From his early days as a furniture designer, to his more recent endeavour into broader fields like fashion, society or (pop) culture, Marcel Wanders has been constantly showing interest in transforming the everyday objects in our collective lives.
This year at Maison & Objet, French sculpture atelier Leblon Delienne managed to steal the spotlight. The French “Pop Sculpture” studio teamed up with Wanders for a second time. After Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, it was time for Minnie to shine. The One Minute project became personal for the Dutch designer, he told us: “I am investing my creativity into the painting activity. There is not much time in one minute to be concerned about people’s expectations. To think about others would rob me of the joy and passion for doing something creative.” A focus on personal experience that is unselfish is maybe the best way to encapsulate Wanders’ vision.
How did the collaboration with Leblon Delienne come to fruition?
Leblon Delienne is passionate about pop culture and has become world renowned for breathing life into childhood heroes and imaginary universes. They primarily make statues, furniture and pieces of art. When Mickey Mouse turned 90, Leblon Delienne wanted to push the boundaries of creativity and reached out to us. We were very excited about the opportunity to work with this wonderful pop culture icon.
What was your challenge on these two projects?
The challenge of these two one minute sculpture is trying to not overthink it. To really let myself let go creatively. I say that not because it’s done quickly, but because it is created with the human touch. In one minute, I quite literally put myself and all of my energy into the sculpture. It is human, raw, wonderfully random and is designed with every chance for creative happenstance. In one minute, there is no right and no wrong. There is just a total investment of myself in each.
Is there a pressure, revisiting an object or a figure that everyone knows? How do you manage people’s expectations?
No, I don’t feel there is any pressure. To worry about what others think in regard to this project would be to take my focus from the work. In the case of One-Minute Minnie, I am doing something very personal. In one-minute, I am investing my creativity into the painting activity. There is not much time in one minute to be concerned about people’s expectations. To think about others would rob me of the joy and passion for doing something creative.
“I quite literally put myself and all of my energy into the sculpture”
As we transition to a more sustainable society, how do you see design — as a whole — adapting to this idea?
There are many things designers can do. For one, we can more carefully examine the materials we use in our designs from natural materials to smart lighting installations. We can also find ways to incorporate natural lighting in our interior designs and we can create durable designs against a throwaway culture. The industry as a whole can support initiatives for sustainability, using our talents to help promote causes that champion a cleaner planet.
Earlier this year, you were quoted pointing out our absurd use of plastic and recycled materials. Do you think good design can help beat the waste and climatic disasters that are happening throughout?
I recently took part in an exhibit where we created a video of me reusing a bottle designed by Ross Lovegrove. I use it over and over to make a simple point about good design and its ability to combat waste. As individuals, we can do our part by looking at what we consume on a daily basis and really consider what effect it’s having on our planet. However, I believe recycling only perpetuates frivolous mindless consumption, while a better strategy is to buy better products and reuse. While we are responsible for the technical and material consequences of our work, more than that, designers have the responsibility to manipulate the psychological relationship our audience has with the objects in our surrounding and the surrounding itself. Simply making things loved is already a fantastic ecological step.
What are the keys to great interior design? If you had to boil it down to a few factors.
I think more than anything you need to be passionate about what you do. You have to have a desire to make it all about other people, their experience and what they take away. The ultimate goal is to create a destination, not just a place people stay for a brief moment in time. To achieve that I believe comes down to creating a concept that flows from space to space, giving furniture and bespoke items their own space, but keeping them part of the overall concept. There needs to be seamless connection to the senses. The more the better. An interior should make people feel as though they are part of the story being told there.
You are responsible for some of the most memorable designs in the luxury industry, for example the Mondrian in Doha or Miami. What would be your own definition of “luxury”?
Luxury is what people believe it to be for themselves. It involves meaning and connection to their lives and the standards they keep for themselves. Quality, texture, recognisable craft. These all add up to luxury for me. Luxury starts where functionality ends and where the true value is personal and so has no price or reason.
Your work displays a practical playfulness. Is it something that you have to entertain?
The playfulness in the work, or any emotion, is a direct reflection of the artist or designer. I don’t feel I have to create playful designs, or feel pressure to push the playfulness – it just happens naturally. It is an extension of the concept and the designer. The emotion has to be appropriate and true for what we’re making. If it’s not, and it is forced, there will be a disconnect in the meaning it creates for those who experience it.
“What makes working with so many materials enjoyable, though, is the process of discovering how far you can bend it, stretch it and twist it to make it do what it needs to do.”
You previously said you don’t care that much about the material, when designing something new. We would love to know more about the material(s) that was/were a challenge for you. What are they? Why were they challenging?
Every material we work with brings its own degree of difficulty. With Lladro, we were working with extremely delicate porcelain and how you handle it has to match its softness. With Baccarat, working with crystal, which doesn’t have much tolerance, we find it more difficult to manipulate and shape it how we’d like. For example, getting it to connect to marble – another hard material – means you have very opposite materials combining to make something beautiful. What makes working with so many materials enjoyable, though, is the process of discovering how far you can bend it, stretch it and twist it to make it do what it needs to do.
Your portfolio shows a great diversity of scale. Is it something that is important for you, cycling through different ideas, or do you just take the works “as they come”?
I stay open to any project that is an opportunity for us to do bold, daring, surprising work. We look for projects that can create an emotional connection and uplift the human spirit. Sometimes, that’s a very large assignment. Other times, it’s the smallest of things like a little pin that can create a social movement in which people give them away to show others support.
What is a project you’ve never done design wise, that you would love to do / your craziest dream or ambition?
I have been wanting to design the interior of a grand Middle Eastern mosque, or an opera setting for the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.