Dutch Domestics - Design as Research
This autumn, an exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt questions how young designers in the Netherlands define themselves today in the industrial design process. Dutch Domestics - Design as Research has been curated by artist and curator Arne Hendriks, co-founder of Project Foundation and creative producer of the sadly-missed Platform21.
The exhibition centres on the work of eight young Dutch designers/design studios and focuses less on finished products, but shows instead the approach of these designers in the design process itself. Here the materials themselves play a key role, as does a strong interest in research and a love of experimentation. The design tradition of the Netherlands and the importance of functional design within is also explored.
Participating designers include AtelierNL with their Drawn from Clay project of collecting clay from various farms in the Noordoostpolder to create ceramic pieces that reflect the colours of the soil. Raw Color by Christoph Brach and Daniera ter Haar is a project to create a natural printing ink and printing process from vegetables. Lex Pott contrasts the organic structures found in nature with the geometric forms of industrial manufacturing processes to create furniture that combines the structural logic of the wood processing industry with traces of visible natural growth.
Studio Maarten Kolk and Guus Kusters explore the beauty and dynamics of water in their project entitled Water under Construction which highlights the colours to be found in mineral traces in water. Christien Meindertsma shows her project One Sheep Sweater 2010 in which one sweater is made from the fleece of one sheep, in this case the one and only flock of merino sheep in the Netherlands.
Design.nl spoke to Project Foundation's Arne Hendriks about the exhibition.
How did you choose the designers involved in the exhibition?
The designers we invited to participate in Dutch Domestics developed very specific ways to visibly incorporate detailed research of materials and techniques into the products they make. The products become a trail, a path that can be followed back into the design process. Form, colour, and function all follow this same path. The object creates a more transparent relationship between the thing and user. ‘This is what I am, this is where I’m from, this is how I was made. And sometimes it says, this is how you can do it.'
Do you think more product designers should follow this path or is it only for a select few?
I’m not sure if all designers can follow this path. It takes a specific belief in openness and courage to have people look into your kitchen. There are no tricks in this exhibition, just a total transparency of techniques, materials, and the methodology of research. The products become almost like a lens to see what is involved in being a designer. As a member of the public I love being able to look over the shoulder of the maker, but I’m sure not everybody appreciates me doing it. And I respect that. It takes all kinds.
Why do you think young designers are choosing to be process-driven?
For some it is from idealism and wanting to educate themselves and the public, for others because it just makes more sense. However, it is true that there is more appreciation for this side of the designer’s profession. The public looks at the designer as a guide and as a source of information about materials, techniques and function.
This exhibition actually started from the observation that more and more designers are actively curating the information space around their work. The products are infused with carefully arranged fragments of shared knowledge. At the same time we should not exaggerate this idea of process since these designers still have the ambition to create finished products, and do so. It is just the way they arrive to their results that is different. The research is more intensively used as a guiding principle in the creative and technical choices they make.
Will any of the designers be 'performing' any of their work during the exhibition?
Christoph Brach and Daniera ter Haar will give a workshop on extracting colour from vegetables on 10 November. This project has been dear to me ever since they initiated it during the exhibition Cooking & Constructing in Platform21. Not only because of its obvious colourful beauty but because it emancipates colour from the random relationship it has with fashion and redefines it as a valuable piece of information, directly connected to its source.
The same can be said for the magnificent Clay Machine and Clay Ceramics by Atelier NL where every piece of pottery gives us specific information about the soil it was taken from and what crops can grow there. It is no coincidence that this relationship between colour and source has become an important theme for the exhibition, and for me personally it was an eye-opener. I had just never given it any thought until it was so in my face that it was impossible to ignore. Somehow, to me, this personal experience also symbolizes the different direction these designers are choosing. It is somehow so obvious that it is not always easy to see, but when you do, it becomes impossible to ignore.
Dutch Domestics runs from 22 October to 14 November 2010 at the Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt
Click on images to enlarge
Main image: Raw Color
Images in order: Studio Maarten Kolk and Guus Kusters, Christien Meindertsma, Lex Pott, AtelierNL, Raw Color
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