Paris – Behind two cylindrical sets of curtains, one in cream, the other in black, was one of the highlights of Paris fair Maison & Objet: the fruit of Ann Demeulemeester's collaboration with Serax. Both collections – one of porcelain tableware, the other of lamps – mark Demeulemeester's inaugural foray into designing home goods.
Demeulemeester was one of the original Antwerp Six designers who graduated from the fashion department of the city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the mid-1980s. Through her monochromatic, deconstructed-minimalist collections, she developed a signature aesthetic and loyal following. A year after bowing out of the fashion world in 2013, Demeulemeester and her husband, Patrick Robyn, began renovating a 19th-century country house, for which they instinctively began to make objects.
‘My husband and I love to make things and for years we have been making what we need,’ says Demeulemeester. ‘I was intrigued by the material of porcelain; I started to study that and took lessons’. After learning how to model clay and mix glazes and buying a kiln, her passion grew. One dinner guest was so awestruck by the Demeulemeester’s plates and bowls that she offered to introduce the designer to Axel Van Den Bossche, who founded Serax with his brother Serge in 1986.
The Dé porcelain collection makes up half the results of that meeting. Comprising unique pieces hand-painted in China, the collection an expression of Demeulemeester’s visual language in a new field. Key to Dé is the brightening or darkening of light and shadow: ‘I think in terms of light and shadow – that's always been very important for me,’ she explains. ‘I painted shadows on the plates in order to create light. I always start from black and white and with shape and form – the three dimensional.’ In order for the progressive shading of her pieces to be correctly realized by the artisans, Demeulemeester sent films of her technique to China, along with the right brushes.
If I make a jacket, table, lamp or pot, it's the same soul there translated into the piece
The relationship to Demeulemeester's garments also finds expression in the lighting. This is particularly evidenced in the fringed viscose and steel or brass pendant, wall and table lamps in red and white or black and white. ‘The yarns are hand-dyed and hand-knotted on ribbon and we use them to diffuse the light in a way that only this material can do,’ she says. ‘I like the contrast between the poetic fragility of the soft yarns and the spiky, sharp quality of the metal. I've used this tension a lot in my work before; it's how I put things in balance.’
In Demeulemeester’s eyes, the Serax collaboration indicates the flow of her creative force: ‘People who know my work all say the same: “It's so Ann”. If I make a jacket, table, lamp or pot, it's the same soul there translated into the piece. There's a certain emotion involved that people can feel.’