Wieki Somers, bring back the soul of objects

Their story is a classic, but nonetheless interesting: they meet towards the end of the 90s at the renowned Design Academy of Eindhoven, they start collaborating and after graduating they decide to found a studio together. Two heads are always better than one. Even though in their case there's a frontwoman who speaks and a man who remains in the shadows, in practically perfect balance. Their collaboration is symbiotic.
It was 2003 and the atelier founded in Rotterdam was that of Wieki Somers and Dylan van den Berg. Aesthetics, rigor, study and the ability to innovate soon become their chosen expressive codes, their trademark qualities. Even though their works are always surprisingly different to one another.
A few years ago exhibition "Out of Ordinary" presented at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in the Netherlands detailed their approach, celebrating the duo's rare ability to mix stories and inspirations without ever forgoing an experimental element. Various projects of theirs clearly display the amount of in-depth research inherent in their work: an example is "Mitate", a family of seven floor lamps designed in 2013 for Galerie Kreo in Paris and in which objects are turned into glowing samurai through an unusual perception of space and design.

Today we speak with Wieki, though Dylan - silently - is present throughout the conversation.

You were in Milan for Design Week 2016: how did the city welcome you?

The sunny days were such a pleasant gift! And it was a real pleasure to have a big dinner together with friends, colleagues and clients. At the end of the day this is why it's important to come to Milan each year: it's a chance to meet people. An overload of products is no inspiration, on the contrary. So Fondazione Prada was a nice escape from the circus of design, we enjoyed it.

 

What did you present on that occasion?

Collection "Still Waters" for Thomas Eyck, a series of five glass vases that poetically represent phases of the water cycle. Also a tea set conceived for Arita, carpet "Pluto" for Nodus and finally, a cabinet in pressed steel for Label Breed.

Is there a thread that connects all these items?

These works represent two primary and interwoven characteristics. Each product challenges the user to adopt a closer relationship with the world of objects for daily use, while at the same time celebrating the manufacturing process through which it took form.

 

What are your primary sources of inspiration with respect to design?

We're fascinated by the meanings that are unexpectedly hidden behind consolidated habits and situations of daily life. We're interested in how people relate to objects, the spontaneous associations that occur inside a domestic setting, but also the natural world, another great source of inspiration.

 

What's your greatest aspiration?

We like to think we create products that generate surprise and silence. Objects that are critical, but not too noisy.

 

Can you describe such a project to us?

A good example is collection "Still Waters" created for Thomas Eyck. We were charged with creating a series of objects connected to the theme of water. We designed a series of five vases, each of which represents a phase in the water cycle and a reflection on the ambiguous relationship between man and nature. This is a subject that is often recurring in our work.

 

Is there an object you wish you had designed?

Something that is far from my abilities. An invention, rather than an object of design. Something that could radically change our lives... Think of what life would be without computers. Something innovative.

 

What are the primary objectives you and Dylan have set yourselves as designers?

To awaken the hidden qualities of common objects, inviting people to cast a new gaze on the reality that surrounds them on a daily basis. We're always bewildered by how thoughtlessly people interact with the domestic environment in which they live. We'd like to recover and resolve this thoughtlessness and bring back the soul of objects.

Is there a designer or artist with whom you'd like to collaborate?

I am lucky enough to have the privilege of working with Dylan every day. He prefers to remain behind the scenes, but he's completely and constantly present in the research and design processes. Our collaboration is an incessant and fruitful dialogue.

 

Has there been a crucial point in your career?

Right after I graduated, when I was just 22 years old, I rented a studio in Rotterdam, won a design award and obtained my first project with Droog Design, at the time a decisively innovative and radical movement. From that moment on I decided I would never work for a boss.

 

If you had to give some honest advice to a young designer who wanted to pursue a career in this field, what would you tell them?

Always question yourself. Remember that design is a mirror of the times. As an antidote to excess, what is required of us is a way of observing, thinking and working in a more conscious manner than the norm, so as to reinforce the connection between people and products. I believe innovation is bred from study and from a socially critical attitude.

 

How would you define your style?

Our work is a continuous process, an incessant exploration that never ends. We never feel bound to a particular stylistic language, though it's possible to recognize our products from their poetic dimension and our strong attention to detail. The truth is that we always want to surprise ourselves and our clients.

 

What's your biggest talent?

That's a question you'd better ask our clients, or answer by looking at our projects (she laughs* - *editor's note). 

Photos via wiekisomers.com

Interview by Marzia Nicolini.

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