Job, when an aunt of a vague acquaintance at a neighbourhood party asks you: “What do you do for a living?”, what do you answer?
Good question. That depends on who’s asking, but I am a researching furniture- and product designer with a fascination for industrial manufacturing processes. In collaboration with various manufacturers, I research and develop innovative production processes and materials. What I discover I translate into products that are at the intersection between industry and art. And this I try to launch into the world in collaboration with labels and / or galleries.
Why do you do what you do?
Well, that dream you're aiming for is of course shifting all the time. Now I want to make something for a very large audience that actually has value and adds something. For example, I press wood texture into steel to give products more uniqueness. So that something industrial becomes more personal and people are less quick to throw their stuff away. Actually, I want to help get a change started with the products that are produced by industry. And a smile! For everyone. I want everyone to be happy.
When did you realize that this is what you wanted to do?
Well, I actually wanted to be an architect. I thought that my grandfather was an architect. He wasn’t. In the end, architecture turned out to be more calculating than drawing and I decided to orientate myself a bit more broadly. My sister studied graphic design at Sint Lucas, so I followed her. Soon I found out that I had to go the 3D route and then the dream was born that I wanted to become a well-known designer. Not necessarily because I want to be famous, but because people who are known seem to have more freedom and are listened to. Later that was no longer so relevant and my products and what I want to bring about have become more important.
Do you want your name on your work?
So, it’s not only your products that should become famous?
No, you are also a brand yourself. Piet Hein Eek, Roderick & Claire Vos or Bert Jan Pot are a kind of product as a person. They simply radiate their work, their philosophy and thinking. By knowing who they are, their products become much more powerful. So in order to strengthen my own work, I also have to become a product in a way.
Speaking of famous designers, you have a lot of design chairs in your studio. Where do they come from?
Yes indeed, that has gotten a bit out of control. The chairs are really fantastic. It started with a red Eames chair. I think their philosophy and actually everything about Eames is fantastic. I saved up for it so I could buy the chair. Then it escalated a bit… until I owned a hundred chairs.
Yes. A part of the collection is gone again. There are a lot more at home and the homes of my friends.
Are you working on an extensive preliminary research for your own chair design?
Yes, maybe. I’ve never made a chair.
I have been asked that question quite often and I still don’t know. Meanwhile, I know so many chairs, my head has really become a chair catalog. There are so many genius chairs and I think my chair should add something. I was doing a project with glass and all of a sudden I thought about a glass chair, but then I immediately thought: “What the fuck? What are we doing?”
The chair is seen as a kind of holy grail for designers. Is that also for you?
Yes, and that is why the first chair I ever make has to be a piece of eye candy. There’s a high threshold, but there is going to be a chair one day.
Does your research of all those design classics help you find new possibilities in your designs?
I am always looking for new possibilities and applications of materials, but it is not that I don’t do something because it has been done before. It’s interesting that now everyone wants to claim something. It must be new, newer, newest. While I think everything is always a mix of everything you've ever seen. If people get inspired and continue with your idea, not simply copying it, then the chance is bigger that your idea can actually have impact in the big world.
Are you willing to share your ideas with the rest of the world?
It would be fantastic if after a while my techniques were released, and people would make nice things with them without me having any hand in it.
So, what is the difference then between inspiration and copying?
It’s a blurry line. If someone steals my work then that’s completely shitty of course, but maybe it’s also a compliment. I think it also has to do with the fact that I am still very dependent on my ideas. If it is already released I am completely out of the game, I don’t earn any money and I can’t invest in new ideas. Only when I think I'm done with the project is it a good time for me to share it with the world and go on.
The full interview with Job van den Berg can be found in the first edition of BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE. You can follow BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE here.
Interview: Mats Horbach / Photography: Saskia Overzee / Tekst editor: Martijn van der Ven / Translator: Tanya Long