job working as a freelancer. Then around 2009 I started to play with objects and accessories just to experiment on my now language, my own vision.
I personally was in contact with you through my previous business, IreneIrene, an internet shop selling your beautiful Adobe Collection, with which I totally fell in love, as well as the TP Carpet crafted in Sardinia, that used an ancient technique, could you tell us a bit more about these series?
Both project started after meeting a skilled artisan. The first collection (TP) was a more contemporary approach to decoration, thing that I like very much in objects. The richness of that textiles made in a very traditional way was reinterpreted by a handmade drawing very far from typical Sardinian patterns, so very fresh! Adobe was born after meeting one of the last artisans making bricks the old way. I wanted to tell this beautiful story and let him decorate a raw piece of clay using his tools. Then I also started to mix two different materials. This is something I still use to do as part of my approach.
Since then, I have fallen in love with several of your projects: Belle for Incipit, the grid wallpapers for Texturae, Bucket for Yoox.com, which I have seen in this year Milan Triennale show about women in design (by the way congrats, you are now part of this great history), could you tell us a bit more about those pieces? And where did the love story for terra-cotta come from? You surely know how to sublime this material!
My mother (as may other people in my town) was working in a company making tiles, so I guess I grew up playing with clay much more than other children. Bucket on of the consequences of modeling and engraving clay, mixing it with other materials in order to create a sort of balanced contrasts.
You also are the editor of some of your own projects, which I find is a very courageous thing to be doing. How is being an editor different from being a designer?
Being an editor let you know everything about the journey from the first idea to the use of a product. So you have to manage everything like communication, distribution, sales, packaging etc. This is very hard but also very useful. Cause it makes you aware of a lot of features that usually designers don’t care. It makes you more than just a creative. It makes you a strong designer. Thanks to this training of designer editor now I’ve gone further start working as art director and creative consultant for some companies as Incipit, Karpeta and Bitossi Home.
Do you perceive a specificity in Milan design?
Milan design is the right spot just between fashion and manufacturing.
Here is a rather discreet agency, MurMur, which is silently winning over Paris. Before the interview we started with a few jokes, they made me feel at ease right away. Both Benoît and Lucie are very simple and straightforward.
What is the story behind your duo, where did you meet, how did you start your studio?
Benoît Huen: We were in the same architecture school, in Paris, and presented our diploma on the same day, this is how we met. After school, we each went on a rather different path. I first worked for AREP on urban and railway infrastructures in France and China and for Naud & Poux Architects on offices, housing, hospitals, schools and retirement homes.
Lucie Lepage-Depreux : I was project managing in the agency XI Design, working on rehabilitation projects in central Paris.
Who has what role in your duo? Do you each have your own speciality?
Benoît : It’s not really about having a speciality, we both like discoveries, and changing from one project to another, so basically we do everything together, and consider each project as our new challenge. We tend to like interior design projects as much as bigger scale projects, such as the office building we are working on right now.
For the bakery Liberté in Paris, for the restaurant Le Mordant, and for Frédéric Morel’s showroom in Paris, you were at the same time very respectful of the past of the building and radically contemporary. When I think of certain statement pieces such as the marble counter of Liberté, I feel that you managed to bring together two apparently contradictory notions: minimalism and refined decoration.
Benoît : Our thing is that we always ask ourselves whether we would still like the project in five years from now. It’s a way of not slavishly following contemporary trends, of aiming to reach intemporality. For instance we think we could still take responsibility for the restaurant Le Mordant in 5 or ten years, there is nothing there that could become outdated. This is really our aim. And what is left, when you peel off all that can grow old is what you can call our signature, or our style.
Maybe you could sum up a definition of your style in one sentence.
Benoît : Some kind of a manieristic approach to architecture, with no or very few processed materials. We like to keep it rough.
Between small projects and big ones, do you have a preference ? Do you use some projects as the research lab for other bigger ones? What is the relation between your projects?
Benoît : Basically none: we start each project from scratch, apart from Liberté, which had several branches, and one signature style. We did a lot of rehabilitation projects, and a lot of projects for people that were changing their career and starting a new activity. So I guess our work is often about re-« conversion » of people and places. I would say that our style or our signature is: to have very designed façades and very respectful left-as-they-are interiors, if this makes sense… For some, we had the chance to have a lot of freedom. For Liberté, we were actually totally free (liberté means freedom in French 😀).
Lucie : Well no, remember he was a bit afraid?
The client was afraid?
Lucie : Until the marble arrived the client did not understand where we were heading. He could see we were very confident, he trusted us, but he could not see for himself what was our point. When the marble arrived, there was a big: Ah! That’s why!
