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Interview with AandRé design: part 1 of 2

Régis Lemberthe and his partner Anna Iwansson create objects with concrete and found materials. The concrete is a malleable surface they can shape into a sleek or rough surface, it holds many inherent possibilities. With the found material, mostly from scavenging from the streets, they find a strong support whether it be ethically or physically speaking, turning another mans trash into an upcycling treasure. The two young designers work in different cities, the latter working in Berlin and the former in Toulouse, both have a chance to be inspired by the diverse lifestyles inherent to where they live and find a meeting point through their ideals, conversations and the creation of their pieces.

 

We sat down with Régis Lemberthe, in his home and discussed his journey with the material over a pot of tea:

Talking about the use of concrete:

Well we worked at the beginning with concrete because my partner did an internship with a designer in Holland. We discovered the material and thought it was interesting to work with, tried a few things at home. There was a lot of potential with the material, you can make imprints, in terms of color and texture, you can work raw concrete or sleek, it can become very shiny. It’s very interesting, with our interest in upcycling and old materials, old elements, like old pieces of furniture, we started combining things we found in the streets and reuse what is already there. We always have two starting points for our pieces, one be it our fascination with one material, its inherent poetic use, and then reuse what is already there, and now we are starting to test and work with new materials like grass and papier maché.

Tell us about the new materials:

We always try to work with matter with texture, it’s sort of a preoccupation we had about the process being as important as the end result, how we can experiment. There is space for randomness, our pieces are not industrially produced, it is not a controlled process, some experiments lead to other ideas. Surprises lead us into new directions.

Tell us about the process:

It’s always bit different, but the common point is that we start with ideas of what we wanna make but not sure of how to make them, and then we research on the material and how they are going to react, how they should work, what the molds should be made of, and then we test. It takes a long time before we make the end product, sometimes we work with craftsmen, but it does take time. Very few projects we can define from start to finish.(Pointing to a papier maché prototype) even for the lamp, we are experimenting with shapes.  I can’t remember what I said here, probably I was being confuse: we didn’t experiment with shapes to make this lamp, just reused a mold we had. It wasn’t a prototype for the shape, but a test with the material.

Concrete is interesting because you don’t need to bake it, that fact is extremely interesting, it makes things much easier in a sense but it takes long to dry, like evrything else it has pros and cons, both.

When did you start working with concrete:

My partner discovered the material in 2008 while working with Dutch designer Baukje Trenning, who uses concrete in urban space projects. We started to experiment with the material together in 2009, and officially started the design studio the next year.

What is your rapport with your clients:

Most of our projects are prospective, it’s our own ideas we develop, produce, exhibit and try to commercialize. Others are made on demand, some clients demanded us to design something and we do that, taking into consideration the location we’re in…we are pretty much like interior designers on some projects, you see with them the space, talk to them, and then do it.

Have you always imagined you would be in that field:

I don’t think I was too much inclined before, but my partner was, she definitely communicated her interest to me. I was not interested in materials, this sensitivity comes form her.

And you studied…:

I studied in France industrial design, I didn’t have so much interest in materials then, but did my masters in Eindhoven. The Dutch design scene is quite interested in materials and process, crafts design. Industrial design wasn’t the only possible way to go. It became less interesting to me, as I was growing defiant of mass-production, and crafts design seemed like a good alternative.

There are many subdivisions in design, what took you to choose more of a craft orientation:

It’s more of a social thing in a way, we are the first generation to consider progress as an opposition to progress, technology doesn’t appear like a solution anymore. before, maybe 150 years ago, those who thought that way (the arts and crafts movement) were tagged as conservative, but they probably had foreseen some of the problems the industry would bring. Not necessarily the environmental danger and hazards, but the slow decay of social fabric. They were advocating a local production, the quality. Now many going against the progress we know can be progressive, and we are sensitive to that, we can see the problems that arise from the industry, we are trying to find an alternative, make quality things, create a relationship between maker and user. We’re not saying go back altogether, but there is a middleground to find, what we do now, we really do design, it’s important to have a rational production method. we can make several items in a row, but there is a value to hand-production, a social and environmental one, and also the unexpectedness with these materials and processes that make each piece unique.

How do you start creating, do you sketch, also how do you work:

We start In a lot of ways, one thing leads to another. sometimes it’s a bit intuitive, other times a bit more rational, never just one or the other. Normally it start with my partner and I in a bar and talking over a drink, that is the one common starting point to our projects.

I really try to stay disciplined, do my kind of 9-6, I tell myselfI NEED to be working at that time and NOT at this time, it’s nice to behave like it’s (a more formal) job.

What inspires you:

Materials and other peoples work of course, going out to design shows, museum, art shows. what we do is on the border of design and art. we don’t see the barrier between these two fields. Conceptual design has been making an admitted discipline, it proves that an object can be a medium of art, like canvas or sculpture. It’s not because it’s functional that it shouldn’t have a meaning. Some projects really convey a clear artistic message, others take a meaning in the use of materials, in showing how we can upcycle and are not obligated to produce low quality consumables. We’ve done a few art projects, where the objects were the medium, they(Light In Progress) were something that the public could handle, relate to it through touch, not like something on a wall. we wanted to make use of an object, in a gallery space, to make a natural process visible, so people could apprehend things, through this instant relationship, we can trigger curiosity.

What restrictions have you found with your material:

Mostly restrictions concerning the use because you are not going to make a teacup with concrete so easily. Given the way we work and aesthetics somethings you just can’t make, it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t do them but we would use other materials.

We also found proprieties that surprised us, like this texture(showing us a vase with sleek surface but gritty-looking grain) was a surprise, it’s roughness even though it is slick.

No with papier maché(a new material with which they are experimenting)it’s surprising how strong and how much it can withstand.

How do you see your collaboration with your partner:

The main problem you face on your own is motivation, it’s extremely difficult to keep the dynamic. (with Anna)A lot of things we can do over the internet, but every few months we meet and work together, decide on exhibitions. We both see different things so it’s great for inspiration and networking, though we are both shy about networking, it’s still double the opportunities.

How do you think school inspired you:

I was trying to get away from what was taught, go against, it gave me a bit of problems at the time. I was in a course called humanitarian design… there was not much of a human aspect to it, there was so much pressure on designing nice objects and sometime we’d miss the point. But this frustration also led to new ideas.

What was your first project in design:

The one we did as an extracurricular project was for a student organization, against AIDS, they asked us to design a box, you know the cardboard box with a banana inside, with two holes on the side, but a nicer version, more rational, appealing. We made a box that looked like a big candy, it was really colorful and easy to move around and clean.

How is Berlin as a city for inspiration:

there is a lot of materials in the city to be found, things are in the street, u can scavenge and find anything, people live very cheaply, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You end up with really interesting interiors, that is extraordinary, not just in apartments but in bars there is an interesting ensemble of found objects, vintage wall paper, it has an emptiness but it is charming, not everything was bought from a catalog, you put effort in finding things that go together, really inspirational.

What sense do you associate with design:

Although I just experimented with scented concrete, it’s mostly aesthetic and touch, we work with texture a lot, so it’s sometimes rough or shiny, in a sense these two senses (touch and sight) correspond to each other, the way something catches light, the texture.

What do you eat on Sunday mornings and is that different from every other day:

No, I actually don’t have anything for breakfast and it’s not different from any other day.

Anna’s answers are coming soon

DO NOT HESITATE TO VISIT THEIR WEBSITE

www.aetredesign.com

Regis and Anna will display some stools from the series “Refurbished Stools”

 

Photography by: Sacha Molnar

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