Kiki van Eijk, The Joy of a Playing Child

Interview with Kiki van Eijk

Eindhoven, 19.09.2016

Kiki van Eijk is an artist, craftsman and designer who does not follow any trends. She is incredibly versatile, working with fabric, ceramics, glass, metal, wood and other diverse materials with ease and control. In her design she fuses art and craft, knowing she can turn a loose drawing into an object that cannot only be functional but also artistically appealing. When I think about her design it is immediately clear that she is a creator who intuitively knows what is wrong and what is right for each piece.

A graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, Kiki concentrates primarily on her own collections, but also has worked on projects for, among others, Design Academy Eindhoven, MOOOI, Häagen-Dazs, Bernhardt Design, Forbo Flooring, Venice Projects, Hermès, Nodus, Rijksmuseum and a number of private collectors.

KK: How do you define design?

KvE: First of all, I think design has only existed since the Industrial Revolution, because before that it was artists who would make everything. They would make paintings but they would also do special commissions like a lamp or a chandelier for a church. So for me, in the past artists were also designers. Design is about creating things; it always starts from a concept and some sort of research, and the end result should be something that communicates without having to tell the whole story.

KK: Are you a designer or an artist?

KvE: I always find that a bit of a difficult question because I don’t care what label people use. I just create things. I happened to graduate from the Design Academy but I could just as well have gone to art school. I found the Design Academy more suitable. It’s not that different from an art school, though—only a bit better organized. But before I went to the Design Academy I used to have an atelier where I would paint on canvas and sculpt things.

KK: What is it like to design in Holland? Why is Dutch design so good?

KvE: The most important thing is the mentality. Regardless of what the objects look like, there is a kind of free mentality here. If you look at our history and what the landscape looks like, we always have had this problem with water. We’re below sea level and the land is very flat so we have had to think of inventive ways to cope with and live with this. We never have had natural resources; we had tulips and potatoes but nothing else we could actually export. So we have had to cooperate with others. This is where the polder model comes from. The Dutch always try to find ways to make everybody happy. As for design, in Eindhoven, for example, we had a lot of production companies and they all needed designers. That is why the Design Academy was built, to educate people to design for the companies. What’s nice about Eindhoven is that there is also an industrial area where people literally still have space to be creative.

KK: How does Dutch design affected the way you work, the way you think about design?

KvE: The main thing is the big freedom in Dutch design. Even if you look at DROOG design, which is quite minimalistic and quite dry and maybe a bit strict in a way, it still feels quite free.

KK: Do you consider yourself a responsible designer?

KvE: I always find that a difficult question because in a way everything humans make is bad for nature, it’s something extra. But on the other hand everything I make, I make with honest intention. I spend a lot of time making it and I know people won’t throw it away after two years. They only buy it when they fall in love with it, and they keep it. And if for some reason they don’t want it anymore, they give it away to someone. I hate throwing things away. I use natural materials; I’ve never used plastic, for example. I’m not saying I won’t but if I had to, I would use bio plastic. It’s a difficult question because everything can be made better. But, for example, if I were to design for a mass production company, I would want to know where they produced, the working conditions of employees and what materials they would use. In that sense I think I’m responsible. In general, this is something we need to challenge ourselves on; we all need to take responsibility.

KK: So what would you like to achieve with your design?

KvE: My goal is to produce things that people will buy and want to keep for a lifetime. We can never be sure, but we know that a lot of people buy my work for that reason. Also, I don’t think you have to make things that sell and that everybody can afford. For example Civilized Primitives is a very expensive collection to make and sell, but I found it important to make because there’s a message behind the project and when people see it in a museum or gallery or a fair they can understand it without having to own the pieces.

KK: Your design is quite exclusive and perhaps beyond the reach for most of us. You are a designer but your work is artistic and quite conceptual. Do you think it has the power to change the way people think?

KvE: In general I think nobody can change the way people think. You can inspire people. It is not my intention to teach, although there’s always a hidden message behind my work. It’s more about inspiring people.

KK: Conversation Piece is one of the projects with a strong message.

KvE: It’s a protest against very cheaply and badly made industrial products, but it’s also against very exclusive gallery pieces. It’s about the clash between the two, which are also the two worlds I’m in- between as a designer. You always have to question yourself. No matter if you’re asked to design for industry or a gallery, you have to ask yourself what is the intention behind the work. And this is what I tried to communicate in Conversation Piece.

KK: When you design, what are the key elements you take into account? What is important?

KvE: Intuition, I follow my intuition. Behind it now is a lot of knowledge, and I use that subconsciously. When I use color or different materials, I do so by gut feeling. That is what’s guiding me. And also my experience; I have a lot of experience with different materials, different techniques.