What is your news today?
Benoît : Today we are working a several amazing projects, but unfortunately…
Lucie : They are confidential, sorry. But they are very interesting and very different from one another.
Benoît : That’s our thing : we are always afraid of doing the same thing again and again. We really don’t want to get bored or repetitive. We need to feel excited and challenged each time.
Lucie : We have been lucky enough to have had freedom and diversity.
What is your ambition? What do you dream of right now? How do you perceive your studio in 10 years time?
Benoît : We don’t want to become too big.
Lucie : We really don’t like huge studios that cannot take responsibility for all their projects.
Benoît : Since we love details, we want to be able to supervise everything. So we want to keep control and still worry about the design of things.
Lucie : We love design.
Would developing a line of furniture for editors be something that could interest you?
Both: Yes totally!
Benoît : That would be our megalomaniac dream.
How do you find your clients?
Benoît : We don’t like answering calls for fastidious projects. Most of our projects came from quite organic and natural networking, one project often leads to another. Until now, our portfolio grew along with our group of friends quite easily.
Christie, what’s your story? Where do you come from? How did you start with design, and why did you choose the name Teaches of Peaches?
Hello! I come from Sydney, Australia and grew up in a town called Brisbane. I guess I started with design while I was studying at college, I started experimenting with design and was discovering myself artistically and creatively so I guess you could say I started with an eye for experimentation and exploration.
I started out working within more traditional mediums of design, you know – layout, branding, logos but recently I’ve been asked to collaborate on really exciting projects! I’ve been asked to create stickers for an iMessage app, develop a series of animations and create an animated photo shoot. This is definitely the path I see myself going in.
TEACHESOFPEACHES came about after listening to one of my favourite all time recording artists Peaches, who definitely introduced me to new waves of thinking – especially in the realm of pushing gender norms and feminism. The name is from one of her songs ‘Fuck The Pain Away’.
You are an artist, an art director and a curator, how do you switch from one role to the other, and how does each function nourish the other? What are your influences?
I’m influenced a lot by people around me and things I see. My peers are super important to my workflow and growth. It’s definitely a task attempting to be all of the above, but there’s definitely a way around it.
Nourishment between disciplines is totally on the cards too, I think working from an art direction/curation perspective you can really understand the fundamental functionality of a piece – if you’re intention is to make it that way. But when I put the artist ‘hat’ on, it’s about pushing the boundaries, experimenting and definitely caring less about the functionality but focussing further on the aesthetics. From my perspective, if you can successful handle multiple disciplines then you’ve done it.
In 2011, you have founded a zine/e-shop called Pitch/Zine could you tell us about this experience?
PITCH ZINE was born from a love and desire to help push emerging artists, designers, photographers – any type of creative really, into the real world and establish their career further. The whole premise of the project was built on passion and I’m so happy to have created a platform where not only can the artist be presented in a way that will fulfill themselves in a career sense, but also work as a platform to experiment and create.
Myself and a small team of creatives built the online platform, then delved into the print realm with one printed issue and also developed an e-commerce platform to continually push emerging designers and support them within our industry.
Overall it was a really pleasant experience!
I met the most amazingly talented and ground-breaking people and am so happy for what we achieved.
You have done several projects exploring the link between visual and audio reception (among others Ear & Eye for Gradients in New York, Vortex Pop for the Goodspace Gallery in Sydney), what attracts you in this match?
These two exhibitions were created at similar times, purely by chance! But that’s kind of what I really loved about being involved in projects like this – for some reason, even on the other side of the world, myself and Kathy (founder of The Gradients) / Special Edition Co. were on the same wave length. I think that’s so cool.
In terms of exploring the links, it goes without saying that music and art go hand-in-hand and have done for centuries. From my perspective, music producers and artists can develop such a unique, collaborative experience that not many other combinations of artist can.
For instance when I’m creating a new piece of work, I always have music playing. Whatever feels right for the vibe I’m trying to create, I have some of my favourite producers by my side, easing me into what feels right at the time. It’s a truly intimate experience.
Overall it was a really pleasant experience!
I met the most amazingly talented and ground-breaking people and am so happy for what we achieved.
You are, yourself, very active on Instagram and have curated for Australia’s Museum of Contemporary Art a digital zine about artists selected on Instagram, is this according to you the best way to promote one’s work, did it bring you work opportunity? Do you consider it as an art medium?
I really do! Instagram is something I got into, very late in the game. At first I was really adamant that I would only use it for taking photos on my iPhone, but after a long time I slowly started realizing that Instagram was starting to evolve and it was a lot easier to promote my work (as well as PITCH ZINE‘s) and utilise it as a platform to showcase my work – much like a website.
