It's been a month since the high energy design week in Milan and we've had some time to cool down. Now the design world is returning to its regular pace but we still can't forget the noteworthy exhibitions and designers. We spoke with Tijmen Smeulders, a recently graduated, breakout Dutch designer based in Eindhoven whom presented his latest series at Self Unself at Salone del Mobile.
What was your starting point for the diverse pieces exhibited together at Self Unself in Milan?
Mirror, Rug and Pitcher are the results of my graduation project at Design Academy Eindhoven were I graduated (cum laude) last December from the Man and Well-being department. The project started as a study into several daily items. Each piece is a reconsideration of a product for everyday use and its properties; a study of volume, light and perception. The products give new sensory experiences to the everyday.
Are they linked in some way?
Yes they are, in several ways. For me, an important link is the fact they all interact with light in a different manner; they absorb, mimic or reflect light. The way light is able to influence our perception of colour and materiality – and therewith changes our perception of the product – fascinates me and is a recurring subject within my work. You can see and simultaneously feel that the materiality of Rug and Pitcher is changing. Seeing and feeling closely relate to each other in both products.
How did Pitcher acquire its form?
Pitcher is made out of porcelain but started as a design in mouth blown glass. I searched for a logic in which the characteristics of this technique and material made sense. After experimenting with the material, I decided to continue with the fact that glass is thicker where connected to the blowing pipe and thinner at the bottom of the blown volume. The glassblower pushed and pulled the glass into a shape that has an opening and a spout so it could function as a carafe. The advantage of having two holes is the continuous supply of air it delivers, and in combination with the size of the spout it pours beautifully. In the end I decided the design wasn’t strong enough to use, but I kept the principle and continued in porcelain to have more control. The form of Pitcher consists of three circles that each got their own size according to their function; the biggest circle for standing, the middle functions as an opening for filling and cleaning and the smallest circle functions as the spout. The lines connecting these circles explain their function of containing, pouring and connecting. The form of Pitcher is the result of this principle.
Mirror and Rug question the traditional forms of the objects they are named for, what is your reason for this deviation?
Their abstracted appearance aims to open up our perception and to reconsider assumptions we might have around these products. The open character of the products is more than a play with volume and light; the wider framework offers scope for different interpretations of their use, and facilitates new (sensory) forms of interaction between user and product.
What are the materials used in this series? What factors contributed to your selection?
The products showed in Milan are each made using one material; porcelain, aluminum or Merino wool. All three make use of intrinsic material qualities.
Pitcher has a coating that mimics the incidence of light and makes the product look different in either artificial or daylight. Next to the visual aspect this coating delivers a contrasting texture; the container is polished and feels very soft in contrast to the engobe (sprayed-on clay suspension) on top that feels rough and granular. Porcelain gives a lot of freedom and possibilities in terms of shaping, colouring and texturizing which was the main motivation to explore and work with this material.
Mirror is about the reflection and perception of ourselves and the space it is placed in. It has a central flat part that gives a direct reflection as can be expected from a mirror. This flat part slowly transforms into a curve, showing a distorted image of its surroundings. Mirror reconsiders the way we interact with- and how we use this product on a daily basis while focusing both on the practical use as well as on the qualities of a reflective surface. Made from massive aluminium that provides the mirror of an appropriate weight and makes the user consider the placement of this reflective volume and thus affect the use.
Rug started with an interest to work on a bigger scale and to work with textile, something I had not done before. I was interested in textile because it is all about tactility and you can build your own material. Rug is CNC-tufted and made from seven colours of 100% merino wool. It reconnects all the elements of which a rug exists; colour, shape, yarns, density and pile height. Brought together in a way they follow each others presence. Each element undergoes a transition; poles develop from short to long and from dense to more open, colour from warm to cold and together with the oval shape, the rug has become a three-dimensional volume that defines its own space. Rug is a tactile volume that evokes the desire to be touched and that gives the suggestion of depth.
What is a guiding force in your work?
My fascinations keep me motivated and curious. During my graduation I developed a typology that offers perspective for new works. I hope this is a small beginning of an interesting oeuvre in which I hope to collaborate with companies, craftsmen, galleries and colleagues.
City of residence Eindhoven
Education Design Academy Eindhoven, cum laude, Men and well-being (internship: Aldo Bakker Studio).
Motto Stay curious
Favorite Quote Nothing can grow under big trees, Constantin Brâncuși
Best advice received Surround yourself with inspiring people, Friso Kramer
Three things every designer needs: Fascinations, material knowledge and clients
Newest addition to your studio Artemide Tolomeo desk light
First design that inspired you Jo Niemeyer’s building blocks for Naef