The Dutch designer, who met with Surface at this year’s Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan, discusses textiles, color, and disruptive
I was asked three years ago to become the design director of Danskina when Kvadrat and Maharam took over. It’s a nice company because it has an interesting tradition of inno- vative yarns. I’ve just kept that quality, tried to design yarns, and then do the carpets. I first come with an element, and then spin the yarns and twine and twist them, and then use tech- niques like tufting and weaving. This is the way we work.
There aren’t a lot of designers who have the knowledge to design textiles. I don’t have a lot of competitors. [Laughs]
As a user of objects, if a product or an object has tactile value, you can attach your- self to it. This is a very important function of an object: that you can get a relation to it. The most important communication tool is the surface. And it doesn’t have to be “hairy”; it doesn’t have to be a textile. You can also have a relation with a plastic, or with a rubber, or with glass or metal. It’s not that it has to be soft—that’s not what I think tactility is.
In terms of how I use color, let’s take an example: the new version of my Polder sofa for Vitra. It’s been 10 years since I first did the Polder, so I updated it this year by weaving new textiles for it. Each Polder now comes in four colorways: gold, blue, red, and green. I couldn’t find, in the existing textile world, the right color tones. So we started to weave some ourselves, started to dye existing colors in new colorways. It took me five years to update this.
I think I’m very into this whole color world. Color is so individual, so subjective, not only because you’re a human being, but also how the light turns on—three in the morning is different than three in the afternoon. Color has so many angles; it’s a never-ending topic. Color is really a living surface. It’s so difficult for us to imagine how one colored yarn will mix with a different colored yarn in a certain construction. It’s always a surprise. It’s a kind of algebra, this mixing of colors in woven tex- tiles. That makes it exciting, that you’re never an expert. You always kind of stay amateur, because it’s so complex. I like that. It keeps me fresh.
I hope that I inspire designers. Bringing something new is not enough. There’s so much more that you can add to the world. There are a lot of good designers around, but I hope that for some who are not awake—and some who are young and think the industry is boring—that I can tell them, “Don’t make your unique pieces simply for industry! Use your talent and be responsible in talking to companies. Use your brain. Be more cultural. Don’t just turn, turn, turn for profit. Don’t create just for profit. Don’t take from the Earth to make this kind of work.” I don’t have a recipe for what’s good or right. Everybody has to make his own balance.
There’s much more to objects and products than the end result. I push on so many levels: I’m pushing for something that was not there, or kicking suppliers to do something new, or stretching spinners. These kinds of things are our responsibility as designers. It’s like with your dinner: You don’t want to eat the shit from the industry. We designers can play a role between you, the buyers, and an indus- try. I have a good hope to shake things up a bit. —As told to Spencer Bailey