Every once in a while, we open the doors of The Loft to an artist whose work draws us closer to the edge of our seat, it’s what we lovingly call the Artist in Residence series. So we can take a look up close into their craft and dive into what really makes them tick. This time, we were in for a design-duo from Antwerp that has worked closely on developing a unique interior piece; the AKI paravent.
This collectible design item is entirely made to measure by textile designer Nathalie van der Massen and interior architect Charlotte Vlerick from HIJA Studio. Photographer Marieke Verdenius joined us for the day and quietly observed their proces. She captured every moment along the way while they unravelled beautiful hand-woven textiles and leafed through sketches.
Hi girls! Welcome to The Loft’s Artist in Residence, make yourself at home and please introduce yourself to our readers.
” Hi! My name is Charlotte Vlerick, 32, interior architect & furniture designer. I love travelling and have spent some years abroad, working in Amsterdam, New York and Sao Paulo. I discovered my own design language during these travels, which I describe as warm minimalism, refined materials and a strongly embedded sense of craftsmanship. As a result, I decided to take the big leap and start my own creative studio in my hometown Antwerp. “
” And I’m Nathalie Van der Massen, 31, textile designer and art director. My path as a designer is one of chance encounters. Firstly, when I was finishing my Master in Graphic Design I got the chance to work at the Textile Museum in Tilburg. So, I decided to do an extra Master in Textiles because I got so into all of the techniques and materials. Afterwards, I was invited to do research inspired by the archive of the Flanders Architecture Institute, which for me was the catalyst to focus on textiles in the context of architecture and interior. After a few years of juggling graphic jobs with my own research, I decided to started my own design studio. “
How did you start working together?
We started working together on an architectural project and realised quite early on that we shared the same passion for aesthetics and timeless design. The idea of designing a paravent came from Charlotte and, as Nathalie was researching the way she could present her (often fragile) textile work, the idea immediately resonated with her. As a result, we decided to join forces for our first project aimed towards designing a furniture piece, resulting in the AKI paravent.
What materials do you usually work with and what did you bring today?
We like to work with natural materials like wood, linen and rubber. But also brass, specially if the patina ages beautifully over the years. We always try to combine this with an underlying attention to craftsmanship. The wooden frames are assembled during a manual process using loose wooden fins for the rounded corners, for example.
” My preference is pure wood, in all its colours and textures. This material is the eye-catcher in each interior project of mine, creating a warm minimalistic relaxed atmosphere which I really think we are all in need of. “
” I mostly work with textile materials at the moment. I’m drawn towards natural materials, especially linen. It’s fascinating to see this kind of raw material keep its stubborn streek even after it’s been processed to yarn. It really takes knowledge and skill to work with this material; it’s a heritage we are lucky to have here in Belgium and The Netherlands. “
What gets your creativity going?
” Exploring a new culture and looking for detailed craftsmanship around the world. On my last trip in South-Africa I got the chance to see a lot of decorative arts and antique sculptures which inspired me to keep creating design that is pure in shape and forms, so I can focus on revealing its materiality. ”
” I agree. Changing your perspective helps keep the creative energy flowing. For instance, ideas often come to me in dreamlike moments: whether it’s traveling by train, listening to droning minimal music or cutting endless strings of thread — inspiration comes from anywhere. “
Which artist or designer is a source of inspiration for you?
” Raphaël Navot is a big inspiration, he always takes a multidisciplinary approach to the design process of materials, objects and interiors; his patchwork of wooden floors and smooth shaped objects are designed with an inspiring elegance of savoir-faire. Furthermore, I love the work of Brazilian designers Sergio Rodrigues, Claudia Moreira Salles and Marcio Kogan whose designs breathe contemporary exotic brutalism. But with the right use of beautiful materials and simple geometry.”
” The work of James Turell, the architecture of Tadao Ando and music by artists like Sunn 0))), Mohammad Reza Mortazavi and Philip Glass inspired me a lot. To me, it’s all about these pure and intangible elements like light, time, tones, skills, materials. “
If you could invent a name for an art movement you belong to, what would it be?
We could call it Collectible design, which stands for timeless design that is about both functionality and beauty. Ultimately, this is what we tried to achieve with our AKI paravent. In other words, we were looking for a piece of material poetry and tactile connection.
Was the way you worked different today? How?
We are glad we got this opportunity because we got to take a step back and reflect on our creative process. Also, this day changed the context and allowed us to reconnect with our work and with each other.
What will you tell your friends about The Loft?
It’s truly a hidden gem in the bustling streets of Amsterdam, a worldly place that will inspire us for quite some time.
The AKI Paravent from this collaboration is available online at The Loft, click here to discover more.
All photographs by Marieke Verdenius
Interview by Sara Martin Mazorra