Kiki Van Eijk

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Product Design




Cover: PHYSICAL INTERACTION (2016) Photo: Mariëlle Leenders

Kiki van Eijk is an artist, craftsman and designer who does not follow any trends. She is incredibly versatile, working with fabric, ceramics, glass, metal, wood and other diverse materials with ease and control. In her design she fuses art and craft, knowing she can turn a loose drawing into an object that can not only be functional but also artistically appealing. When I think about her design it is immediately clear that she is a creator who intuitively knows what is wrong and what is right for each piece.

WORKSHOP (2011) — Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk designed a sofa which has a surplus value when different textiles are combined. This makes it very easy to play randomly with different colours, structures and patterns. Photo: Nienke Klunder & Wiglius de Bie

A graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, Kiki van Eijk concentrates primarily on her own collections, but also has worked on projects for, among others, Design Academy Eindhoven, MOOOI, Häagen-Dazs, Bernhardt Design, Forbo Flooring, Venice Projects, Hermès, Nodus, Rijksmuseum and a number of private collectors.

Kiki van Eijk in conversation with Kinga Kowalczyk

How do you define design? First of all, I think design has only existed since the Industrial Revolution, because before that it was artists who would make everything. They would make paintings but they would also do special commissions like a lamp or a chandelier for a church. So for me, in the past artists were also designers. Design is about creating things; it always starts from a concept and some sort of research, and the end result should be something that communicates without having to tell the whole story.

MATRICE FOR SAINT-LOUIS (2013) — For two years Kiki van Eijk has been intensely developing a crystal collection for the French crystal house Saint-Louis. Kiki van Eijk designed a charming collection where craft, integrity and magic come together in one object. Photo: Christophe Urbain

Are you a designer or an artist? I always find that a bit of a difficult question because I don’t care what label people use. I just create things. I happened to graduate from the Design Academy but I could just as well have gone to art school. I found the Design Academy more suitable. It’s not that different from an art school, though – only a bit better organized. But before I went to the Design Academy I used to have an atelier where I would paint on canvas and sculpt things.

What is it like to design in The Netherlands? Why is Dutch design so good? The most important thing is the mentality. Regardless of what the objects look like, there is a kind of free mentality here. If you look at our history and what the landscape looks like, we always have had this problem with water. We’re below sea level and the land is very flat so we have had to think of inventive ways to cope with and live with this. We never have had natural resources; we had tulips and potatoes but nothing else we could actually export. So we have had to cooperate with others. This is where the polder model comes from. The Dutch always try to find ways to make everybody happy. As for design, in Eindhoven, for example, we had a lot of production companies and they all needed designers. That is why the Design Academy was built, to educate people to design for the companies. What’s nice about Eindhoven is that there is also an industrial area where people literally still have space to be creative.

DRINK!EAT!REST! FUN!DREAM!LOVE! (2010) — 7 sculptural glass objects that symbolize the most important yet basic things in life. Murano’s finest crafts in glass are fully represented in this series. It shows a very honest and pure craft which fits perfectly with the story of the objects. Photo: Christophe Urbain

HOW DOES DUTCH DESIGN AFFECT THE WAY YOU WORK, THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT DESIGN? The main thing is the big freedom in Dutch design. Even if you look at DROOG design, which is quite minimalistic and quite dry and maybe a bit strict in a way, it still feels quite free.

Do you consider yourself a responsible designer? I always find that a difficult question because in a way everything humans make is bad for nature, it’s something extra. But on the other hand everything I make, I make with honest intention. I spend a lot of time making it and I know people won’t throw it away after two years. They only buy it when they fall in love with it, and they keep it. And if for some reason they don’t want it anymore, they give it away to someone. I hate throwing things away. I use natural materials; I’ve never used plastic, for example. I’m not saying I won’t but if I had to, I would use bio plastic. It’s a difficult question because everything can be made better. But, for example, if I were to design for a mass production company, I would want to know where they produced, the working conditions of employees and what materials they would use. In that sense I think I’m responsible. In general, this is something we need to challenge ourselves on; we all need to take responsibility.

TEXTILESKETCH_CHAIR (2011) — Part of a furniture collection that brings flat and mobile textile shapes to life in solid heavy metal; the different techniques Kiki van Eijk discovered in a metalworkshop inspired her “to capture the delicate nature of fabrics: laser-cutting lace, 3D laser-cutting piping, welding and blow-torching fringe, coating gold and nickel thread, and even attempting to fluff-up a metal pillow!” TEXTILESKETCH_LOW TABLE TEXTILESKETCH_LAMP

So what would you like to achieve with your design? My goal is to produce things that people will buy and want to keep for a lifetime. We can never be sure, but we know that a lot of people buy my work for that reason. Also, I don’t think you have to make things that sell and that everybody can afford. For example Civilised Primitives is a very expensive collection to make and sell, but I found it important to make because there’s a message behind the project and when people see it in a museum or gallery or a fair they can understand it without having to own the pieces.

