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#heyddw: Ciao Margherita Soldati

23 July 2019

Each month we celebrate one of the most interesting, exciting, intriguing, funny or unusual #heyddw Instagram posts by featuring an exclusive interview in our online DDW Magazine. This month, we interviewed Margherita Soldati!

Hey Margherita, Thank you for making time for the interview! Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your studio? What is your background? Your name, and those of many of your works, sound Italian, but you are based in Amsterdam.

Hi DDW, thank you for this opportunity! Yes, I am originally from Italy where I studied Industrial Design in Turin, but having a Dutch mother (I guess this is partly the reason) I moved to Amsterdam where I worked for a year for Maurizio Montalti at Officina Corpuscoli and right after I got a diploma in Art and Design from Gerrit Rietveld Academie. I opened my studio a year ago and, even if I travel a lot for work, I am officially based in Amsterdam. 

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We noticed your #heyddw post with your Uncomfortable Chair and really liked your approach: We are all familiar with the shape and concept of “the” standard plastic chair, but while yours appears similar in some ways, it has a different message behind it.

Yes, this year I got an opportunity to work in Aruba for a month in an institution called Ateliers '89 and I researched the plastic waste problem. After initially spending the first few weeks collecting plastic waste from the streets and along the coast and researching several forms and structures I could design with this material, I decided to translate the uncomfortable feeling that the presence of plastic waste in our lives is arousing into an everyday object that everyone could easily recognize. Therefore, this chair is made to feel very uncomfortable when people sit in it. Even though the chair’s tactile structures are intricate and detailed and appear flexible, malleable and soft, the same structures are cold, rigid and quite uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable Chair
© Anne Lakeman

What characterises your design studio?

I would say tactility. I work with senses a lot but most especially with touch. This journey starts with my fascination with how the human brain works and how it can be 'activated' through being stimulated by our senses. I envision the body as a platform that produces experiences. For several years, I have been researching how stimulating tactility can create benefit in our lives, especially focusing on people suffering from Alzheimer and Dementia. To demonstrate this vision I research specific materials and textures which could give the right sensorial effect and fashion them into new objects, structures, surfaces that can be applied to small-scale objects or can alter standard architectural elements.

You have been working/exhibiting abroad quite a lot, for example in Italy, North-America and Aruba. How do you translate these experiences to your work?

I feel that in every country there is a different idea of what design is and could express or how it could be manifested. In Italy, I learned that design means 'form follows function'. In Holland, I had to change my idea of what this 'function' is or could be, while in the Caribbean I learned that design and art are relevant only if they are able to tell a story or express emotions and feelings. So, I believe this helps me to constantly change the way I shape my works and empowers me to see things from different perspectives. It also drives me to question the function of the creative figure in our society and it could be more valued in many more environments.

Your work was exhibited as part of a collective exhibition about the sensible use of plastics at the Yksi Expo, Dutch Design Foundation (DDF) and Searious Business. Is plastic your go-to material? What are you currently working on?

I work with several materials. I spent the last few years working a lot with textiles. But at the moment yes, I am focusing mainly on plastic waste, with further research into possibilities for serving tactile purposes in new projects.

What work/project/accomplishment are you most proud of?

I don't really have a 'favourite' one. I am proud when my works or installations, which are mainly sensorial (touch and smell), are able to create a moment of surprise for the public. When the work is able to break the daily routine for a moment and communicates with the senses and generates a momentary reaction or stimulation, then I am happy. For instance, my work 'Corrimano' is a tactile surface covering a staircase handrail. People often don't even see it and they automatically place their hand on the rail while on the stairs, their reactions are priceless.

© Margherita Soldati

What is the most remarkable thing you've ever designed/made?

I believe it was a 3D-printed tactile texture the size of a napkin that I substituted for a real napkin on the table next to the plate of an old man suffering from Alzheimer who was having lunch. He had trouble eating and had lost his appetite. What happened was that the man slowly started to rub his finger on the textured surface, while with the other hand, following the same rhythm, he started to lift his food to his mouth. For a moment, the tactile structure activated or stimulated his brain and 'helped' him to eat. This was magical for me.

Is there something specific you would like to achieve?

I am working towards creating more space for tactility in our daily lives through my works. I think it is so important to not only depend on our vision but to be aware of the use we can make of all our senses. And, in general, I would like to design more on an architectural scale and feel free to play and experiment with bigger spaces, but I see it coming my way.

Margherita Soldati collecting waste
© Anne Lakeman

If you could pick anyone in the world (a designer, politician, artist, scientist or anyone else) to collaborate with, who would that be and why?

I would love to work more with scientists and psychiatrists who could help improve my understanding of how our brain works and how it influences our behaviour. If he had still been alive I would have liked to collaborate with Oliver Wolf Sacks!

You will be presenting at Dutch Design week (DDW) either in 2019 or 2020 as part of a larger collective. What do you expect from your first time at DDW?

I am still debating whether and what I will exhibit this autumn or next year, but I am excited about being able to meet a very broad and international public and have the possibility of exchanging ideas, opinions and receiving feedback and impressions. Confrontation is always very precious for me.

Is there any news you would like to share with the DDW community reading this?

I will spend the next few months researching how to develop plastic waste within tactile structures and surfaces to create new designs. I am also building specific portable tools to allow myself to travel and work with this material that unfortunately is everywhere. Feel free to contact me if you would like to know more, or for any input, and I am looking forward to showing the first new results!

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