Republic interviews Austrian designer Katharina Eisenkoeck

Austrian designer Katharina Eisenkoeck

Austrian designer Katharina Eisenkoeck talks about her love of sensuous materials - a love that shines through objects endowed with poetry and contrasts.

Katharina Eisenkoeck is a designer-maker whose practice involves furniture and product making with a sculptural simplicity and functionality influenced by the distinct use of materials. The Austrian designer shows a great interest in the revival of ancient techniques and craft processes brought into a new context as specifically shown in her work with leather.

Her approach to design can be described as a practical research through material experimentation in order to create objects that are on one hand long lasting but also show the character of uniqueness through the making.

To learn more about the artist, Republic spoke with Katharina Einsenkoeck who shared a glimpse of her background, emphasised how crucial to her work contrasts are, and confessed to her obsession with stone and mirrors.

Austrian designer Katharina Eisenkoeck portrait

Republic (Re): Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background?

Katharina Eisenkoeck (KE): I have started out my professional career in architecture, went on to interior design and then slowly but surely got hooked with the making, detailing and refining of objects and furniture.

My childhood was spent building structures in the garden or drawing and painting whatever us kids could come up with. Throughout my time of growing up, I have always enjoyed being creative, it is the ultimate feeling of freedom.

Tension Mirror in ivory brown

Re: Before you set up your own studio, you worked as an interior and exhibition designer. What did you learn from this experience and how do you think does it feed into your current work as a designer-maker?  

(KE): Starting out large and slowly bringing the focus into the more detailed, the handmade and the craft was a great way to learn the many layers of design. Going through the stages of architecture, interior design and then furniture design has made me realize that each project, no matter how big or small, has to be treated the same way.

Tension Mirror Pink with Alabaster

Re: Your love of textural materials is quite evident – alabaster, concrete and leather seem to inspire you a lot. How do you choose the materials you work with and is that choice influenced by your interest in ancient crafts?

(KE): I am definitely inspired by ancient craft and making techniques, but mostly by materials from nature that surround us. To enhance the unique qualities of natural materials I work with contrast. Natural lines with geometric shapes, smooth and soft materials combined with rough surfaces. The objects I strive to create are tactile and seek to trigger curiosity in its uncommon shapes.

Reflector Lamp with concrete base

Re: Can you give us an insight into your creative process? When you work on a new piece of furniture, is it the material, the shape, the function or something altogether different that you consider first?

(KE): I have a constant urge to learn about materials. To teach myself a new technique, or engage with a material that is new to me, is a core value to my business. From there experimenting starts, ideas are being developed, sketched up, tried out, overthrown, done again slightly different and so on.

Sunrise table by Katherina Eisenkoeck

Re: The furniture you make is so sculptural it appears to transcend all kinds of sectors. But do you design with one in mind? For example, would you envision one of your pieces in the lobby of a deluxe hotel or the reception area of a high-end office space?

(KE): When developing a new piece, I find it restricting to design for a specific purpose. My customers usually surprise me with their own ideas of where the piece should sit, whether this might be a home, a hotel lobby or an office. I am keen to evoke the unexpected.

portable Nomadic Light in concrete and leather

Re: What are you working on right now and what are your plans for the new year?

(KE): I have been obsessed with working on stone and mirrors, you will definitely see some more of that in the coming year, but it will be bigger than anything I have done so far.

Nomadic light by Katherina Eisenkoeck

Artisans like Katharina Eisenkoeck are the reason why we love collaborating with craftspeople and creative minds. If you would like to incorporate one of Eisenkoeck's creations in your next Re:public project, get in touch - we'll be glad to meet over coffee.

In the meantime, find out more about Eisenkoeck on her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Republic interviews Ted Jefferis

Built on a desire to display the natural beauty of wood, Ted Jefferis' furniture imparts organic, artisanal beauty.

Ted's family history is ingrained with design and woodwork heritage. The son of a classic boat builder, Ted took up studying at Oxford Brookes University, where he began to explore the concept of furniture as a scaled down form of architecture. His collection continues the appreciation of the fundamental relationship between furniture and the surrounding interior.

