His first career was in jewelry design. But Aldo Bakker, 40, has become one of Amsterdam’s leading makers of finely crafted furniture and tabletop accessories.
Tall, thin, and with his long blonde hair pulled back into a sumo wrestler knot, Aldo Bakker cuts a striking image in his small studio in Amsterdam. His mannerisms and movements are as graceful as his designs. Over the past decade, Bakker has been producing some of the most original furniture, which has caught the eye of magazine editors and museum curators around the world. His designs convey a lightness and fragility, along with a natural feel for organic forms that’s consistently surprising and altogether unique.
Many know Bakker as the offspring of one of Holland’s most celebrated designers – Gijs Bakker of Droog fame – but he doesn’t appear to be resting on family connections. Distributed through Particles Gallery and Thomas Eyck of Amsterdam, Bakker’s impressive portfolio ranges from tables and chairs to bookshelving units and door handles.
One of his most recognized pieces is the Urushi sidetable he produced in 2008. It’s oddly shaped, like a pouch that’s sprouted four legs to hold itself up. Also, a series of accessories he made in copper recently won the Wallpaper Design Award for best use of material. And in Milan this spring, Bakker launched a three-legged wooden chair with only a narrow rod as a back support. “I wanted to reduce the chair to only what is needed,” Bakker says of the lightweight seat he calls 3Dwn1Up. The narrow back support and legs are the exact same size and shape, which makes them interchangeable, he adds, though no one would bother to do that, of course. What he’s really pointing out is the consistent elements that give the chair such an appealing sense of balance.
Bakker’s studio space is pleasant but modest with only one table with space for two side-by-side workstations; a meeting table that likely doubles as a dinner table when the studio gets busy; and a small woodworking area. Scattered across the work/dining table is an assortment of his cceramic pieces. A small spoon with a bulbous handle turns out to be a salt cellar. You fill the handle with salt and shake the spoon gently so that the salt crystals scatter across the spoon’s cup, allowing users to measure out an ideal portion before sprinkling. A terracotta ceramic water jug resembles a fat mushroom, and a silver-gilded creamer is animated by an oversized spout. “It’s important that objects have a sense of life even without human interaction,” Bakker says. It’s true, the pieces look ready to burst into life after everyone’s left the table.
This small studio is also where Bakker prototypes larger pieces. He points out that the wood bench I’m sitting on is still a work in progress. It feels perfectly comfortable, but he’s not happy with it. “When you make models you see all the things you haven’t yet worked out.” The piece, which won’t be launched for at least another year, reflects a process that appears to be as much about aesthetics as philosophy. Nothing Bakker does or makes is without endless consideration and problem solving. “Everyone develops their own philosophy,” he says, and leaves that thought hanging in the air for a few moments. His craft is to soak things up slowly, and the end result is an intriguing visual vocabulary that’s clearly all his own.