Rising Stars

At this spring's Maison&Objet Asia, six young designers were recognised for their budding talent and growing contribution to an Asian design scene. In Issue 5, we featured excerpts taken from interviews with these young designers and are please to bring you the full, unabridged content of those interviews below.

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CHIHIRO TANAKA, JAPAN

Can you briefly describe your work?

My designs explore the multifarious expressions of light through an ongoing series of creative experiments that involve studying the properties of heat-resistant materials, repeatedly testing illumination-producing electric bulbs for permeability and glare, and giving form to unique ideas in a way that resembles a couturier’s draping technique. By using the same process employed in haute couture dressmaking — first study the materials and then design the product — my ‘light couture’ is a study in intimate interactions of light and materials.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

It’s not just the illumination of space that I hope people experience; I want to bring a sense of harmony to people and their feelings through light. Whether switched on or off, a lighting fixture is an important design element of any space and a conspicuous part of daily life. I want to help create refined and inspirational spaces in which to spend relaxing and inspirational time.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a designer? 

I dreamt of becoming a designer since childhood because I loved drawing and

playing with tiles from my father’s workshop.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

I have a fairly extensive knowledge of fashion and textile design and like to research newly developed

materials. All materials, from yarn to metal, stimulate my curiosity.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

The techniques of experienced craftsmen. I am always impressed by their technical prowess when I visit a factory. These people are always searching for ways to bring out the very best of their skills.

Can you name your top three influences?

Techniques of craftsmen; Family; Japan’s distinctive four seasons

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

I am currently trying to link people closely together and respond to the Japanese sense of aestheticism. I am trying to find light that draws up closely and embrace people, and am making new lighting equipment that brings harmony to the everyday scenery of people’s lives.

 

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EASE, THAILAND

Can you briefly describe your work?

We are an embroidery design studio based in Bangkok, combining industrial embroidery, art and craftsmanship to create experimental designs that bridge traditional techniques with new, experimental forms. We hope to create new experiences of textile art and embroidered products.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

We recreate ordinary yet meaningful objects that reflect our everyday lives. By observing and exploring things that surround us, we seek to integrate emotional value into our products. We hope that people will realise how much design can be a part of their lives.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

We like to create new experiences of textile art and products by bridge traditional technique with experimental new technique.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

If we have a very short time – talking, eating and drinking.

If we have a short time – go to the museum, events and exhibitions.

If we have a long time – traveling

Can you name your top three influences?

Our families; Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec; Atelier 2+

What’s a dream project-either real or imaginary? 

We want to contribute to the development of our country on the world stage through art and design.

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

A new collaboration called ‘Issaraphap’ (Issaraphap is Thai meaning ‘Independent’)

We hope to bridge Thai culture values to contemporary design by challenging the conventional creation of objects through industrial processes, as well as to tell Thai stories through design objects that maintain the character of materials, production and local creativity.

 

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KIMU DESIGN, TAIWAN

Can you briefly describe your work?

In our latest New Old Light, it is the contrasting qualities of peaceful and dynamic that sets KIMU on its journey to discovering new soul in old living objects. The traditional form and function of an oriental paper lantern meets with Western design aesthetics and is transformed into a beautiful new shape for the modern-day lifestyle.

The deconstruction and reinterpretation of a cultural imagery can also be seen in The New Old Vase when it disassociates itself from having an inherent volume, leaving only a linear structure that blurs the distinct personalities between the East and West.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

Besides being poetic in bridging conflicting elements, our designs also allow plenty of room for the user’s imagination and interaction thanks to their playful setups. Even though the creative balance of form and function is essential, every product is only truly complete when it is being used and loved in everyday life.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a designer? 

Ketty realised when she was a child but Kelly and Alex only realised after graduation from the college of Industry design department.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

We use primarily wood, paper and metal in our designs. These materials are nostalgic, while also relating for people the warm feeling of being touched.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

We love ancient culture and museums a lot.

What’s a dream project-either real or imaginary? 

KIMU pop-up shops all over the world.

Working with craftsmen from different countries.

Seeing people use KIMU designs in their homes.

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

Our aim is to complete the KIMU New Old Collection, so we’ll keep designing mirrors, clocks and side tables to launch later this year.

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LAB DE STU, AUSTRALIA

Can you briefly describe your work?

LAB DE STU is a design collective based out of Australia representing three designers — Adam Lynch, Dale Hardiman and André Hnatojko. Thus, the work produced by LAB DE STU is quite diverse due to the variety of interests we each have in design.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

The particular typologies we explore tend to be fairly static and are used throughout commercial spaces, therefore can be somewhat forgotten. We can only hope that people notice our work within these spaces. The difference between the commercial and non-commercial output of LAB DE STU is that we’re producing objects for a particular purpose and space. The non-commercial works seek to explore unknown territory.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a designer? 