Furniture designer maker Ted Jefferis is fastidious in his selection of wood, and using sustainably grown British wood is a simple yet elegant solution to locking away carbon for generations to come. It is Ted's fond hope that, through his work. He will emphasise and encourage sustainability, permanency and narrative, creating a counterbalance to the throwaway culture of modern society.

We reached out to Ted who shared a thing or two about his creative process and professed his love for British Hardwoods.

I genuinely think British Hardwoods are some of the most beautiful in the world.

BoltUp side tables, TedWood

Republic (Re): Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background and talk us through your creative process?

Ted Jefferis (TJ): I grew up surrounded by woodlands and my dad was a carpenter. This has undoubtedly affected my love for timber as a natural material. I often design things at the workbench, through prototyping. This doesn't mean I don’t use pencil and paper or CAD, but I just like to see things take shape in physical materials.

tiptoe table designed by Ted Jefferis
TipToe table, TedWood

Re: You only use sustainable British hardwoods – clearly, sustainability is at the crux of your work. What else are you interested in or inspired by and how is it feeding into your designs?

TJ: Sustainability is key, however, I genuinely think British Hardwoods are some of the most beautiful in the world, so it makes a lot of sense to use them. I'm also interested in CNC manufacture, I think that as a craftsman I need to embrace this technology in order to enrich my process. It also enables my relatively small workshop to produce a higher volume of furniture.

Tipetoe table in the making in TedWood workshops
BoltUp stool in the making, TedWood

Re: Timber is increasingly becoming a viable alternative to traditional steel and concrete construction. I imagine this must be as exciting for you as it is for us. How do you think can furniture be used to promote sustainability on a smaller scale?

TJ: In the construction industry, cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a driving force behind the resurgence in timber as a load bearing material. CLT is the same technology that we use in the legs of our TipToe collection. People often mistake the legs for metal: it just shows how strong wood can be.

Story coffee cafe in Clapham
TipToe collection quietly sitting in Story Coffee café, Clapham. TedWood 

Re: Your furniture is so versatile it would fit in almost any interior but is there a sector you feel particularly drawn to? Or a sector you would like to explore further?

TJ: The collection from TedWood was defiantly intended for residential homes. However, over the past three and a half years, I have changed my attitude to this. We have fitted out an entire coffee shop with our furniture (Story Coffee - Clapham) and have just finished our first office interior. I like the scale of projects like this, somehow the furniture makes more sense when it is multiplied across a whole interior.

hangup lamp made from leather
HangUp lamp close up, TedWood

Re: We know your mother does the leather work. Did you create the leather lighting collection together? Will you tell us a little more about your collaboration and how it began?

TJ: Mum is an excellent leatherworker, and can hand stitch with incredible accuracy. She makes our ToolBags, BoatBuckets and some leatherwork for bespoke projects. The lights are made in my workshop and are defiantly inspired by Mum’s work but are made in a way that avoids this time-consuming hand stitching process. Because I am trained as a carpenter, working with leather is very satisfying, for me there are no rules with leather (because I am not traditionally trained) so I am free to just mess around!

Tiptoe desk by Ted Jefferis
TipToe desk, BoltUp side table and HangUp lamp, TedWood

Re: What are you working on right now and what are your plans for 2017?

TJ: We are just finishing a very interesting interiors project for a private client that includes a staircase, a lot of furniture and even some door handles! I am also working on a new furniture collection that we will be launching at Design Junction during the London Design Festival. This is alongside a new leather lighting collection, so just a couple of things going on!

Ted Jefferis in his workshop
Ted & Humphrey. Credit: creative CoOp

Artists like Ted Jefferis are the reason why we love collaborating with makers and artisans. If you would like Ted's exquisite furniture to feature in your next Republic project, get in touch - we'll be glad to meet over coffee.

