There are many moments that marked my path as a blogger but there’s hardly anything more spectacular than the unique opportunity I was offered at the recent IMM design show in Cologne by Italian design brand Magis: I was invited to interview the internationally renowned French designer Erwan Bouroullec. Together with his brother Ronan he has designed some of the most outstanding pieces of furniture for many brands like Magis, Vitra, Artek, Ligne Roset, Iittala and Habitat.
Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec have recently designed a new range of tables for Magis entitled ‘Officina’. Contemporary yet traditional, the new range of tables and low tables in wrought iron combine an almost ancient production technique with a contemporary visual language – ‘Officina’ looks like a very modern table from afar while utterly traditional and handcrafted from close by with a hammered metal structure. Looking at those hammered details you see a forger in long past times before your eyes. Yet the refined and sophisticated details and the contemporary design tell another story: The handwritten design poetry by two French magicians – Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec.
When I was preparing my interview with Erwan Bouroullec, I was wondering: How would I approach him? How would I start the interview? What would I ask him? Then I thought: Oh my, he’ll be so bored to answer the same questions over and over again. And then the moment approached and everything went very intuitive and fluid.
I was interested in learning about the design process for ‘Officina’ as well as the long lasting collaboration and partnership with Magis. Erwan told me that the initial idea for ‘Officina’ came from Magis. One of their neighbors in Italy is a traditional iron maker and they always wanted to collaborate with them. However, Magis wanted a contemporary range of tables made of wrought iron, nothing old fashioned and baroque. The only wizards who could tackle the challenge were the French brothers Bouroullec. They asked them and they were intrigued by working with an old material and a traditional production process and translate it into contemporary design pieces.
For Erwan, the allure was in focusing on a real, authentic process. Given the fact that we live in a world were things pretend to be something they’re not (think of plastic perfume bottles covered with gold). Returning to the real, the authentic, handling materials with ancient techniques and creating something new, something that resonates with contemporary design aesthetics was a process that brought ‘Officina’ to life.
Erwan Bouroullec also revealed that their relationship with Magis is a long lasting one. Like in any kind of relationship, the more mature it gets, the more trusting and honest it gets including differences and long discussions. But the result is worth it: pieces that stand out and speak for themselves.
I don’t remember at what point my interview went from being sort of semi-professional to being simply a fun chat between two guys. I just know that we ended up talking about social media and Instagram in particular (Erwan really likes Instagram and regularly checks the hashtag #Bouroullec), homes, computer games. Apparently lots of giggling and laughing took place and at one point the PR people of Magis were wondering what was going on.
I think that last part was my favorite part because it reveals that we all are simply people with likes, dislikes, passions, fun. And it shows that designers also like to talk about other things than design for a change. I’ll remember those laughs with Erwan Bouroullec. Thank you, Erwan! And thank you Magis for this fantastic opportunity!