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Metali Crasset: a world of possibilities

Detail of Phytolab, 2002</p> <p>Design: Matali Crasset</p> <p>Production: Dornbracht from the Update/Three Spaces in One triptych
Metali Crasset with Detail of Phytolab, 2002 + Beijing apartment design for the first Chinese capital’s Architectural Biennal, 2004

We have been very fortunate in Sydney to have recently also hosted designer Matali Crasset for the Sydney Design Program as key International speaker.

Here follows an excerpt of an interview with Lily Katakouzinos.

You started your career quite differently having initially trained in Marketing. How did you get into design?
I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, so I ended up doing three years of marketing. During that time, I had an assignment that was based on the re-launch of a perfume. Part of the exercise was to design the bottle and the packaging and I found this to be the most exciting part. Not only to think about the package, but to reflect on the kinds of products people end up with. Then I decided I needed to find out more about design and how I could do that kind of work. I enrolled in a really good school called the Ecole nationale superieure de creation industrielle and I realised that it was possible for me to become a designer.

Your work has an almost child-like quality to it and here seems to be a strong sense of imagination and play – especially in your use of colour and whimsical shapes.
In the beginning of my career I was a little afraid that people wouldn’t take my work seriously. People were always saying that it was playful so I would panic thinking, oh my God, I’m only doing ‘ludique’ things. But in fact I discussed this with a friend who is a typologist and she explained that ‘ludique’ means to experiment with the world around you by playing. And I thought if ludique means this, then in fact I am doing this. I agree that we as adults need to experiment also, not only children. The world is going so fast that we need to get access to all this change. So it’s not only for kids you know, as adults we need to have the structure with which to experiment. And I really like this idea now because it allows me to remain curious and to try new things.

How would you define what a designer does?
As I do so many different things, perhaps the link for me between all these things is that it’s like taking the hand of somebody and leading them to a more contemporary way of thinking. Just to live your life with a sense of today and the idea of gently changing people’s way of thinking and giving them access to things they don’t have access to most of the time.

What is the most unusual product you have worked on?
A very nice project I worked on recently was a video clip for a new group called Liquid Architecture. It will be shown at my exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York. The exhibition is concerned with my relationship to sound and music.

Tell me about the future bathroom concept you worked on.
It was for a Dutch company and it was a vision of how the bathroom could evolve in the future. It was called Update/Three Spaces in One: Phytolab 2002, Chlorophyll bath a bathroom project commissioned by Dornbracht Bathvisions. It was the idea that after concerning ourselves too much with appearance perhaps in the future we will look more at how we feel in our bodies. So we won’t need the mirror anymore for that. And the idea that you could, little by little, learn who you are and at the same time you could use nature much more than we are doing right now. You have to learn little by little the benefit that nature could bring to you. The more you know yourself then the more you know how to use nature and the more you feel better. So the bathroom could be the ideal structure to do that. Little by little you get this knowledge, a little bit like our grandmothers were able to do. They would look to plants when they had some small medical ailment, such as feeling dizzy or a headache or whatever. They had to have a very good relationship with nature and that was what this installation was all about. I really like the idea of coming back to nature, of touching nature. Because as humans we are constantly creating these artificial environments, so the idea behind this projects was … what are we doing with this artificial world? How are we guiding it? How are we qualifying it? In a way, I think designers feel a greater urgency to analyse these notions and to find new directions in respect to these questions.

Do you think that growing up in a small French farming region and having access to a more simple or natural life influenced the way you work?
Sure. I don’t know how to analyse in which way and how it has changed my way of thinking or influenced me. But I do remember as a child having access to nature and that it was possible for me to touch and to transform my environment. It was like a huge playground with a kind of generosity to it. You just had to go out into it and then you could use your own imagination to build stories – and you had everything you needed to make things possible, to make the structure of the story. It was very rich in a way and with a lot of freedom to invent in very different ways. Also with every new season, your relationship with nature would change. I think young children in the city today behave in different ways and have different support structures. I remember my childhood being very hands-on.

I’m interested in breaking the rules. It is when you break the codes that you have access to a lot of possibilities. Like the way that the house is organised for example. I had a very simple upbringing and so I was doing this all the time. My family were not very rich, they were into very simple things and I think that this was a good education. I grew up in another culture. Just to give you an example, reading in my family meant you were wasting time. When you were reading you were not doing something in the field or whatever. I had to gain access to this other culture and I was really greedy when I came to Paris to get access to all there was out there. Not just a culture of design, but art, cinema, etc.

Apart from design that you are very passionate about?
Design is mixed in with my private life. It’s very complex to separate my work life from my private life. What I really like is to be with my family and with friends and to just exchange, to take the time to just live. I don’t have a kind of hobby except to go abroad and to visit places and meet different people – and basically just to have the time to do it and to relax a little bit.

Is there one thing you would love to design?
No, I never work or think like that. Because what people propose to me is much more interesting than what I might have thought about designing at any time. I’m happy to just float from one proposal to the other. It’s nice, I really like that. It’s not that I don’t have a dream but I really am more interested in meeting people, finding new partners to go further with, to stretch the possibilities that are out there.

This excerpt has been published with the permission of the author, Lily Katakouzinos.

A full transcript can be found on desighub
Images via Interior Design + Design Museum
Additional interview and links @ designboom
Article on Beijing apartment design
Exhibition @ the Cooper-Hewitt
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