Hi Jordi & Solange! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, where you're from and why you started designing?
S. Hi! My name is Solange Frankort and I was born in Maastricht. My studies brought me to Rotterdam. I earned my Bachelor's in Photography and Visual Arts at the Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam and my Master's in Fine Arts at the Piet Zwart Institute.
J: My name is Jordi Verbaan. I was born in Zoetermeer but now live in Rotterdam. I studied traditional furniture making at HMC (wood and furniture college) Rotterdam. Like Solange, I then attended the Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam and studied visual arts. Just as I did with my studies, I have continued to combine my knowledge of craft with art. Because of our shared interests and similar background, we started designing together.
You shared the X4 series with us on Instagram through #heyddw. Can you tell us a bit more about the series?
J&S: X4 is an ongoing series of simple graphic shapes that create timeless and durable designs. The handmade wooden objects are somewhere between furniture, object and sculpture. The contrast between the minimalist shapes and traditional craft goes beyond the functionality of the object. The dominant black outlines create a flat silhouette and different perspectives. Black can swallow light, or can create sharp outlines.
Jordi, you are an artisan woodworker and Solange, you are a conceptual artist. How did your collaborative design studio come about?
J: I design a lot and like to consult with Solange. She can always remain critical when looking at form and concept. We've known each other for a long time, so it was natural that we started designing together. We get inspiration and ideas from each other. We now design 2D compositions that we then translate into an object or shape.
Your work has been quite widely picked up by the media in recent years. What moment stands out for you, and why?
J&S: Shortly after our debut at DDW19, we were mentioned in an article entitled '4 Sculptural Design studios to pay close attention to in 2020' on Husk Design Blog. Husk Design Blog is a great platform and being recognised is such an honour. The question is whether we've succeeded!
How would we recognise a typical Studio Verbaan?
S: The use of graphic shapes and minimalist language are characteristics of Studio Verbaan. You can see various influences in our work, such as Bauhaus graphics and the playfulness of the Memphis Design Group. Both of these iconic movements combined functionality with a focus on simplicity and bold, modern shapes.
J: A clear characteristic is also the use of solid wood, often oak. Every object is handmade. I often use traditional joints to maximise strength and deal with seasonal wood movement. All pieces are finished by hand using traditional woodworking processes.
You were at the last DDW as part of Isola Design District -- virtually of course. How was it?
J&S: We thought it was good that there was an alternative to a physical DDW20. A completely virtual exhibition was new to us! As a digital stage, we were offered a beautiful desert by Isola Design District and Milan Design Market. The virtual space was both attractive and very accessible. It was nice to see your work in a fictional space! Very special. In retrospect, we missed the physical interaction with the audience. You want to know how the new series is being received, but it's unclear because the exhibition is entirely virtual. We would say yes to another virtual exhibition, but we would also want to see human reactions to our objects.
How has the pandemic affected your work so far? How do you look back on the past year?
J&S: I don't think it's been a really positive year for anyone, including us. But we haven't disappeared from the radar. Fortunately, we've had some attention from the press, media and various requests. We've also entered into a new partnership with Movimento Club, a platform that encourages and supports young designers and emerging brands. Several shows have been moved to 2021, so hopefully, we can present the X4-Series to a live audience this year. But we will just continue designing!
If you could choose one person to work with (a designer, politician, artist, scientist, anyone), who would you choose and why?
J: That's a tough question because there are so many inspirational makers, but George Nakashima is high on my list. Particularly his philosophy: 'The soul and spirit of the tree, the essence and character of wood, and the dedication of the woodworker to his or her craft. Each tree not only has a different size and shape, but colour and character, and each board from a tree has a distinct and unique personality.' As a traditional woodworker, that says it all.
S: Sol LeWitt, not just a namesake, because I'm also called Sol, but a great artist. I remember going to the Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht as a child and sitting on the Long Pyramid structure. I was fascinated by it then, and still am. I see a lot of myself in his way of thinking. The system, based mainly on form, structure, order, is the starting point of his design work. I am curious whether, if he were still alive, he would work on a collaboration.
If you could ask yourself a question for this interview, what would it be? And how would you answer it?
J&S: I guess some wonder whether or not we're a couple. The answer? Yes! Since 2011!
Any news to share with the DDW community?
J&S: We are working hard on a new series that will hopefully be released before the summer! This time it won't be completely black and you'll be able to hang it on a wall. We'll be working with a new partner on this new series so you'll definitely be hearing from us!
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