During our DutchDesignWeek tour in Eindhoven last October, we had many great moments, especially in the Design Academy Graduation show. You can check our post about Hala Tawil, who is from the same class as Elissa Lacoste (Contextual Design) and other posts (such as our post about Envisions) linked to the fabulously inspiring trip.

The moment when we had our first glimpse at Elissa’s work, we did not perceive it straight away as it was. This work is a process in itself, a process in fabrication but also in perception. After a while, we simply screamed outloud: GENIOUS! We just had to talk with Elissa and try to render this perception climax. 

We wanted to have a word with you about your graduation project: Grotesque Matter, this work really plays with the first impression of the visitor. At the beginning your eye does not see the details, the pieces intentionally look like dirty mousse or junk. Then you distinguish a certain depth in matter, nuances in color, translucency also, with which you play, placing neons to create a lamp. At the end, you consider the incredible shapes (full of details, such as in a landscape) as design pieces, not only as random matter effects anymore. There is a stool, an amazing coffee table and a lamp. These are all functional objects? What was the idea?

With Grotesque Matter, I didn’t want the objects to reveal their function at first sight, but instead invite the visitor to touch, experience the materials and in this way understand the object’s affordances through his own cognitive senses. As we constantly want to control the material environment in which we live, we see matter as something dead and passive, that we force into its shapes, coat to the point of perfection. But we tend to live in denial of the inevitable and enormous pile of trash that our clean and sanitized interiors require to exist and remain fresh. By allowing the materials to shape themselves, it was this brutality, the vibrancy of matter that I wanted to embrace from the start in my objects, in order to fuel an unconventional beauty that goes beyond cultural rules and taste, a culture of the grotesque, between attraction and repulsion, but which could also improve our tolerance towards imperfection, material otherness and decay.  

Could you tell us a bit more about your path, where do you come from Elissa, where have you lived, worked and studied before Eindhoven, your website mentions Saint-Etienne (France) and Riga (Latvia). Why? And why Eindhoven? When did you start telling yourself you were a designer?

I come from Autun, a small town in the middle of Bourgogne, in France where I grew up immersed in nature. I studied at the School of Art & Design of Saint-Etienne where I graduated with a Bachelor degree in 2015. After that, I went on an Erasmus exchange in Latvia, at the Art Academy of Riga, where I had the chance to spend 5 months between several departments (Fashion, glass, metal, textile) and freely experiment with all kinds of crafts and materials. Then I did a 3 months internship at Sebastian Errazuriz Studio in New York, where I had my first professional experience as a designer. From there I applied to Design Academy Eindhoven for the Master Contextual design to continue making and developing my personal practice where I particularly appreciated the artistic and hands-on design methodology. 

You have just graduated. This is a very interesting time of your life. Do you have precise ambitions in life that you may want to share with us? What kind of design do you wish to produce? What are your plans for the years to come?

My ambition is mainly to continue making, working directly with materials, but also to open up my research with new topics and ideas. My graduation project gave me a great start for further developments in making collectible design objects, that I wish to keep hand-made and unique, even if produced in small series. Now and for the coming years I am open to collaborations with other people from different disciplines, that I find very enriching.

Elissa Lacoste working on Grotesque Matter

Could you show us some of your visual references?

In the memoire linked to this project, I have used these two pictures. The first shows the detail of a cave, the second, the detail of a grotesque Italian fresco. I was interested in the juxtaposition and comparison of the two.

Lodève cave detail, Hérault, France. Photography by Philippe Crochet. 

Fresco from the Villa Emo, Italy by Battista Zelotti, 1565. 

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