In the meantime, take a peek into his workshop in Sussex by following his instagram page. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter

Opening photo: TedWood Workshop, Ted Jefferis 

Republic interviews furniture designer-maker Gareth Neal

Some artisans value traditional craftsmanship, others praise digital manufacturing. Where Gareth Neal stands out is in his subtle manipulation of both at once. 

Hands-on furniture designer-maker Gareth Neal distinguishes himself by his blend of traditional tools with the latest computer controlled routers. This, combined with a fascination of historical techniques and aesthetics, roots Neal's design within a specific context with rich narratives and contextual reference points. 

We spoke to Gareth who talked about the limits of technology and traditional craftsmanship when used separately, and shared his love for collaborative design, among other things.

Portrait of Gareth Neal, photography: Petr Krejci
Republic (Re): Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background?

Gareth Neal (GN): I graduated with a BA in Furniture Design & Craftsmanship from High Wycombe in 1996 and established my design practice in east London where I’ve been based since 2002.

I’m constantly trying to reinvent myself.

Re: And what inspired you to go into furniture design? Is there anything in particular that affected your love of design?

GN: My dad was an archaeologist, so as a child I was always surrounded by historical objects. I became obsessed with scouring car boot sales for interesting objects... I still do it now. I had an inspiring teacher at college, who took me to see a furniture-making course at a university... and the rest is history!

Gareth Neal, photography: Alun Callender

Re: Your work is a subtle amalgamation of traditional fabrication techniques and digital manufacturing. When did you first start thinking about using digital mediums? What prompted the initial experimenting phase?

GN: The limits of technology and traditional craftsmanship have been a constant theme over the years in my design process. In 2006, when I first started getting better at drawing on computers, the two processes started to merge. The initial experiments I created were born from the limitations of certain craft techniques but also the need to elevate and advance craft to a contemporary setting.

Willow - wicker chair 

Re: The furniture you design and make is indisputably easy on the eyes but, and I’m sure you’ll agree, there is more to furniture than beauty. How do you combine aesthetics with function?

GN: I don’t always believe that is true, nor do I believe it’s necessary for all objects to be both aesthetically pleasing and utilitarian. It’s more about the placement of these objects in your life.

George chest of drawers, photography: Petr Krejci

Re: And what do you mean by "placement" exactly? Sometimes, can the purpose of an object be to make a statement, rather than be functional? 

GN: I think that the range of choice we have today when it comes to selecting objects to incorporate into our home is vast. As consumers, the choice is on our side and we can choose objects to surround us in our home for various reasons. They can be elegant and simple in design, beautiful objects really, but they don't necessarily need to be functional.

Modern Makers

Re: You have been exhibited worldwide, from London, through Milan, to New York… But you’re also a commission-based practice. Does your creative process differ when you are working on a bespoke piece? How big an impact do you think bespoke pieces like your reception desk for John Jones can have on a company’s image? 

GN: Commissions and bespoke work are completely different experiences, but are equally rewarding as design challenges. Bespoke creations can be very independent, ego-driven productions, while commissions involve the needs of a client. I think both offer interesting opportunities.

In a way, the Zaha Hadid Wish List as a collaborative project was an example of a successful undertaking. Having a specific brief and creating a tailored product to satisfy the brief can foster rich creative opportunities. Constraints can be enriching, creating ingenious ideas and other methods to think about something.

Jack, photography: Petr Krejci

Re: You recently talked about commissions and collaborative design at the London Craft week 2017. Can you share your favourite thing about commission work with us? 

GN: Working with other people is something I really enjoy and it opens up new directions in my design process. Working together and sharing ideas, knowledge and skills, truly yields interesting outputs.

Black Vesel, photoghraphy: Petr Krejci

Re: What are your impressions from the London Craft Week this year?

GN: London Craft Week brings together some of this city's most talented designers and makers, and with each passing year, it only seems to get better! What was really wonderful to see during my talk at the Carpenters Hall was the diversity of the people who were present. That to me is really inspirational.

Constraints can be enriching, creating ingenious ideas and other methods to think about something.