Your design is quite exclusive and perhaps beyond the reach of most of us. You are a designer but your work is artistic and quite conceptual. Do you think it has the power to change the way people think? In general I think nobody can change the way people think. You can inspire people. It is not my intention to teach, although there’s always a hidden message behind my work. It’s more about inspiring people.

CIVILISED PRIMITIVES (2016) — In collaboration with Nilufar Gallery. Depicted as a collection of bronze objects, this is a conversation about the present value of survival. Focusing on essence and origin, Kiki van Eijk has looked to survival methods, which encourage inventiveness and joy in nature when combined with the basic forms that man has created: the circle, square, and triangle. Photo: MariÍlle Leenders

CONVERSATION PIECE (2016) — A round table sculpture meant to question the values and worth of product industry and craft by reimagining the Dutch custom of round-table discussions. Designed in walnut, bronze, and faux marble, the sculpture includes a chair smashing through a beautiful, veneered table with purposefully unexciting desk lighting. With the piece, Kiki van Eijk is asking, “Do we wonder if everything is wrong, nothing is right and everything is twisted?” Photo: Lisa Klappe

Conversation Piece is one of the projects with a strong message. It’s a protest against very cheaply and badly made industrial products, but it’s also against very exclusive gallery pieces. It’s about the clash between the two, which are also the two worlds I’m in-between as a designer. You always have to question yourself. No matter if you’re asked to design for industry or a gallery, you have to ask yourself what is the intention behind the work. And this is what I tried to communicate in Conversation Piece.

CUT AND PASTE FOR SECONDOME (2011) — By first making hundreds of sketches, 7 final objects have just “appeared” with diverse references such as wheel, cart, high clock, bird cage, niche, farm, bourgeois, primitive, complicated, rich, poor; they almost transform into 7 curiosities. Photo: Serena Eller Vainicher

When you design, what are the key elements you take into account? What is important? Intuition, I follow my intuition. Behind it now is a lot of knowledge, and I use that subconsciously. When I use color or different materials, I do so by gut feeling. That is what’s guiding me. And also my experience; I have a lot of experience with different materials, different techniques.

Let’s talk about the transitions you make between different techniques and processes. Tell me about the experimentation and scale models, about making the same objects using different techniques and also about different materials. What are the challenges you face each time you change technique or material? Each time you change the technique you have to start from scratch in a way and try things out. When I first did bronze casting, maybe seventeen years ago, I did it myself. I learned how to make bronze and aluminum molds myself and how to think in positive and negative shapes. And because I’d had this experience, doing ceramics was much easier. I knew already how to work with positive and negative, and pouring wax into plaster molds is not much different from pouring clay into ceramic molds. And because of that I was not afraid to use materials that I’d never used before.

In your work you draw a lot of inspiration from the past. I appreciate the past but at the same time I also appreciate things that are modern. In our house we have weird things we find in antique stores and flee markets, but also very modern pieces. I think in the end it’s all about appreciating the good things in life. When I was working on Civilised Primitives I was interested in the first products that humankind made, like for example how they started to shape stones to use as knifes; and then they were able to cut the skin of an animal. They were also able to make clothing and fire. And with fire they could cook, so they made a special type of pot that could resist the heat. Similarly, at first they drank from their hands but later they started to use bowls. They had a special type – a special shape – of container to keep water in. That’s how I came to be interested in survival and our basic needs, and how you would construct something if you had no machines, if you were lost in the woods. Now we live in luxury; everything runs automatically. At the same time, if you think about big, natural disasters, about what would happen if we ran out of resources, this makes you aware of our basic needs and what you would need to do if there were no electricity or running water.

ONE MORE TIME! FLOATING FRAMES – MANTELCLOCKS (2011) — 14 mantelclocks handmade in metal wire in 14 different materials and finishings. Each clock has exactly the same shape, but a totally different appearance because of its finish. It tells a story about time; how we look at objects, judge them, how we feel about them and how our vision towards them changes within time.


SEWING BOX CABINET (2012) — A cabinet made of elms wood. This cabinet is inspired on the mechanism of a wooden sewing box. It evokes the cheerful feeling of needlework, yet it has a very technical mechanism inside. The beauty of both the movement as well as working with textiles is reflected in the handcrafted brass elements and wooden construction. Photo: Lisa Klappe

What value do old techniques and handcrafted objects bring to your work? I think they make it more authentic, more genuine. It’s being able to invent things, not only to use the techniques as we know them, but also to experiment with existing techniques and use them in a slightly different way. For example I worked in Murano with master glass blowers. When something is mouth-blown, each piece is authentic and slightly different. In the Floating Frames collection each object in the series is also different; they all become their own characters. And I like that.