I 1000% consider this as an art medium, it’s so unlike any platform I’ve ever used. You have this really personal touch to promoting your work, opposed to other platforms. I feels really unique and real and that’s exactly what I like about it.
I think it’s really important to stay in touch with friends, see what your peers are up to and give support to your loved ones. It’s also a really nice way to promote a specific aesthetic, however strange it may be.
We at HLOW wanted to write a short post on Alessandro Bava, the Neapolitan Londoner, the architect, the artist and curator, founder of magazine Ecocore _the “last surviving ecology zine”_who is interested in the interactions between all those disciplines, and in how they all get reshaped with Internet, 3D imagery and collaborative platforms.
In terms of content, it leads for instance to a show during the Venice Biennale called the Airbnb Pavilion, about the standardization Airbnb brings to interior design, when “once one’s house is no longer one’s home, but rather another asset”_25 young architects were invited and the show took place inside Airbnb rentals_ or to a book called the City of God with poems by Harry Burke illustrated by his architectural renderings.
In terms of esthetics, he brings the video game imagery to real life and it creates something potent, some kind of statement: at the 89plus exhibition (the Google Cultural Institute contemporary art project curated by Simon Castets and Hans Ulrich Obrist), Bava has created a sort flooring, which was in fact a print of a mysterious surface, halfway marble, halfway ocean waves: it mocked the cheap 3D renderings that you can find in most 3D drawings and which somehow shape your imaginary world, but bringing it to the real world made it paradoxically quite beautiful, and poetic.
Since we at HLOW are interested in the creative minds who carry their generation, we thought that Bava was a must : an important figure of today’s visual invention.
Nowadays with the huge success of Maurizio Catalan’s and Pierpaolo Ferrari’s Toiletpaper,
every creative person around the globe views edgy pictures as
absolutely anything (it works especially well if it is a random or even an absurd selection)
with a vivid color background.
But we came across Elad Lassry’s work back in 2009,
through the incredibly cool mag Kaleidoscope.
So Elad’s first body of work was already well established
when Toiletpaper was only starting to become an idea.
We wanted to talk about Elad Lassry as the real and, to our taste, not sufficiently acknowledged (at least not in Europe) vision creator of a generation.
He started with these elegant visions, devoid of meaning, yet beautiful in their emptiness.
He always considered a piece of art as an object with a matching frame,
that would virtually transform a picture into a piece of design.
One interesting feature of his portraits and still lives is that they are all the size of a magazine page,
which we understand as a statement: what I call art is nothing more than what you see,
as you would enjoy the editorial in a magazine, you will enjoy my style,
because I am creating a radically NEW STYLE.
But he was not satisfied with this, he wanted to go further.
So he started associating his pictures with films.
I had the chance to see one at the Arsenale, in Venice, during the 2011 Venice Biennale.
The film was called ‘Untitled (Ghost)’ and showed ballet dancers dancing in bright colors,
on a monochrome beige background.
Sometimes there was a simple after effect: when they crossed each other, they tended to superpose themselves.
It was all about the graphics.
I have the feeling that I totally understand Lassry when he says it is “deceptively simple in execution ».
Because to achieve this kind of beauty you have to attain a level of precision that flirts with madness.
He has now added sculpture and painting to his work.
But he knows perfectly well what he is doing,
what visual reference he conveys, and how all the various pieces can interact.
I wanted to talk about Elad Lassry in my blog
because I think he has shown the way for every creative mind born after 1980.
Buki Akib is an incredibly talented British and West African designer. After studying at Saint Martin’s, she has done one collaboration after the other, with the coolest brands and magazines (Darkroom, I-D, Urban Outfitters are a few examples). She now lives in Ghana, and conveys Ghanian and Nigerian crafts to her contemporary creation. What enables her to marry local crafts and design in such a natural way? We, at HLOW, wanted to find out.
Can you tell us a bit about your story between UK, Ghana and Nigeria? Where do you live, where did you grow up, where did you study and where do you live right now? How is this triple location(/identity?) influencing your work?
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and grew up and studied in London, England. My parents made it very important that I was in tune with my culture and roots. I often went back home on holidays . I like the idea of a triple location identity, it makes me realize how lucky I am to be able to travel and explore. It is part of the story telling: design from the eyes of an African born in West Africa growing up in England then going back to West Africa. I came across Ghana first through my late mother, she was a generation of Nigerian settlers born and bred in Ghana until they migrated back to Lagos, Nigeria. So I guess i have always had an affinity with Ghana. I am still constantly amazed by each country’s richness in history, art and evolution which contributes to my work. I now spilt my time between London and Accra.