Re: Some of your pieces are limited edition, some are even one of a kind. Do you sometimes find yourself wanting to make more or are you constantly trying to reinvent yourself through your work? 

GN: To be honest, I feel like I’m constantly trying to reinvent myself, which is perhaps not necessary after practising design for the last 20 years. I enjoy the whole breadth of the design and craft world.

Gareth Neal, photography: Charlotte Schreiber

Re: If we were to walk in your Bethnal Green workshop today, what would we find in the making?

GN: I am constantly in the process of making plans – planning and scheduling projects, drawing plans for prototypes, plans for lunch. Jokes aside, I’m currently working on very exciting new designs that will be shown at Sarah Myerscough Gallery during Art Basel/Design Miami in June as well as sending a new body of work to Todd Merrill’s gallery in New York City.

 Jack cabinet and Gareth Neal, photography: Petr Krejci

Artists like Gareth Neal are the reason why we love collaborating with makers and artisans. If you would like Gareth's work to feature in your next Republic project, get in touch - we'll be glad to meet over coffee.

In the meantime, you can follow him on Instagram and Twitter

Republic interviews Kyla McCallum from Foldability

Kyla McCallum working on a paper window display for Desso

High-end origami meets interior design.

Foldability is a London based design studio that creates bespoke installations, set design and interior products inspired by origami and geometry.

Founded in 2013 by Scottish designer Kyla McCallum, Foldability works with brands to bring projects from initial conception through to final production. Kyla works with a diverse team of creatives including engineers, graphic designers, art directors, photographers, architects and fabricators, on projects spanning across a broad range of disciplines.

The studio has become known for creating precision formed set design and products which are visually unique and primarily made by hand.

Kyla carved out a time from her busy schedule to tell us about her obsession with geometry, the joys of experimenting and the importance of having art in the workplace. She also shares her favourite patterns and gives us an exclusive glimpse of her sketchbook! 

Equi textiles - 3D surfaces made using high tech metal fabrics

Republic (Re): Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background? Have you always had a penchant for origami and geometry?

Kyla McCallum (KM): Ever since I was a child I loved to draw and make things by hand. My obsession with geometry began about 10 years ago in 2007 whilst studying at Cologne International School of Design. I chose a project where I was asked to design a tree house and to begin by collecting visual references that could inspire the design. During my research, I discovered some amazing people who had worked with geometry including Buckminster Fuller and his geodesic domes, the Mathematician and artist Ron Resch who explored the possibilities of 3D repeat patterns using origami forms and Magnus Wenninger, a Mathematician/Priest who created the most magnificent intricate paper sculptures of polyhedra. I was mesmerised by the design possibilities and have been hooked ever since.

Chloe pendant: exclusive origami pendant created for John Lewis

Re: Your practice puts a lot of emphasis on folding but do you also find yourself experimenting with various materials, textures and weights until you find the right one?

KM: Yes, I enjoy working with a broad range of materials and pushing the possibilities of what can be folded. Over the years I have tested paper, metal, fabric, composites, plastics, cork, Tyvek and more unusual things like sail-boat materials and technical textiles for the automotive and aviation industries. Every project requires a different material specification, so there is always initially some experimentation or digging through my material library to find the right one.

Re: What’s your favourite pattern?

KM: That would be a green and blue print on a 60s vintage dress that I bought in Cologne about a decade ago. Another one of my obsessions is vintage dresses and bright, colourful prints from the 50s – 70s.

My favourite pattern of my own [pictured below] is a diamond-shaped fold that I designed about a year ago. I’m currently working on a range of bags, cushions and clothing using this pattern.

Paper window display for Desso

Re: Your client list is impressive: Ted Baker, John Lewis, L’Oréal, H&M… Have you ever been commissioned by companies looking to uplift their offices with one of your pieces?

KM: I’m developing a bespoke wall panelling system at the moment for an office project but it’s still at the very early stages.

"[...] it would be nice if employees had more freedom to decorate or contribute to the aesthetics of their workspace.