How important is it to combine artisan techniques with new technologies? What challenges have you found there? It’s not always important to combine them. But it’s interesting and challenging because you can make a bridge between the past and the future, like I did in the project Physical Interactions, the three light sculptures. The sculptures were made by hand in the workshop but there’s high technology inside. When people see those light sculptures they don’t know there’s a lot of technology inside. When they realize they can turn the light on by blowing on a sculpture or can activate the dimmer by covering one part of it with a hand, they start to wonder, to laugh a little, to think about how it was made and how it works technically. This project shows that high-tech, mass-produced products don’t need to look sleek and boring; they really can have an identity of their own. SAVAGE FLOWERS (2012) — A series designed for Nodus Photo: Marco Moretto

What are your latest inspirations? What are you working on now? I am working for Bisazza, an Italian mosaic company. I am designing flooring and a mosaic wall, and it’s all inspired by nature, by what is growing between the tiles – by weed. It’s a big production for a commercial brand but it still has a very genuine feeling. I liked that they were very enthusiastic about the theme, which you could say is not very appealing; but the way we did it, it looks beautiful. It shows the beauty of nature. I’m also working on a new concept for Hermès, a new project in glass, and some new carpet designs. And I’m working for a Dutch brand called Social Label. They’ve invited Dutch designers to design something that can be made in a social workshop that is staffed entirely by disabled people. I’m working on lighting made with leather that is leftover from shoe companies. The people in the workshop will make it all by hand. It’s a lot of work but the nice thing is that there needs to be a lot of work because they need to work on something all the time. Normally if you design something for a brand it should not take too much time because otherwise it will become too expensive to produce; but in this workshop they don’t count the time, they only count the amount of material. They actually want to have something that takes a lot of time and involves many stages in the production process. In addition, I’m also doing a couple of projects for private collectors, so right now I have a good mix of challenges. PHYSICAL INTERACTION (2016) — In collaboration with Nilufar Gallery. A series of three light sculptures that highlight Kiki’s passion for fusing handcraft with high tech. The wonder of a child playing has proved powerful inspiration for this piece; she took this movement into account when deciding how to illuminate the lamps. She made the switch interactive, such as blowing on a mobile, lighting a flint, covering a part with your hand to activate the dimmer or off-switch rather than using a traditional method. Photo: Mariëlle Leenders



01 CHRISTOPH NIEMANN Illustration 2009 02 MICHEL MALLARD Creative Direction 2009 03 FUN FACTORY Product Design 2009 04 ANDREAS UEBELE Signage Design 2010 05 HARRI PECCINOTTI Photography 2010 06 KUSTAA SAKSI Illustration 2010 07 5.5 DESIGNERS Product Design 2011 08 NIKLAUS TROXLER Graphic Design 2011 09 JOACHIM SAUTER Media Design 2011 10 MICHAEL JOHNSON Graphic Design 2011 11 ELVIS POMPILIO Fashion Design 2011 12 STEFAN DIEZ Industrial Design 2012 13 CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER Sound Design 2012 14 MARIO LOMBARDO Editorial Design 2012 15 SAM HECHT Industrial Design 2012 16 SONJA STUMMERER & MARTIN HABLESREITER Food Design 2012 17 LERNERT & SANDER Art & Design 2013 18 MURAT GÜNAK Automotive Design 2013 19 NICOLAS BOURQUIN Editorial Design 2013 20 SISSEL TOLAAS Scent Design 2013 21 CHRISTOPHE PILLET Product Design 2013 22 MIRKO BORSCHE Editorial Design 2014 23 PAUL PRIESTMAN Transportation Design 2014 24 BRUCE DUCKWORTH Packaging Design 2014 25 ERIK SPIEKERMANN Graphic Design 2014 26 KLAUS-PETER SIEMSSEN Light Design 2014 27 EDUARDO AIRES Corporate Design 2015 28 PHILIPPE APELOIG Graphic Design 2015 29 ALEXANDRA MURRAY-LESLIE High Techne Fashion Design 2015 30 PLEIX Video & Installation Design 2016 31 LA FILLE D'O Fashion Design 2016 32 RUEDI BAUR Graphic Design 2016 33 ROMAIN URHAUSEN Product design 2016 34 MR BINGO Illustration design 2016 35 KIKI VAN EIJK Product Design 2016

PUBLISHER Design Friends COORDINATION Nadine Clemens LAYOUT 101 Studios INTERVIEW Kinga Kowalczyk PRINT Imprimerie Schlimé PRINT RUN 500 (Limited edition)

with Carrérotondes asbl MAPPING AUGUST. An Infographic Challenge 2010


ISBN 978-99959-947-6-1 PRICE 5 € DESIGN FRIENDS Association sans but lucratif (Luxembourg) BOARDMEMBERS Nadine Clemens (President) Mike Koedinger (Vice-president) Anabel Witry (Secretary) Guido Kröger (Treasurer) COUNSELORS Heike Fries, Silvano Vidale This catalogue is published for Kiki van Eijk’s lecture at Mudam Luxembourg on November 23th, 2016, organized by Design Friends. Published with the support of

Nederlandse Ambassade in Luxembourg

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