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Azure Designer Profile Jon Stam 01

Azure Designer Profile Jon Stam 02
Crafted from solid western red cedar, the Curiosity Cabinet combines ordinary storage drawers and boxes equipped with radio frequency identification tags. When placed near a computer, the tags recall digitized mementoes.

In a way, I fell into being a designer. My father is a carpenter, and I grew up in a workshop. When I applied to university, I opted for industrial design at the Ontario College of Art and Design, and I became obsessed with Dutch design. The work of Gijs Bakker, his sense of fun and playfulness, is what lured me to the Netherlands. I went to the Design Academy Eindhoven to get some portfolio advice, and to my surprise I was accepted on the spot, so I left OCAD and moved there. Aldo Bakker, Gijs’s son, evaluated my work and gave me the offer. His work is form driven and precise. It widened my perception of Dutch design, and he remains an inspiration. It’s difficult to pinpoint precisely what in my work is Dutch or Canadian. It’s a mix between the two.

Azure Designer Profile Jon Stam 03
One of the Table Quints, a set of bone china bowls with optical glass lids that enhance the appearance of their contents – whether milk, sugar, pepper, salt or oil.

The first time my work was shown on an international scale was at my Eindhoven graduation show, where I presented the Curiosity Cabinet, my attempt at bringing my meaningful physical and digital things together. I wasn’t sure the cabinet would resonate with a larger public, but people really responded to it, recognizing the problem of wanting to hold on to their favourite digital ­photos, movies, music – files destined to be hidden away on a hard drive – as well as cherished objects.
The cabinet’s first incarnation alternated physical drawers and digital ones with embedded memory and radio frequency identification tags, which enable digital content to pop up on a nearby computer. After the first RFID model, I experimented with other ways to bring the digital and the physical together. A popular version of the cabinet incorporates engraved data matrix codes in the wood.

Azure Designer Profile Jon Stam 04
Created for Design Miami ⁄ Basel, the Claude Glass embeds digital images of nature, manipulated by spinning the round black mirror.

I take much of my inspiration from contemporary artists, such as the Belgian artist David Claerbout. In his digital video projections, he presents seemingly ordinary scenes with a surreal twist, in a manner that forces you to look in a new way. I try to translate this way of looking but apply it to a daily personal context, by framing a sense of richness and intimacy with our digital media. This is a reaction against the speed, impersonality and information overload of today’s communication. I find it essential that we select, curate and make choices regarding our digital things, to make them meaningful, which is why some of my projects are purposely limiting. For example, my Imaginary Museum, a digitally hacked View-Master, allows a sequence of just seven images to be shown on each disc.

Azure Designer Profile Jon Stam 05
Recalling vintage projectors, Bioscope lets you rotate the handle to animate a home movie on a USB stick, frame by frame.

I like using different materials, whether new or old. Whatever I am working on, I want to discover the craft behind it and learn from those who have worked in that medium for a long time. Meanwhile, having a naive viewpoint can be interesting. It’s important to draw in experts from other disciplines, whether woodworkers or computer programmers, and I like to ask questions, push and provoke, to find new ways to design. I work on the borders of art, technology and design, yet I ultimately see myself as a designer, since I am making for others. A piece can be aesthetically beautiful, but if it does not respond to people it’s not as satisfying.

Azure Designer Profile Jon Stam 06
The Lakes Rug pays homage to Canada, with seven embedded speakers that mix personal tales and Canadian folklore.

As part of the W Hotels Designer of the Future Award from Design Miami ⁄ Basel, I was sent to Verbier, Switzerland, to envision an installation for the new W Hotel opening there this December. I was introduced to the local photographer Guido Perrini, and we collaborated on an abstract timepiece to bring the beauty of the Alps to Basel. Claude Glass is a round black mirror that displays digital reflections of the landscape through the glass. The image changes every minute, showing photos captured from a 72-hour time-lapse set-up. To change the hour or witness a whole day passing, you rotate the edge of the Claude Glass, and time will advance or reverse in the speed and direction you turn. For the final installation in the W Hotel, I envision summer shown in winter. As most guests only visit Verbier during ski season, this might entice them to return in summer.

Azure Designer Profile Jon Stam 07
Imaginary Museum is a hacked View-Master for online imagery (still, moving, 2‑D and 3‑D) curated by various artists and designers.

I am now working with contemporary art spaces in Belgium and the Netherlands to develop a tool kit that mediates the memory of these spaces. One of the first pieces consists of a small convex wall mirror and a pull cord. The mirror reflects the installations on show, but when one pulls the cord the image is captured and displayed at the art centre. You can project yourself into the exhibition while creating a whole new participatory archive that the institute can document.

I find working on memory and contemporary art centres especially exciting, since it seems to be a sort of paradox. These spaces have no collections, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have stories to tell. This project will revolve around telling narratives as they happen in real time.


Waterford, Ontario, 1984


2013 Design Academy Eindhoven, the Netherlands, master’s degree in social design
2005-08 Design Academy Eind­hoven, graduated cum laude from the man and well-being department


Selected awards
2013 W Hotels Designers of the Future Award, Design Miami ⁄ Basel
2008 Nominated for the Melkweg Design Prize, the Netherlands

Selected exhibits
2013 Design Miami ⁄ Basel
2011 ⁄ 2012 Salone Internazionale del Mobile, Milan
2008 Curiosity Cabinet added to the Design Huis permanent collection, the Netherlands
2008 Rene Smeets prize for best all-around project at Design Academy Eindhoven

Gallery representation
Caroline Van Hoek (Brussels)
Victor Hunt (Brussels)

Selected clients
Dutch Association of Public Libraries
House for Contemporary Art Z33


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