Make an Osmose Lamp, With Clemence Seilles

Clemence Seilles was only four months into a job at Jerszy Seymour’s Berlin studio when she started to feel it: that restlessness creatives invariably get when they’re unable to fully express themselves. It’s not that the job wasn’t fulfilling — it was, and more — but working fulltime meant Seilles hadn’t yet found a way to devote attention to her own projects. “I had this idea to make a piece that would do the work for me, something that would happen when I wasn’t there,” she recalls. One morning she hung a few felt-tip pens from the ceiling of her apartment, their tips pressed down against a sheet of Chinese rice paper, and left for Seymour’s studio. “When I came back that evening, the work was made.” The pens had bled out in colorful blobs, absorbing into the paper fiber and creating beautiful overlaps.

When we visited her new studio in Berlin two weeks ago, the French designer jokingly referred to the series — which she later titled “Marks on support,” expanding it to encompass the lamps featured in this story — as “a lazy project.” But in fact, it fits perfectly into her fledgling oeuvre. Most of the work she did during her studies at London’s RCA school, and some of what she’s made since graduating last year, puts the passage of time in a starring role. Her thesis, for example, explored the shift in architecture during the last century towards nomadism and impermanence, culminating in her building a temporary dwelling pod in a vacant office building in which she lived and worked for two weeks. “Made In Time” turned the construction of a banal stool into a performance piece, demonstrating the value of craftsmanship by shortening and lengthening the time she devoted to making each one. And for the Osmose lamp, it’s all about spontaneity. “The less preparation you have the better,” Seilles says. “It’s not a decision of the mind making a line or a curve, it’s more like making a stage for a drawing.” You control some of the variables, but gravity and osmosis do the rest. All you can do is know when to stop the process.

Seilles, who also worked for the Dutch artist Joep van Lieshout in between her studies, has lately been focusing on combining off-the-shelf industrial elements with primitive techniques to create new works — like her Matter Lamp, whose rustic wooden tripod supports she hacks out of 2x2s with an axe. And since our visit, she’s begun preparing to turn her studio into a conceptual forest, fashioning the sylvan scene out of everyday office supplies and equipment. Considering Seilles’s talent for putting on a good show, we asked her to demonstrate for Sight Unseen readers how to make one of her Osmose lampshades, from start to finish. The process is documented here.