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#heyddw: Bonjour Miles Le Gras

16 February 2021

Every other week 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 week, the freshly graduated (Design Academy Eindhoven) and playful product designer with French roots, Miles Le Gras.
Miles Le Gras
© Dimitry Suzana

Hi Miles! Could you tell us a bit more about yourself? Who are you and where are you from?

I’m Miles Le Gras, a French artist and product designer. I was born in Caen, Normandie, but I grew up in Paris. When I was younger, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in my life. I first decided to study graphic design. After that, I got accepted into a prestigious art and design University in Paris where I discovered the product design department and their amazing workshops. Working with volumes became obvious for me. After I got my industrial design diploma, I thought I missed a craft approach in my work. I needed to appeal more to my sensitivity. Design Academy Eindhoven turned out to be the perfect school for this. Both schools provided me with very different knowledge and enabled me to grow as a designer. The idea is now to combine these skills and find a balance between what both schools taught me. 

© Miles Le Gras

On your Instagram, you refer to yourself as a Fantasy generator. What do you mean by that?

To have longer-lasting objects that we are willing to take care of, I believe it is essential that they appeal to our emotions and stimulate our imagination. I love the way objects can trigger a personal story, a distant memory. It allows you to appropriate the object to yourself and give it respect in return. With my work, I’m trying to spur this fantasy we all have.

Your father was part of the ‘Figuration Libre’ movement in France. How do you think this influenced your childhood? And your work now?

I grew up surrounded by the work of (a.o.) Hervé Di Rosa, Robert Combas, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring. Being immersed in this warm, colourful, figurative and childlike world still heavily influences my work. I always try to recreate this reassuring surrounding. My father is a big kid in his work and life. When my sisters and I were children, every task would be a reason to play a game. This playful aspect is still very present in my work. 

Vestige process
© Miles Le Gras

You shared your ‘Vestige’ project with us via Instagram, a sort of lego-like building system for moulds. Can you explain a bit about the project?

'Vestige' is a series of ceramic vessels founded by the desire to return to my childhood. The idea is to use plaster modules based on the Lego system to build an infinite variety of casting moulds. It allows me to be very free and spontaneous in the way I create shapes and makes all of them unique. 

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How did you come up with this?

I developed this project at a time during my education where I was full of doubts about my work and who I wanted to be as a designer. I was still very impacted by my previous industrial design education, where we were taught to think in terms of problems (how to improve everyday life and objects). Like most of my peers, I am very concerned by all the socio-economic, political, environmental, and sanitary issues society is facing now. But during a process of creation, it can become paralyzing to distinguish where to stand through such fundamental questionings. By implementing a construction game within my process, I wanted to emancipate myself from all these questionings. I wanted to find back this spontaneity and creativity we have when we are young. It helped me understand that having fun is essential for me to enjoy my work and develop good projects.

What is the most special or remarkable work you have ever made or designed?

I’m still freshly graduate so there is still a lot for me to explore. But I guess it is normal to have more affinity with the most recent project you have done. I think My graduation projects Vestige and Roofers represent me very well. I wanted them to be honest and truly testify to my personality. I am pretty happy with the result.

Can you tell us a bit more about your graduation project Roofers?

Both Vestige and Roofers were part of my graduation. Roofers is a tribute to the craftsmanship of Parisian zinc roofers, who work in a centuries-old tradition. I developed this project because I wanted to work on something close to my origins. I missed Paris and its Architecture a lot and through Roofers, I could give a tribute to my city and its beautiful characteristics. In the centre of Paris, 70 per cent of the roofs are covered in zinc. Roof workers have to fit every piece by hand. Because there is only little direct access to Paris’ Rooftops, the general public is unaware of their skills and the profession loses the interest of the next generations. That’s why the city of Paris has applied for recognition of the trade as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. By using the craft for interior objects, I wanted to offer direct access to the workers’ story. 

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How was it for you to graduate amid the pandemic?

As for many people, the COVID-19 period has been delicate for me. It is still difficult to say if it has been good or bad. From the moment the school remained closed, with the graduation schedule being so uncertain, it was difficult to give the same energy to my work. Although we were asked to stay focused on our diploma, it seemed the entire world was collapsing around us. The subjects I was working on suddenly felt too minor and insignificant. After I slowly got used to the situation, I could finally see some good aspects resulting out of these circumstances. Life slowed down and became less hectic; I saw fewer people and did fewer activities. I got the time to learn how to live with myself more authentically. Luckily, I had decided to rent a studio in a shared workshop, which gave me the chance to continue making and working on physical things. At this point, my life could have been summed up between my house and my studio. I also had to take a different approach to my graduation project Roofers.

Initially, I wanted to develop a collaboration to create a dialogue between the craftsman (roof workers) and a designer (me). But the French lockdown made it impossible to meet with the roofers, so I bought the materials and tools and improvised becoming a roofer myself. In hindsight, this may have pushed me to further explore the possibilities of the material and traditional techniques. I acquired a better knowledge of the craft, which I believe is key for successful future collaboration.

If you were able to choose anyone in the world to work with (a designer, politician, artist, scientist or someone else), who would that be and why?

I love to be versatile and gain as many skills and bits of knowledge of the productions techniques as I can. Every time I learn a new technique, it is like a thousand new doors open in my mind. I would like to collaborate with a glass craftsman. I would also love to work on projects meant to be industrialized. Moustache Edition develops some beautiful objects I relate to. Seeing a project of mine edited by them would be a big accomplishment.

Do you have any news you would like to share with the DDW community?

I’m open to any collaboration now and would be very happy to work on any kind of new project! if you need a designer, please contact me!

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