Montpellier-based wood designer Thibaut Malet belongs to a young generation of creators that explore – and materialize – the new potential of wood. With an insistence on traditional techniques, his objects are a strong reminder that wood has entered a new era. Wood inspires creation on a small and large scale, and Thibaut Malet aspires to both.
Why do you choose wood?
Thibaut Malet: I was born in a family of carpenters, my grandfather, father, brother and uncle are carpenters. Since very young I have been encircled by wood. After my studies in ‘space design’, a field between interior and furniture design, it seemed natural to me to work with wood. It is a very interesting material: It is versatile, can be adapted to all types of projects, it is light, solid, insulative.
Toys, bike parts, lamps, wall decorations. Is there a lot left to be done with wood?
T.M.: I still have many wood projects in mind. I would like to create my own chair, this would be a nice big project.
Would you call yourself a carpenter?
T.M.: I prefer to consider myself a ‘wood designer’, but I also like the idea of not having a specific title. I am not a carpenter to the extent that I am not doing the same work as my father. Nowadays wood is worked more in detail than it used to, designers and artisans discover new potential in it. Talking for myself, I recently found out about inflatable wood. Also, more and more people work with laser cutting or digital carvings. I admire these techniques, however, I believe they remove part of the woodworking beauty. Like in many other fields, technology replaces man’s hand.
What is the future of woodworking?
T.M.: Nowadays we can create huge objects just from wood. I believe that the future of wood lies in the building sector. We know well the structural and insulation qualities of wood. It is a solid, long-lasting material. Its life span is bigger than the plastic materials used in design, by comparison. In addition, since wooden objects can last hundrends of years, we don’t need to worry about recycling either.
Whose work has influenced you the most?
T.M.: Matthias Pliessnig’s work literally convinced me to work in design. I am fascinated by his work on curve and perfect lines.
Do you work with other material?
T. M.: I work often with other materials, although wood takes up the biggest part of my work. For example, I like working with aluminium or plaster and I would really like to work with concrete, although it is a material I know little about.
For the ‘Phobos’ lamp you did not use any screws. And for the bike hanger you used wooden screws. How important is it for you to keep the purity of the material?
T.M.: For me the beauty of an object lies primarily in the choice of its material, the form comes after. I try to work with pure materials in order to put forward their texture. Of course different materials can be combined, but ‘masking’ their ‘impurities’ is important to me. I get more satisfaction when the spectator does not know exactly how the object was made.
Is the house of your dreams made of wood?
T.M.: I am sure you know the answer by now.
Photos courtesy Thibaut Malet.