KK: Let’s talk about the transitions you make between different techniques and processes. Tell me about the experimentation and scale models, about making the same objects using different techniques and also about different materials. What are the challenges you face each time you change technique or material?

KvE: Each time you change the technique you have to start from scratch in a way and try things out. When I first did bronze casting, maybe seventeen years ago, I did it myself I learned how to make bronze and aluminum molds myself and how to think in positive and negative shapes. And because I’d had this experience, doing ceramics was much easier. I knew already how to work with positive and negative, and pouring wax into plaster molds is not much different from pouring clay into ceramic molds. And because of that I was not afraid to use materials that I’d never used before.

KK: In your work you draw a lot of inspiration from the past.

KvE: I appreciate the past but at the same time I also appreciate things that are modern. In our house we have weird things we find in antique stores and flee markets, but also very modern pieces. I think in the end it’s all about appreciating the good things in life.

When I was working on Civilized Primitives I was interested in the first products that humankind made, like for example how they started to shape stones to use as knifes; and then they were able to cut the skin of an animal. They were also able to make clothing and fire. And with fire they could cook, so they made a special type of pot that could resist the heat. Similarly, at first they drank from their hands but later they started to use bowls. They had a special type—a special shape—of container to keep water in. That’s how I came to be interested in survival and our basic needs, and how you would construct something if you had no machines, if you were lost in the woods. Now we live in luxury; everything runs automatically. At the same time, if you think about big, natural disasters, about what would happen if we ran out of resources, this makes you aware of our basic needs and what you would need to do if there were no electricity or running water.

KK: You said you collect objects from antique shops and flee markets. What are you looking for in an object?

KvE: I like objects with a human touch, that are handmade.

KK: What value do old techniques and handcrafted objects bring to your work?

KvE: I think they make it more authentic, more genuine. It’s being able to invent things, not only to use the techniques as we know them, but also to experiment with existing techniques and use them in a slightly different way. For example I worked in Murano with master glass blowers. When something is mouth-blown, each piece is authentic and slightly different. In the Floating Frames collection each object in the series is also different; they all become their own characters. And I like that.

KK: How important is it to combine artisan techniques with new technologies? What challenges have you found there?

KvE: It’s not always important to combine them. But it’s interesting and challenging because you can make a bridge between the past and the future, like I did in the project Physical Interactions, the three light sculptures. The sculptures were made by hand in the workshop but there’s high technology inside. When people see those light sculptures they don’t know there’s a lot of technology inside. When they realize they can turn the light on by blowing on a sculpture or can activate the dimmer by covering one part of it with a hand, they start to wonder, to laugh a little, to think about how it was made and how it works technically. This project shows that high-tech, mass-produced products don’t need to look sleek and boring; they really can have an identity of their own.

KK: What are your latest inspirations? What are you working on now?

KvE: I am working for Bisazza, an Italian mosaic company. I am designing flooring and a mosaic wall, and it’s all inspired by nature, by what is growing between the tiles—by weed. I want to show that weed is actually very beautiful if you look closely. Actually, it could be nice for a publication. It’s a big production for a commercial brand but it still has a very genuine feeling. I liked that they were very enthusiastic about the theme, which you could say is not very appealing; but the way we did it, it looks beautiful. It shows the beauty of nature. I’m also working on a new concept for Hermès, a new project in glass, and some new carpet designs. And I’m working for a Dutch brand called Social Label. They’ve invited Dutch designers to design something that can be made in a social workshop that is staffed entirely by disabled people. I’m working on lighting made with leather that is leftover from shoe companies. The people in the workshop will make it all by hand. It’s a lot of work but the nice thing is that there needs to be a lot of work because they need to work on something all the time. Normally if you design something for a brand it should not take too much time because otherwise it will become too expensive to produce; but in this workshop they don’t count the time, they only count the amount of material. They actually want to have something that takes a lot of time and involves many stages in the production process. It’s going to be presented during Dutch Design Week and also next year in Milan. So it’s a very nice project because the people in the workshop, the disabled people, are really proud and they work well together. In addition, I’m also doing a couple of projects for private collectors, so right now I have a good mix of challenges.

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Written by Kinga Kowalczyk for Design Friends catalogue published by Design Friends Luxembourg. DF catalogue was launched during Kik¡’s lecture at Mudam‘s auditorium on November 23.

DESIGN CHANGES

Existing political, economical, ecological and even social structures are widely questioned. … As a consequence design can no longer only be defined by just technical performance, aesthetics, or creativity. …

Dennis Elbers, London Calling, Dee, Issue 3, 2014

It is still quite rare to see a design exhibition in a museum. But thanks to Dennis Elbers and Sven Ehmann’s initiative, and the sensitive approach to design of Nadine Clemens, the president of Design Friends Luxembourg, it is now possible to see Resolute–Design Changes exhibition at the Casino Luxembourg–Forum d’art contemporain. The projects presented in Resolute and Postscript Luxembourg give us insight into how socially responsible designers approach social problems and how they try to solve them on a bigger scale. What’s interesting is that these designers always work in, with and for a community. Their work is no longer just about staging provocations; it is about involvement and finding solution.