I’m not sure if there was any particular defining point for any of us to immediately decide to be a designer. André had previously studied interior design and decided to change to furniture, Adam had studied woodwork throughout secondary education and Dale had no interest in design until beginning university after not first getting into fine arts.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

We tend to work across all materials as we do not want to be restricted to only a single medium. We are constantly learning by working with new materials and their processes. There may be a particular material we seem to keep revisiting in our commercial pieces and that tends to be the availability of that material or process with manufacturing in Australia.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

We like to believe we draw inspiration from everyday life, but a more direct inspiration would be from visiting factories and building relationships with those who make our objects. Due to the limitations of manufacturing in Australia, we explore simple forms with achievable outcomes so that we aren’t just producing high-end products.

What’s a dream project-either real or imaginary? 

That’s such an incredibly difficult question to answer, as the further our practices develop, the more areas and disciplines we find ourselves attracted too. It’d be fairly selfish to say ‘design a product for a major furniture and lighting brand’, so a dream project would most likely be to be given a budget to produce editioned works for a major gallery without commercial constraints.

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

LAB DE STU is not just a company that produces objects. As a collective it represents three different designers, all with varying interests. We also run exhibitions through 1-OK CLUB, Dowel Jones is having its first solo exhibition next month and together we are planning on a potential retail front.

 

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LEKKER ARCHITECTS, SINGAPORE

Can you briefly describe your work?

We are a small, inter-disciplinary design studio based in architecture. We work on a wide range of project types from residential and institutional buildings to landscapes, interiors, events and project furniture. We have a special focus on design for children and families.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

We always hope that our projects will promote a sense of playfulness and surprise. Our work is intended to contrast those kinds of architecture that take themselves too seriously and are too prescriptive in telling users how to occupy or experience the space. In designing for children, we have learned to relax and to enjoy the unexpected and imaginative ways in which our users inhabit our works; in many ways we think of their contribution as the second half of the design process.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a designer? 

For Josh, it was in high school. He became very interested in avant-garde architects (mainly postmodernists) who believed that architecture could shape and influence human social experiences. There was a comic book called Mr. X about a masked designer who invented ‘psychotecture’— a way that certain forms could make people think and feel different things. This seemed too exciting to pass up.

Shing became interested in architecture in college. She had been studying math and art history, and was most attracted to learning about buildings. Like Josh, she was very interested in the way that architecture could affect human emotions and interactions.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

Our material is space, basically. There are many physical materials in architecture — we like concrete and timber in particular — but these really all serve to create a larger environment. It’s the latter that makes architecture unique from other art forms, and gives it a special impact. We like space because it can only be partially controlled; no matter how accurately we model or visualise our project, there are surprises. Space seems to have a will of its own, like a co-designer, and brings with it moods and emotive atmospheres that feel larger than our design ideas could ever be.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

Honestly, most of our inspiration is drawn from outside design. We are influenced by cartoons, food, dreams and music. Much of our process, at the early stages, has to do with translating creative ideas into architecture from a different medium. For example, we are very interested in the way that Brian Eno layers sounds in his songs; the ideas behind his method have been recorded in a card game called Oblique Strategies. We have been trying to develop an architectural equivalent for years. It hasn’t happened yet, but we are still trying!

Can you name your top three influences?

Tom & Jerry, Charles Mingus, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

What’s a dream project-either real or imaginary? 

Probably a church or a mosque — we have always been especially interested in religious and ‘transformative’ spaces because they distil very intense human emotions in a single building.

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

This year is interesting for us because it seems to be a return to houses. We are working on planning two inter-generational family homes here in Singapore. This is very interesting because it somewhat resembles an Asian family compound with up to four separate wings or generations of one lineage in a single building. It’s both an old and a new type, given that it’s being re-born in the dense Asian cities of today where real estate is expensive and space is limited. The new version hasn’t been developed yet, but it has elements of the house and something larger, like a small hotel, resort or dormitory. This is a really interesting thing for us to explore, and it’s very close to home — we live in an inter-generational home ourselves.

 

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STANLEY RUIZ, PHILIPPINES

Can you briefly describe your work?

My work is a poetic attempt at expressing form and function in material terms.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

I hope that when people encounter my work, they will experience the sublime.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a designer? 

It was during my sophomore year in art school when I realised the practicality and necessity of design.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

I like the material to be open to exploration and manipulation.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

Experimental, global folk, punk, and noise music have been constant sources of inspiration.

Can you name your top three influences?

Andrea Branzi – his work is poetry in 3D

Campana Brothers – for their original and distinct expression

Movement 8 – the group of Filipino designers who were able to break through the international design scene and paved the way for younger designers like myself

What’s a dream project-either real or imaginary? 

Designing my live/work space in a lush tropical landscape overlooking the sea (or the city, at least).

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

A sculptural piece for a hotel restaurant, new lighting and home product design for the upcoming Manila FAME show and an exhibition in New York, among others.