When I visited Claste’s booth at ICFF NYC this year, my first thought was “ I hope someone doesn't break anything.” Which really speaks to the idea of Fragility. For me the idea of walking up to the booth and asking to have a go at sitting on the armchair, made me nervous. Quickly I harnessed that nervous energy into courage, walked right up and asked to have a seat. Once you obliged, I very slowly backed into the seat for fear that I would be the one to break the chair! Once my rear hit the seat of Rose Onyx, and my back rested against the angled glass. I was shocked; I looked up at the designers in amazement, “ Its actually comfortable!” “ I mean it is comfortable” I was a little perplexed, the seating system is Rose Onyx and glass, have I mentioned that already? At this point I’m sitting comfortably in the chair having conversations with other attendee’s casually, no longer thinking about what I was sitting on. To me this shows that what we perceive as comfortable is somewhat an illusion, what you have done elevates the experience of “just sitting” and makes it thoughtful…
1. I have read and I understand your intentions behind this collection, but Why or better yet what made you decide to explore this approach to sitting?
Coming from an architectural background I instinctively approach design from the viewpoint of how we interact with an object or a space rather than thinking of it as the creation of stand-alone pieces. In specific I have always been interested in thresholds, the transitions between spaces and how they condition or prepare someone for a change in scale or proportions. To me it was natural that there should be some sort of threshold to the act of sitting and the pause created by the sense of uncertainty that you referred to was intentional as it shifts the act of sitting from an unconscious experience to a conscious one.
2. From concept to design, and then production, how long did it take to get the product “right”?
I wish there was a standard answer to that question but the reality is that every project is different and each comes with its own particular set of issues. There is a certain level of consistency once you reach the final fabrication and testing stages but the design development varies greatly from project to project. For the chair “how fragile this love” finding the right way to float the slab of Onyx without any visible hardware was key to getting the chair “right”. It took several months of investigation and experimentation to achieve the perfect bond especially because this technology had not been applied successfully on a commercial level by anybody else. The perfection of every small detail no matter how insignificant is what our brand is all about and you have to be willing to spend the time required to get it right.
3. Having three owners of the company is it difficult to decide and agree on the direction of the brand?
In general no, due mainly to the fact that we all shared the same vision for what the brand is from the beginning and also because we all have different, well defined roles. We have also known each other and worked together for many years so we have developed a level of trust in each other that allows us to have confidence in our partnership.
4. As the designer how much more, if any, influence to you have on that?
We all have to take responsibility for what our role is in the company and we also have to trust each other to do what we do best. As the designer I have control over where I want to take each collection and how every piece is developed but we all work together to ensure that what we do is consistent with the collective vision for the brand.
5. As a creative I’m sure you get mental blocks about what you should do next, how do you get “unstuck” creatively?
A favorite quote of mine by the American artist Chuck Close is “inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and go to work…” This pretty much describes how I approach design, I treat it as a full time job, there is no sitting around waiting for ideas and the result is that I don’t ever let myself get stuck because I believe ideas are developed through hard work not inspiration.
6. Describe your design process?
Like a lot of other designers I tend to start pretty much every day with my sketch book because I find that to be the quickest way to hash out simple ideas at any stage of the project whether that be when I’m playing with ideas at the beginning of a new piece or just trying to figure out details of the final production. When I am not sketching I work almost exclusively with physical models and mostly at 1:1 scale. The early models will be styrofoam or cardboard as they are essentially proportion studies but then I move on to plywood or sometimes stone models so that they can take enough weight to be physically tested for comfort and stability. The last phase of the design development which is often overlooked is development of the final working drawings. I nearly always continue to adjust the design at this stage because for me this is when the precision starts to come into focus and things start to emerge that just are not apparent when working with rough sketches and models.
7. How were you first introduced to design; a family member, something you saw or read?
My father is a fine woodworker and I grew up in his workshop learning to appreciate what it meant to be passionate about what you do so even though I started my career in the world of architecture I think it was natural that I eventually found my way into furniture design.
8. Do you ever feel like future collections, wont “live up to” your previous, if so how do you tell yourself to keep moving forward?
No I never design with fear, for me design is pure pleasure. I think it is important to feel free when designing because there are so many elements of developing a brand that are beyond our control that it is essential that the product does not end up being overly influenced by too many outside factors. I also understand that I have no control over the level of commercial or critical success of a project because sometimes something strikes a chord with an audience and that piece just takes on a life of its own.
9. Is there anything you would tell your younger self about design, or life in general?
I wouldn’t give my younger self any advice because I know I wouldn’t listen. Joking aside, the reality is I enjoy living with and learning from my mistakes and wouldn’t want to deprive my younger, or future self from those experiences.
10. What advice do you have for future generations that will be entering into the (product) design world?
That is a hard one because I think it is important for artists and designers to find their own way but in general I would say that a good idea can come from anyone and anywhere and that it’s more important to have a great memory than it is to be overly creative as you will learn more from the history of design and the work of your contemporaries than you ever will by constantly striving to be original.