Design for Social Innovation applies the abilities of talented individuals to collective creativity and to the transformation of complex systems at great scale. In this new role, the designer’s practice takes place not in private studio but inside an organisation or community. It the invisible dynamics of individuals and their relationship with each other instead of material resources. Its method and value are in collective participation and creativity that engage organisations in finding solutions that work for them.

Cheryl Heller, The Social Innovation Revolution

An interest in social matters has become a hot topic in the world of design. Dutch design, for example, aims to make an impact on a society rather than show off strong visual concepts. With Works That Work, Peter Bil’ak, a Slovakian graphic and typeface designer based now in The Hague, quietly revolts against the usual magazine publishing models and promotes design that happens in most unexpected places and circumstances. Alice Rawsthorn in Hello World casts light on the new challenges we all face when it comes to solving delicate social issues using design systems. In her book she showcases fantastic examples of projects concerned with communities. Everyday Rebellion documents social movements that speak up against inequality, injustice and fraud. And, last but not least, the V&A curators have recently shown Disobedient Objects, an exhibition which explores the role such objects play in grassroots movements.

Conclusion? Designers and people involved in design fight to be sustainable; they put their efforts in growing something, often intangible, rather than creating objects that you can buy and throw away when obsolete.

“Atmosphere Rooms” for Philippe Apeloig, Paris

The Typorama finished a couple of weeks ago and I am still thinking about the walls of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris filled with Apeloig’s fonts, Metro-size posters and the music used for his animations composed by Barbatuques, Iannis Xanakis, Maurice Ravel and Laurent Rochelle, among others. Typorama, the exhibition and the catalogue, presents the panorama of Philippe Apeloig’s work which is conceptual, functional and artfully crafted.

For me, the most important thing in the exhibition were Apeloig’s sources of inspiration, his Jewish roots, the fact that his grandparents came from Kazimierz Dolny in Poland, his fascination with movies like, 8 ½, Orfeo Negro and Battleship Potemkin.

The way Philippe Apeloig presented 30 years of his work made me think of Alexander Dorner’s “Atmosphere Rooms”.

Across the Atlantic, the German curator Alexander Dorner was experimenting with a different approach to explaining the relationship between art, design and architecture as director of the Landesmuseum in Hanover. Since the mid 1920s he had used pieces from its archive to depict the cultural history of particular eras by creating what he called “Atmosphere Rooms”. The grand finale was the Raum der Gegenwart, or Room of Today, for which Dorner commissioned Moholy-Nagy to create an immersive sequences of images depicting glimpses of contemporary art, architecture, design, theater and sport with screening of experimental Soviet films including Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” and Dziga Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera”.  

Alice Rawsthorn, Hello World

In this post I gathered some quotes and images which are glimpses of culture, design and art that I wanted to dedicate to Monsieur Apeloig.

I begin with a small town in Poland, Kazimierz Dolny. Then I move on to Malevich’s Black Square, Dutch Design, Wolfgang Weingart’s Line Pictures for Armin Hofmann, Phillippe Petit’s tightrope walking at the World Trade Center in 1974, and, finally, Pina Bausch’s Nelken from 1982.

Acoustic Walk

Kazimierz Dolny in Poland used to be a place of two cultures and two religions, Catholic and Jewish. They existed next to each other till the Soviet and German occupation almost wiped the Jewish out of the town, out of the whole country. But, there are people, young people who want to remember that Jewish culture influenced Polish culture and that it is an important part of our heritage.

Jaśmina Wójcik is a Polish multimedia artist. In 2011 she created the acoustic walk around Kazimierz Dolny. It was a project with audio guides in which she used stories about Jewish that don’t live in Kazimierz any more, but are still present in the memory of its inhabitants.

