Curator Hans Maier-Aichen

For this second edition, like the first, the Danish textile company Kvadrat invited international curators who are in touch with emerging designers from all over the globe, to get involved and seek out innovative new approaches to the material. We looked for designers with the guts to take risks, who explore the unconventional, and who are revitalising design parameters for a future of change.

This time the upholstery material Divina was chosen to form the basis of each work. The textile has a smooth surface, similar to felt, and doesn’t show the direction of the weave, which makes the fabric look extremely homogenous. There was no briefing, and no limitations were stipulated for the design ideas of each participant; the only condition was that they had to use or integrate the woollen textile into the project.

In the face of dramatic overproduction of everyday objects, often in mediocre quality, young designers have to find alternative spaces and directions for their work. To avoid getting lumped together with market-led adaptions of well-known products, they are seeking out spaces where they can search for expressive and individual design solutions. I was mainly interested in choosing designers – emerging designers as well as internationally known ones – who create authentic objects, and demonstrate both innovative product design and a free, artistic approach.

Some of the designers have never touched textiles before and so were able to balance their design professionalism with a strong sense of impartiality. Their perceptiveness of the material, and the tension between their existing knowledge and pure curiosity, enabled them to create some unexpected and surprisingly different results.

To make a linearly perfect product, which fulfilled all the common marketing conditions to become a success, wasn’t the primary aim. Instead, it was more important that the participants thought about how to make something which was differentiated from what the market already offers.

The justification was that, in creating something different and diversified, it would open up new ways of thinking about how to make a strong, authentic, and charismatic three-dimensional statement with a textile.

Kvadrat’s generosity in leaving the project open-ended created a climate of freedom and independence. Some of the designers already operate in very experimental areas, risking all their creativity to diversify against the norm, in the face of envious disapproval and lack of understanding. Others, mostly the younger ones, having not been trapped by the workings of the market, and approached the project completely unprejudiced and with a disarming freshness. And still others simply don’t care at all about the market and even develop their own tools and machines to generate completely new product approaches.

Anton Alvarez, an emerging Swedish-Chilean designer, represents the mindset of this latter group. By constructing his own wrapping machine, he enables himself to manufacture new kinds of furniture in quite a spontaneous way. The high speed of the running production process forces him to decide immediately and intuitively about the design and shape of a piece. As a consequence, each wrapped and twisted piece is different and carries clear hallmarks of its individual production.

Jerszy Seymour’s work is also that of a radical. He is uncompromising in breaking boundaries and experimenting with new materials. He acts within what he calls ‘amateur diagrams’ and is something of an enfant terrible on the design scene. He seemed a logical choice to produce an unpredictable surprise for the project.

All of the participants’ work carries their unique flavour, demonstrates an unmistakable individuality, and touches new ground, while still encircled by a highly commercialised, worldwide, design scene.

What really matters, and again what surprised me when starting this project, is the high standard, boundless creativity, and strong inner discipline shown by the designers in redefining what so-called ‘useful’ objects are.

This interchange of ideas has been, to an extent, a think tank, which I hope will inspire a design world filled with repetition, follow-ups, and dreary perfectionism, to break free and not get stuck in the tedium of market exchange.