We personally were in contact with you through our previous business, IreneIrene, an internet shop selling your beautiful Wives Collection, with which we totally fell in love, could you tell us a bit more about this series?
The wives collection was special to me because i wanted to touch on the subject of polygamy. Wives collection was a follow up from my Menswear collection “Fela” which showcased the talented musician and activist Fela Kuti who had 27 wives. From afar it seemed ridiculous to have all these women but on the other side, Fela gave these women shelter, stability and status when society demonized them. The bags were named and created distinctively to suit each wife’s personality. For instance, one of the bags had a shoulder pad tassels to emulate the movement of the dancers on stage.
You work with traditional Yoruba hand woven Aso-oke with cotton, silk and linen, could you tell us more about this craft and its history?
Hand weaving on the loom has been around for centuries in West Africa. Our looms are smaller in width compared to looms in North Africa or Japan. The graphics woven on fabrics were always a way to signify a tribe, a special occasion and remember history. It is almost a form of communication. This form of communication is fundamental to how I create Art. This is my universal language.
You have worked for I-D, ABOVE and ZOO and had collaborations with Urban Outfitters or the late cult London shop, Darkroom, how did you enjoy these experiences?
Every experience was different and humbling. I have worked with museums, jewelry company and cult stores like Darkroom. All these experiences have made me realize the art of story telling is endless. In any medium or discipline. I hope to work with other craftsmen in Accra and North Africa has I journey through the wonders of Africa. I am a devoted student to these masters.
Noviki defines itself as a “post studio living in a graphic design utopia”, a research laboratory “exploring the fields of contemporary art expression”.
Noviki wants to play with you and to blur the boundries between art, and graphic design.
Niviki is a duo composed of Katarzyna Nestorowicz and Marcin Nowicki.
This insolent studio is based in Warsaw, Poland. Their style has been nourished by the Internet, it is an anti-esthetic, neo 80s, post-modern, junk lovers approach. We at HLOW tend to love this mix and hope you will too.
We fell in love with two of their projects:
- The first was the visual identity of the project “Nothing Twice”, which is, according to them, the first project in Poland to combine an exhibition and performance on such a large scale. The event celebrates the inauguration of Cricoteka’s new facility. The exhibition and accompanying performance programme interpret the influence of Tadeusz Kantor’s concepts in the work of contemporary artists operating at the crossroads of theatre, performance and visual arts. This project is based on the idea of the ready-made, appropriation art and the concept of re-performance. It poses questions about the archiving and collecting of Live Art.
- The second was a video, called the THE DISPLACEMENT, which is a piece I came across in Warsaw, visiting a show called ASSEMBLED, DISASSEMBLED, curated by a friend, Romuald Demidenko and organized by Zachęta Project Room. Here’s Noviki’s desciption for it:We are living in times when the displacement takes place simultaneously on many levels.the displacement of power, force, in the political word,
the displacement of people as sociological phenomenon
the displacement of aesthetic
the displacement of roles and responsibility of artist / designer / curatorVideo has two narratives – conducted equivalent. First is tracking graphics, made for the needs of the group DDG which is placed on my blog “aestheticblog.tumblr.com”; and has been displaced by other users for a dozens of times. I travel to unknown places discovered by the rebloged links of other users to see where my work wandered – in what context my work is shown. Second narrative concerns a problem of internally displaced people. There is no legal definition of Idp, despite the fact that it is one of the most significant and symptomatic issues of our time, still accumulates and remains unresolved.
These shifts overlap and identify each other, are devoid of boundaries, boundaries of legal, moral, aesthetic, state, political, human, escape into the unknown.
Last but not least, because we love you dearly, faithful HLOW followers, this is our last little present for you: Noviki’s blog, which is more than inspiring. You can have a look at it for hours…
The Atelier Biagetti is a Milan based Design Studio created by Alberto Biagetti and Laura Baldassari. We have come across their work, through a Wallpaper* post about their 2016 Milan show, called No Sex. We are an absolute fans of all their production.
They tend to create a coherent body of work based on the contemporary obsessions: sport, sex, maybe the next will be money? The one about Sport is also a must-see, and we may write a post about it at one point. But aside from this exploration, we are really receptive to their esthetic approach. It plays with the light and with the subconscious ideas of health, hygiene and innocence. Copper has been everywhere for the past three years, and we were starting to get really tired on it, when we met this work, and rediscovered how beautiful it could look, associated with bright colors, especially powder colors such as pink, and nude, well done!