Re: Do you think art has a place in the workplace?

KM: For me personally, the space I work in is extremely important and I would find it difficult to enjoy a space without any art or design. I think it would be nice if employees had more freedom to decorate or contribute to the aesthetics of their workspace, as I believe that enjoying your environment can really boost productivity and make people happier being at work.

Re: Can you talk us through a typical day at the studio? 

KM: To compensate for my terrible memory, I’m a meticulous planner and have every 15 mins scheduled throughout the day on my calendar. Most days include 1 – 2 hours of emailing, up to an hour on finance and preparing quotations/invoices and the rest of the time I’m designing or folding for projects and delegating tasks when I have staff in.

I can have up to 20 enquiries on-going at any one time (in addition to confirmed projects I’m working on) and at the moment receive at least 4-5 new enquiries a week, so I do spend quite a lot of time managing these and working out which projects I should invest time on.

Equi textiles - pleating collection

Re: What are you working on right now?

KM: At the moment I’m working on some set design pieces for an event in London and next, I have a project where I will create a series of folded set design pieces which will be photographed and printed on a large scale for a brands marketing campaign.

I can’t really say more about what it is or who it’s for yet but you should be able to see the project on my website by September.

Re: Will you give us a glimpse of a page in your sketchbook?

Artists like Kyla McCallum are the reason why we love collaborating with makers and artisans. If you would like to feature one of Kyla's installations or products in your next Republic project, get in touch - we'll be glad to meet over coffee.

In the meantime, go marvel at her Instagram collection of patterns and colours. You can also follow Foldability on Twitter

Republic interviews Anna Rewinska from A:R

Anna Rewinska is a London based creative whose work is an interpretation of the energy and texture enclosed in music.

Since a very young age, Anna Rewinska has been interested in painting and drawing. She pursued this passion independently and through artistic education in both Poland and the UK at the London College of Communication. She also earned a BA (Hons) in Interior Architecture from the University of Brighton. 

The main focus of Anna’s artistic practice is visualizing music frequencies and the energy enclosed in the sound. She creates visual narratives that correspond to the atmosphere of electronic music vibrations. The mesmerizing impressions of music are the foundation for the development of quirky concepts which are transformed into large-scale murals.

Anna Rewinska currently lives and works in London as a Creative Director at Blue Drop Studio, a digital creative agency that she co-founded in 2015, and also continues her independent artistic ventures internationally.

R(love)ution limited edition giclee print by Anna Rewinska
R(love)ution, Limited edition of 30, giclee print, 41cm x 34cm.

Republic: Tell us a little bit about what inspires your work as an illustrator & street artist?

A:R: My biggest inspiration is music - the stories encapsulated in the sets. Music carries energy. It is a language understood by the soul, it creates a bond between people where no words are needed. Music also stimulates the brain more than any other form of art. It simply whispers to me countless ideas which then emerge as visual concepts.Aside from music, I draw inspiration from the world around me. Everything I see can trigger the creative process: colours, patterns, people, other amazing artists…

soundT/Wrap spray paint and acrylic on canvas
SoundT/Wrap, 2015, spray paint & acrylic on canvas, 90cm x 90cm. 

 Republic: Does your background in interior architecture influence your work as an illustrator & street artist and vice versa, has your passion for street art influenced your architectural designs?

A:R: My passion for art has definitely affected my architectural designs to some extent - in fact, my final project at university was about a perfect space for drawing & painting! Later on, my interest in spatial design definitely brought out the desire to use space as a canvas. Apart from street art, I would love to work on a vast branding project where digital illustration would be an important element to the brand and space would be considered as a canvas to bring fun and excitement!

handpainted mural at Shoreditch bar Apples and Pears
Bespoke murals executed within the space of a Shoreditch-based bar Apples & Pears, 2015. 

Republic: Urban graffiti used to have a negative connotation, often associated with vandalism, dark tunnels and subway cars. It is now more and more being recognised as a form of art that exudes personality, even indoors. What do you think changed?

