TWO DESIGNERS AS ONE
Daphna Isaacs Burggraaf: We began working together in 2008, right after Laurens graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven, where we both completed our studies. We were asked to design and build rooms for Li Edelkoort’s Talent exhibition, shown at Designhuis Eindhoven and later at Rossana Orlandi in Milan: a champagne bar, including a chandelier, for the Glass exhibition in Eindhoven, and a greenhouse to contain the Archeology of the Future exhibition, installed in Paris and Eindhoven. This was the real start of our melding together.
Laurens Manders: We didn’t decide to do this. Rather, we found that while working together – or, as we prefer to say, working as one designer – our work was far more fruitful and artistically rich.
Our decisions are made by Daphna Laurens. They should never be a compromise between us. Of course, decision making leads to discussions in which each of us must make an effort to convince the other. This is the strength; it keeps us sharp.
HOW TO SHAPE A PRODUCT
LM: Our projects as Daphna Laurens developed from exhibition elements to products and objects. Our first product was a series of lamps named Tafelstukken [a Dutch word for table accessories or conversation pieces]. Daphna mentioned one day that she wanted to create lamps, or “lighting objects.” I asked why we would need another lamp, hoping to come up with a fresh concept, and then several ideas swerving around Daphna’s head came into shape in the Tafelstukken series.
DIB: We simultaneously formed the concept and gave shape to the lights. This was the first example of how we still love to work: cutting shapes, composing with them, bending, turning, multiplying and so on. From here, we start to interpret and fantasize. What do we see? Is it the back of a chair or the front of a lamp? With this approach, we’ve created a method to come up with unexpected shapes, which we wouldn’t have drawn in the same way with a pencil on paper. Two of the five Tafelstukken models, the Sofalamp and the Fruitlamp, are being produced by Cappellini.
A CHALLENGING AESTHETIC
DIB: We make objects and products that we adore. We love to play with form, colour, purpose and meaning. We also aim to make users or viewers create their own fantasies; we provide food for thought, and simply create beautiful products that don’t always need to have a clear, functional purpose.
LM: It’s very cliché, but everything can be a source of inspiration, be it the work of other designers, fine art, the sky or a toothpick. When you’re working on something and look around wearing the right “glasses,” everything you see can help you to improve or complete the project.
THE GROWING OEUVRE
LM: The Tafelstukken collection is important because it brought us to the attention of Cappellini, then to Poltrona Frau. We were one of 12 studios asked to participate in a contest to design a chair for Poltrona Frau’s centenary celebration. The Cirkel collection, which includes a coffee table, wall lights, a leaning lamp and mirrors, was again a good exercise for our approach of giving shape to ideas.
A more recent project was our collaboration with Wittmann, as a part of Vienna Design Week’s Passionswege. We created Chair 01, consisting of a tubular steel frame with a leather seat and back, and Stool 01, which has an oak top with a circular leather piece supported by tubular steel looped legs. We feel that in general the whole body of work contributes to our success in the future.
DIB: Over the years, we have become more experienced, in terms of the materials we use, and our time management and production technique. This of course helps us to be more efficient and productive, but we have a certain philosophy to stay positively naive, which means that we don’t want our freedom of giving shape to be overshadowed by our growing knowledge of techniques or financial matters.
DIB: We feel that defining our work is something that should be done by others in about 20 or 30 years. We aspire to find a combination between industrial design, applied art and fine art. The Dutch word vormgever literally means “someone who gives shape.” That is what we do. We give shape to an idea, object, product or concept.