Philippe Malouin’s studio on

On occasion, the editors of Sight Unseen spot a story about creativity told from a viewpoint that’s not unlike our own. This one, posted yesterday on the design blog Yatzer, peeks in on the studio of Québec-born, London-based designer Philippe Malouin. Malouin is known for taking his time with a project — after painstaking research, his recent chainmail-like Yachiyo rug for Beirut’s Carwan Gallery famously took 3,000 hours to produce — and in the article, writer Stefania Vourazeri probes the young designer about his thoughts on permanence as well as the influence of art on his designs. 

Interview By Stefania Vourazeri
Photos © Yiannis Katsaris

In an age where objects become so disposable and last year’s products are often characterized as obsolete, it’s a rare treasure to find someone like Philippe Malouin, who still firmly believes in the permanence of an object. Yatzer visited his studio in London and was convinced that the Québec born furniture designer enjoys spending a long time on a project. Living in a fast changing design world, we caught up with Malouin and discussed his source of influence, his passion about the process of producing with research always being at the top, as the driving force of his practice.

A studio visit is something intimate. You experience the working environment of a designer, monitor the various little things that lie around his desk, go through the books he keeps as a reference and above all you witness the way he works. His mixed background made him realize the importance of a challenge. To him it is nearly impossible to design something better than the Modernists so for him the challenge is to try to achieve something different. Working as an assistant of Tom Dixon in 2008 was to Philippe Malouin extremely influential. “It changed my taste. The most important part, while working with those people, was that I learned their set of references and things that were not design related.” His horizons opened up and became less design-centric with art becoming the number one source of influence. “The interesting thing about art is that it is open to interpretation. Sometimes there is a little description but you can still make your own idea of what you think it is or what it means. Design puts it in a box for you and I find art much freer,” he explains. Besides, he adds, “Art doesn’t have an assembly guideline.”

An example of how art plays a pivotal role in Malouin’s design manifesto is the Thermal Till Paper Vessel project, which emphasized the experimental and performative element of his work. It took place in 2010 at the Kunsthalle Wien Project Space Karlsplatz during Vienna Design Week. Malouin was using rolls of paper from cash registers to make bowls. “The paper project didn’t have an end result that was a usable thing. We were doing live research…I thought that it was interesting that it was not about the finished product.” The bowls which when heated turned black will be further tested and see if they could lead to porcelain products.

Experimentation was further explored in one of his most recent projects, the Yachiyo metal rug for Beirut’s Carwan Gallery. “For the last year I wanted to explore metal as there are various themes and variation that can go around it. It was a new process that we learned and was very industrial. We looked at simple metal wire before it’s coiled and we were wandering what we could do with it. We’ve made a lot of tests and played around. It was months and months of research.”  This handmade rug which needed more than 300 meters of wire and 3,000 man hours to make, is inspired by the Japanese ‘12-in-2’ chain mail method.

“This chainmail has resistance and it’s much more interesting. It has a structure but it’s extremely soft and at the same time indestructible, something that is really interesting.” The Yachiyo metal rug is so strong that can actually survive nuclear attack, Malouin explains. “The permanence of an object and the fact that it could be with someone for their life is a good idea to explore.” The rug also creates an interesting 3D visual effect, which further permitted to play with the idea of perspective.

It is a perfect example of what Malouin is after; and that is permanence and durability. “Production for the sake of production is not that interesting to me,” he explains.

Click here to read the rest of the story and to view even more examples of Malouin’s work on Yatzer.