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From Miami to Milan with Punk From Fendi

Spazio FENDI morphs into a space for unruly intellectual inquiry and action-based design processes during the Salone in Milan. Tomáš Libertiny talks about his involvement.

By Gabrielle Kennedy /asdf 02-04-2009

Craft Punk is Design Miami’s first event outside its own territories.  Together with Fendi, the group has invited emerging designers to transform a 750 sq m space in Milan into an interactive design environment entailing a lot of performance.  The designers will work live with traditional or hand-made craft methods using discarded Fendi materials. Tomáš Gabzdil Libertiny, a Slovakian-born, Rotteram-based, Design Academy Eindhoven graduate owns Studio Libertiny and is just one of the Dutch participants.

Libertiny (who worked for Maarten Baas) has already garnered a huge following after releasing his Welded Stools project last year in Milan. The stools are made by gradually adding (by hand) drops of stainless steel solder from a welding gun.  Each drop builds on top of the last to create spindly and unpredictable pieces of furniture (see image).

This year, Libertiny has taken his concept further.  “My ideas have always been about repetition, addition of materials and growth,” he says.  “These are always recurring themes in my work.”

But unsettled by a sense that the Welded Stools hadn’t fully explored this, Libertiny discarded the hand-made approach and started experimenting with the same welding approach, albeit using robotic equipment.  

For his new collection, Libertiny uses a traditional ceramic turn-table together with a different sort of turn-table used in a heavy-industry welding machine to produce pipes.  The result is a series of more complex shapes - hollow mushrooms made from hundreds of layers of welded solder.

“It is very fluid and feminine,” says Libertiny.  “And it wasn’t really designed as a stool, but you can sit on it.

“Contemporary design is difficult like that,” he continues.  “I was simply exploring methods of making things rather than deciding what actually to make.  The shape is simply the result of the process.  Of course I put my own elementary aesthetics into it so it will look beautiful, but I didn’t set out to make a stool.”

For “Craft Punk” Libertiny is combining the production of these new shapes with a performance involving the protective clothing required when welding. Some of his studio staff were so impressed by the heavy-duty leather pants, gloves, shoes and jackets used to protect the skin from straying flames that they wore the garments out socially.

“When I heard that Fendi wanted to do “Craft Punk” I looked at their winter collection and saw all the leather garments in the same colour as our welding gear,” he says.  “I thought about combining haute couture and craft, wearing the expensive garments as protection garments and allowing them to get burnt in the process.”

And the results – high-end Fendi leather garments splattered with burns acquired during the production of high-end design -  are suitably punk.  “Yes,” says Libertiny, “Both rough and beautiful at the same time.”

Which all sits well with Design Miami Associate Director, Wava Carpenter’s, own understanding of punk, which is not a word used to describe an aesthetic signifier, but rather a description of attitude and spirit.  “It suggests fearless defiance in the face of adversity,” she writes.  “Individuality despite pressure to conform; the drive and inspiration to make something from nothing; finding beauty in things that are imperfect and asserting one’s voice despite restricted opportunities.  It is the power of creative thinking over high production values.”

And that – not coincidentally – describes the direction a lot of designers are moving in.  Reclaiming credibility for the very word craft.  Dusting it off and showing that hand-worked, low budget design that’s made from passion, talent and a pure creative vision is just what the jaded creative world desires.

Images – top page, portrait of Tomas Libertiny by Jos Kottmann, main image - Fendi Winter collection garments, production of the The Welded Series by Studio LIBERTINY, studio protective wear, Fendi garments.

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