…the acoustic walk around Kazimierz Dolny consists of prints of Jaśmina Wójcik’s drawings hung on the facades of houses. The drawings are the central part of the project, and create the points on the walk’s map. The path is created by places – existing or not – where Jews used to live (e.g. the cheder, the mikveh, the Tzadik house, the synagogue, the kosher slaughterhouse). Each participant gets an MP3 player, a map and an instruction. The MP3 player becomes a personal guide.This is a personal and alternative way of touring around the town–through something that does not exist anymore, or what remained in a very small scale. Yet it constitutes a very important part of the town’s history and heritage. The project aims at creating a universal message relating also to contemporary events. In their headphones the participants hear real memories of the pre-war life in Kazimierz Dolny (archived by Bożena Gałuszewska and the Brama Grodzka Center – NN Theatre in Lublin). The town used to be bicultural – Poles and Jews where neighbours here. After WWII the Jewish community vanished completely. The project is an expression of memory about them. Of respect. Of preserving their presence… of their metaphysical return…

http://www.akustycznyspacer.pl

Black Square

0.10_Exhibition
A section of Suprematist works by Kazimir Malevich exhibited for the first time at the 0.10 exhibition (via Wikipedia)

The Last Futurist Exhibition 0.10 in 1915 … the placement of the suprematist paintings suggested the way icons were hung; … Black Square, which was, with total explicitness presented as an icon, or rather, in the position of an icon.

Igor Zabel on The Last Futurist Exhibition 0.10 in 1915

Dutch Design

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Theo van Doesburg, alphabet design, 1919

Van Doesburg’s upper-case alphabet was constructed from vertical and horizontal slabs of the same thickness and could be stretched vertically and horizontally to force texts to fit any format. Neither aesthetic nor legibility were major considerations, and the assumption that conveying information is a primary objective of typography as of marginal concern. Perhaps Moholy-Nagy was referring to Van Doesburg when he wrote that ‘clarity is the first prerequisite of all typography. For the sake of legibility the message must never suffer from a priori aesthetics. The letter types must never be forced into a pre-planned form, for instance into a square’. Yet, as demonstrated by the cover for the published 1920 Antwerp lecture Klassiek Barok Modern, Van Doesburg could use his alphabet quite effectively.

Dutch Graphic Design: A Century of Innovation by Alston W. Purvis andCees W. De Jong

Wolfgang Weingart

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The Line Pictures for Hofmann by Wolfgang Weingart

Not able to sit still during Hofmann’s class for an entire day, and to avoid having to draw lines with a ruling pen, I found refuge in the typeshop. There I was in my element. In a thin, square slab of wood I drilled one hundred holes, a grid of ten by ten, into which I then screwed one hundred L-hooks. With this construction it was easy to turn and twist the hooks into any desired direction or pattern. The technical problem of designing the Line Pictures for Hofmann was solved. By securing my construction in the bad of the letterpress I could print many variations by adjusting the height of selected hooks to the exact height of standard metal type. The hooks of the grid not intended to print were screwed deeper into the wood, too low to be inked by the rollers.

Weingart: Typography

Tightrope Walking at the World Trade Center, New York, 1974

Petit was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass and received a quick sentence doing a free show for children in Central Park.

Chris Kelly, CBS, New York

 

 

Nelken, Pina Bausch, 1982

Nelken-Lutz_Foerster-c_Maarten_Vanden_Abeele

What inspires me is the fact that I learn how to stop to look at things at one point. You need to learn how to seek, not to look and then you’ll refresh your eye, then you can meditate more about what you can do. That’s the way to find the best inspiration. … It has to be playful.

 

Philippe Apeloig

 

 

Irma Boom, Hella Jongerius, Alice Rawsthorn, Beat Wyss and Aaron Betsky

Interesting design doesn’t exist to serve the purpose of a device but to exceed it by pure representation. In borderline case, the purpose becomes pure form. A designed object is successful when its daily use becomes a cultivated habit. Habit, unlike purpose-driven assistance, is an end in itself.

About Authorship, Beat Wyss, Some Book: Graphic Expressions between Design and Art

We are living at a time when once-familiar objects are disappearing from our lives. Any product is at risk if its function can be fulfilled as effectively by the software or a digital device like a smart phone or tablet that can do numerous other things too. Those imperilled objects will only survive if they offer us something enticing that eludes their digital equivalents, whether it is aesthetic, sensual or functional.

Life in Design (Irma Boom’s books) by Alice Rawsthorn, Frieze Magazine

Innovation is the highest priority. You have to have a reason to make a new piece. You have to look at a product from another angle, give something to the design profession, or innovate on a material level, or innovate on expression.

Hella Jongerius and a perfect misfit

Design and art can meet at the working level by turning the act of observing or using beautiful things into an act of sense-making. …

… Works of art tend to be unique; the design object has the largest possible circulation. … The work of art personifies absolute exchange value, like money, while its utility value is restricted to being decorative and making us think. Compared to that, the design object claims to have practical utility, even if it remains unused, …

About Authorship by Beat Wyss from Some Book: Graphic Expressions between Design and Art

Seeing is Knowing is Making

The artist’s work consists of organising, crafting, and framing the information in such a way that it gives back to the viewer or reader reality in an altered form. …

One might say that it reveals the true nature of things by exhibiting the relationship between things.

False Flat: Why Dutch Design Is So Good (about Irma Boom’s work) by Aaron Betsky