Julien Carretero’s work invites metaphor the way cheese fries beg to be eaten — make a bench that’s perfectly shaped in front and slowly morphs into chaos in back, and suddenly it could be about anything: humans’ ultimate lack of control over the universe, politics, the pressure to succeed, mullets. For the Paris-born, Eindhoven-based designer, though, it’s mostly just about one thing, which is making visible his experiments with creation. “A designer can’t just be a thinking head,” he writes in an artist’s statement. “The most important thing is to put a craftsman’s feeling into the fabrication process.”
To that end, Carretero has developed some fairly unique working methods, which is how he caught the eye of New York design arbiter Murray Moss. Two years ago, Moss fell for the aforementioned bench — his graduation project at the Design Academy Eindhoven — for the way it’s constructed in layers using a single mold that gets progressively distorted as it weakens from use. His Drag lights and vases, which made their American debut at the Moss store during ICFF last year, are sculpted in plaster in the same manner as ornamental cornices, their rough texture and imperfect seams exaggerated by a coat of super-saturated paint. In fact, it’s so important to Carretero that his objects be able to express themselves that he acts out their gestural feel before he ever sets foot in the workshop to fabricate them. As long as you get a sense of how they’re made, the why can be up to you.
What you keep around your studio for inspiration: Books. I try to read as much as I can. My library is divided into two categories: design- and art-related books in the studio, and literature and philosophy — mostly French — at home. I consider it very important as a designer to have a good knowledge of what’s been said before in the design world.
Favorite shop: I spend a lot of time in second-hand shops and dump yards. I could tell you which dump yard is the best in Eindhoven, but I’m not sure this information interests any of your readers.
Thing you love most about where you live: The freedom of being able to do what I love, and the fact that designers and artists can legally make use of empty buildings. That creates an amazing dynamic.
Thing you hate most about it: I can’t tell which gives me the hardest time: the weather, the food, or the language.
What a stranger who saw your work for the first time would say: The first thing strangers usually say when they see my work is: “May I touch it?” I consider this a very good sign.
The scientific process behind many of life’s workaday phenomena is something called capillary action, which is the molecular attraction that makes liquid flow through a porous medium, for those in need of a high-school refresher. It’s what makes tears flow through your lachrymal ducts, what gives micro-fiber its super-absorbent properties, and why groundwater naturally spreads into areas of dry soil. It’s also what powers the Ink Calendar by Oscar Diaz.
Atelier NL’s Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck keep a studio in the airy loft of a ’70s-style church in Eindhoven. They live there, too, but you wouldn’t exactly say that’s where they work. More often than not, the designers can be found doing fieldwork, whether that means scouring the area’s secondhand shops for mechanical knickknacks to inspire their more analog designs — like van Ryswyck’s hand-cranked radio — or digging up clay in the Noordoostpolder, an area of reclaimed farmland north of Amsterdam that until the 1940s was submerged under a shallow inlet of the North Sea.
This story was originally published on November 3, 2009. A year and a half later, Dror Benshetrit unveiled at the New Museum a simple, scalable structural joint system called QuaDror, which just may turn out to be his magnum opus. It takes obvious inspiration from the kinds of toys he shared with Sight Unseen here. // Some furniture expands if you’re having extra dinner guests, or folds if you’re schlepping it to a picnic. But most of it just sits there, content to be rather than do. This drives New York–based designer Dror Benshetrit crazy. “Static freaks me out,” he’s said, and so the Design Academy Eindhoven graduate has spent the entirety of his young career making things that either capture a state of transformation (his progressively shattered series of vases for Rosenthal) or actually transform themselves (the Pick Chair and Folding Sofa that flatten using simple mechanics). When I first saw Dror’s latest project, a trivet for Alessi whose concentric metal arcs are magnetized so they can be reconfigured endlessly — and even, the designer enthusiasticaly suggests, worn as a necklace — I thought: If he can’t even let a trivet sit still then his fascination with movement must be more than a design philosophy, it’s probably coded in his DNA. I was right. Dror has been obsessed with kinetic toys since he was a child.