You were born in Latvia. Is the design climate there very different from the Dutch one?
“I was born in Ural in Russia, but grew up in Latvia. Art and craft are deeply rooted in the culture there. When I moved to Eindhoven to study at the Design Academy, I was immediately struck by the fact that Dutch traditions are incorporated in a new way of thinking and designing. Through this, an exceptional combination of old and new occurs. I also believe that the Dutch design attitude is evolving. At the academy, for example, I see that a lot of graduates are now seriously involved in environmental issues and real social problems. This is a new angle in Dutch design.”
In Europe the timber industry fells 600 million pine needle bearing trees. You investigated what is possible with the needles (the waste) from the trees and created a new, extremely sustainable material. How did you do this?
“It took me more than a year to reach this point. During this period I invested a lot of time in research, experiments, travelling, talking to people and collaborating. Staatsbosbeheer in particular helped me enormously in providing insight into how the timber is harvested. I also had to harvest pine needles myself, develop my own fibre extraction method, and transform the fibres into a new material that I could use in actual products.”
The possibilities for this new product seem infinite. I have made attractive stools and carpets with it myself. What do you hope that will happen with Forest Wool in the future? And who do you trust with your material?
“I´m convinced that my research is applicable for large-scale manufacturing. Large timber consumers such as Ikea could benefit greatly from this new approach. With needle bearing trees alone there is so much possible with the methods I´ve invented and designed. You can really make a large assortment of products from this single source.”
Now you are obviously going to market your material. Do you have any idea how to go about this?
“First of all I´m looking for a partner who can help me develop the concept further. To industrialise the manufacturing process, it first needs to be thoroughly tested. This demands great expertise from industry, before the new material can be rolled out on a larger scale. Fortunately, I´m very enthusiastic about collaboration. And I´m looking forward to seeing my Forest Wool in living rooms.”
Finally: next week Dutch Design Week will be over. Any idea what you will be thinking up, doing and making in the near future?
“I´m busy discovering how things work at large-scale manufacturing companies. I believe it´s important to see and experience the process in a wider perspective, even a global context. And of course: eventually I would like to start my own company. To think up more than Forest Wool and to get these ideas off the ground.”
The making of’ is the theme for the 15th Dutch Design Week. The anniversary year is an ode to the making process and the makers. Guests of honour are 2500 designers who made the event bigger, and the world just that little bit better, smarter, handier or more beautiful. For 9 whole days in Eindhoven they show their latest work and the best of what design has to offer.