Q&A: Dean Brown

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Vases from Dean Brown’s A Matter of Colour series showcase Sèvres’s ceramic pigments, which date back 300 years.
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Five minutes with designer Dean Brown on his addiction to colour.

Tell us about A Matter of Colour, the recent project you created with Sèvres.
Initially, I knew very little about the company, which in retrospect was quite valuable. I now know it to be the most prestigious porcelain manufacturer in France, with a royal legacy. A lot of designers might have been intimidated to work with them, so my naiveté gave me a fresh perspective. I wasn’t scared to try something different.

What was the biggest thing you learned from Sèvres about colour?
I visited the factory three times and found the vividness of the ceramic powders really striking. Sèvres has libraries dedicated to the archiving of pigments that date back 300 years. It’s the closest experience I’ve had to feeling like Charlie visiting the chocolate factory. I wanted my pieces to celebrate that magic. We produced 14 unique vases, some of which have been sold. The others are travelling to various art and design fairs.

So much of what you do involves bold, brilliant tones. Tell us about your relationship with colour.
I was a resident at Fabrica, then I became a senior design consultant for the communications research centre. Relocating for the job was a defining moment for me, because the Italians are so effortless with colour. During that period, we did a number of projects for United Colors of Benetton, a brand with a wonderful DNA that requires a bold, brash and optimistic palette.

Designers often avoid colours because they are prone to being in or out. Can colour be trend immune?
I always try to use colour to articulate a certain message rather than “just because.” With Sèvres, the company is particularly famous for blue, which comes in deep and vivid variations. This blue became the dominant hue in the palette I chose. A contextual rationale can allow a colour to transcend trendiness.

What do think of the recent colour resurgence?
It’s definitely encouraging to see big brands becoming more adventurous. Dutch designer Hella Jongerius is doing great things with Vitra. Even classic pieces by the likes of Jean Prouvé are being renewed with a palette that is bold and nuanced beyond the expected.

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