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.

Made in Bulgaria, raised in Morocco, "matured" in the UK, Elissaveta is our Editor-in-Chief. Her career started in the field of architecture and design where she developed a talent for creative thinking and an eye for aesthetics. In 2014, she found her calling in design journalism and now has over three years’ experience in writing about design & architecture.