Ahead of London Design Festival, we chat to Piet Hein Eek, the Dutch designer whose lighting range features in #TheConranShopEdit. We learn about his design philosophy and the importance of ‘normality’ in his work.
Firstly, a quickfire round - get to know Piet in 60 seconds...
Town or country?
Would you prefer a magazine subscription or a DVD box set?
Champagne & caviar or coconut water & a super-food salad?
Dawn or dusk?
What’s your addiction?
Working is living
What was your last dream about?
I don’t say
Would you rather have the power to travel back in time or see the future?
I like it like it is
Best invention of all time?
Do you have a nickname?
Who would play you in a film?
And now to delve a little deeper...
How did you start out in design?
When I was a kid I made all kinds of things probably like every kid. But never stopped. So afterwards, this became significant.
What was the first product you designed?
When I was 12 or 13, I made houses and villages in my room with glue, matches and rope. The houses also had furniture made of matches. The first chair and cupboard I made where smaller than my thumbnail.
What has been the biggest influence on your work?
The lessons in painting at the Design Academy in my first year. At a certain moment I had a beautiful corner, and after two days I still had it and couldn’t make the rest equally good. I got annoyed and repainted the corner and started all over again. Since then I keep on the move and keep the creative process going (and dare to throw away).
Your portfolio is incredibly diverse, would you say there is a unifying style?
Yes of course there is. Not in the sense that I make stylish objects (like many do to be recognised) but the design mentality is always the same; I try to make something with the possibilities available like materials, machines, craft building etc. I'm always extremely pragmatic, in fact, doing what’s 'normal' which is very special because most people try to create special things. In this way of working there's also a strong story line in the sense that the past (what’s there) is connected with the future (the design). Because of this pragmatic approach, the results often feel comfortable, almost classic although they’re new.
Do you have a design routine?
Yes, doing what's the most obvious and only making something when it’s a good idea (I often mistakes).
What does great design mean to you?
That’s a difficult question. What I do know is that it’s far more difficult to make a chair in big quantities in comparison to making unique (and expensive) objects. So the product has to last over a generation and still be regarded as valuable, and preferably also in production.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Creating our own environment has been the greatest achievement. Knowing that if you have a place in which you’re happy, you feel and function well and therefore have more chance of success - and at least you’re having a good time.
What advice would you give to emerging designers?
Stay close to yourself, if you get successful in something you don’t like you become extremely unhappy!
We’re thrilled to feature your lighting in #TheConranShopEdit during the London Design Festival. Could you tell us a little about the inspiration behind the collection?
There’s a variety of lighting objects but all of them are inspired by the material, the technique or craft.
What, if anything, do you collect?
I’m in a phase where I try to get rid of a lot of things but I don’t succeed. More and more the fact that I have the opportunity to actually execute my ideas fills me with joy (and some way gratefulness) and it forces me to speed up creating.
What was the last exhibition you visited?
Apart from the exhibitions we have in our gallery, this holiday I visited a museum in Paris and before that the ceramic museum in Limoges. I was there with design friends and we were really inspired by the objects that were exhibited. The nice thing was that the inspiration was much bigger because we were together.
If money were no object, what would you buy from The Conran Shop?
Last time I visited, I was totally surprised about the quality of the collection and presentation. I really liked the Mauviel pans and the Carlo Mollino table. But those are just two examples because they’re also my personal favourites - all of them are great designs!
Featured image: http://www.pietheineek.nl/ (2009)