A:R: This is a very good question. In fact, the last decade has brought big changes in many areas of our life - the world became an open place for free exchange of information and thoughts. Probably one of the most influential events that contributed to the transition of urban art was the 2008 Street Art Exhibition at the Tate Modern, where six internationally acclaimed artists from all over the world were invited to transform the river façade by creating breathtaking pieces, intricately linked to the urban environment

Individual_ness for Hackney Wicked
Individual_ness spray painted for Hackney Wicked, London, 2014

Republic: Can you tell us more about this transition and what graffiti and street art was like before?

A:R: Well, the Graffiti movement that flourished in the 70s was based on a territorial concept and only later evolved into a more elaborate form of art but I think it is safe to say it gave a permission to use the city as a canvas – whether it be with or without an actual permission. This concept of urban canvas is now employed in the street art movement. It is important to say that many urban artists now work on legal spots with a permission granted by the property holder.

Anna Rewinska at Emerging Music Frequencies in Mumbai, India
Filming the emerging music frequencies in Mumbai, India 

Republic: What is it, do you think, that drives urban artists to do what they do?

A:R: Urban artists are often also studio painters. They use the architectural fabric to extend their artistic reach and make art available for everyone, for free. Street art is an expression of freedom, an art form that rebels in a peaceful manner and reminds us of what is important in life or simply brings a smile on our faces. Currently, urban art is an extremely dynamic and evolving art discipline that grows within the city environment, an art discipline that consists of many mediums, from traditional freehand spray painting to paste-ups and even photography.

Apart from personal works created by artists or collectives, there is also plenty of socially-oriented projects that help communities and try to invigorate poorer neighbourhoods around the world. Those noble initiatives bring sunshine and hope to the young generation and help them believe, achieve and create.

Street art in Shoreditch, by Anna Rewinska
Street art piece in Shoreditch, Rivington Street, 2015.

Republic: So you are saying that street can have a clear impact on a social and economic level.  What about in the workplace? Do you think art can have an influence indoors?

A:R: Very much so. If the work environment is friendly and inspires everyday life, that will improve efficiency at work. It will also inspire new ideas and not exclusively within a creative environment – corporate businesses can benefit from it too.

Strawberry Mood spray paint and acrylic on canvas
Strawbery Mood, spray paint & acrylics on canvas, 50cm x 50cm, 2016. Also available as limited edition giclee print at Well Hung gallery in Hoxton, London.

Republic: Workplace and graffiti art are slowly starting to coexist. Why do you think that is and how can offices benefit from that?

A:R: That is very true. More and more companies, even industry giants are bringing this form of art indoors. I had the pleasure to work on a huge, site-specific mural for Just Eat (12m long!) in their shared leisure space. I think it definitely injects uniqueness, originality and expression of self that, in turn, might resonate with the workforce and improve not only their efficiency but also their mood.

Catcher in the Rhythm limited edition
Catcher in the Rhythm 2, 2015. Limited edition of 30, giclee print, 44cm x 83cm.

Republic: Do you believe graffiti or street art can help build a company's brand or is it purely an aesthetic feature?

A:R: As every tool, if used wisely, it can have many benefits and help connect with a younger target audience. It would be very effective for companies looking for creative ways to communicate and sometimes even interact with people throughout the city.

Personally, I think it is such a great, versatile medium that comes in so many shapes, forms and styles that it can help spread brand awareness and also bring a lot of interest. Unfortunately, opinions are divided: employing street art in a brand campaign might, in fact, clash with the philosophy behind it because it remains a free form of expression. So instead of using graffiti as a selling point, a company can benefit from associations commonly made to the movement. Not to mention, street artists create a brand of their own.

Anna Rewinska from A:R

Artists like Anna Rewinska are the reason why we love collaborating with artisans and creative minds. If you would like to incorporate one of Anna's paintings in your next Re:public project then get in touch - we'll be glad to meet over coffee.

In the meantime, you can follow Anna on FacebookInstagram and Twitter