CONVERSATION

Khaled El Mays

Il Diario di Khaled El Mays designer, architect, artist and founder of Atelier Khaled El Mays, a multidisciplinary design studio based in Beirut. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here

 

Diary of: @khaledelmays

Khaled El Mays
1. Atelier Khaled El Mays is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Beirut. What aspects of your homeland have shaped you the most?

The aspects that shaped me most were two: the rising altitude of the valley and the orderly chaos of the city.

Khaled El Mays
Flora collection x @nilufargallery
Khaled El Mays
Transformers collection x @nilufargallery
Khaled El Mays
Flora collection x @nilufargallery
2. How the process of reading and interpreting contemporary society takes place, aimed at the creation of a collection of objects?

A sense of community is at the heart of all my projects. I like to create works that involve as many hands as possible, as if a whole new small community is being created each time. While creating, I draw a lot from contemporary society: there is not a single aspect of it that has a direct influence on creation, but it certainly suggests inspirations on an unconscious level.

Khaled El Mays

Low table from the Palmea collection x @nilufargallery

Khaled El Mays
Arm chair 01 from the Flora collection @nilufargallery-Ph. by @danieleiodice
Khaled El Mays
Low table from the Palmea collection @nilufargallery - Ph. @danieleiodice
3. You count on a number of local artisans from the Beqā Valley, maintaining an organic process of creation. This approach could be called, perhaps trivially, “responsible”. What is the responsibility of a designer towards his/her community and the environment in which he/she operate?

There is a project done with the masters of handicrafts that has been spread all over Lebanon, and not only in the Beqā Valley. This work, based on a sense of community, consists of producing simple objects made from one or two materials, different in target and purpose. It is certainly a responsible project as it aims to sustain both “high” and local crafts.

Khaled El Mays
4. Maison Dior has involved you in a project to revisit one of the most traditional chair models. How do you think creatives should/could intervene on such iconic products, to make them current and thus guarantee their future?

The chair is an icon in itself, and dealing with it meant respecting this qualitative value. My design choice, therefore, was oriented towards modifying it just enough to “change” it, but at the same time preserving its focal value. The reason why this chair has endured all this time is because it is a classic, timeless icon. So I worked on a new functionality: by becoming a more functional object it secured a new life.

Khaled El Mays
Jungle Show at Nilufar Depot @nilufargallery
Khaled El Mays
Jungle Show at Nilufar Depot @nilufargallery
Khaled El Mays
Jungle Show at Nilufar Depot @nilufargallery
5. Most of your works are very much based on manual work. Is there also a design element in your works, or are they the result of experimentation? In this regard, do you define yourself as a designer or an artist?

I am definitely both: I am an artist with the training of a designer, but I also have the pure nature of an artist… The two cannot be separated. I deal with situations as I see fit, drawing from time to time on my purely artistic nature or my more design-oriented nature. But what I find is that, in the end, the two souls are always complementary and therefore my work manifests them.

Khaled El Mays
Ph. Silvana Spera
Khaled El Mays
Mr Brain Lamps @houseoftoday
Khaled El Mays
Floor light close up from Palmea collection x @nilufargallery
6. What do you think are the most profound changes the society is experiencing today? Are there any battles that are closest to your heart?

Society is facing the loss of many of the crafts that have defined our history so far, and things are moving towards the virtual world. This is a battle that feels very much my own, in which I have decided to take an active role, with the aim of maintaining and supporting manual work.

Khaled El Mays
Fauna Bench - Production by @boisseliers_du_rif - Ph. by @tarekmoukaddem
Khaled El Mays
Flora collection x @nilufargallery
7. Your work is imbued with intercultural references, which makes you a talent to watch. If you had to identify 5 characteristics that describe you, what would they be?

Oh thank you! I would say maximalist, primitive, ancient, futuristic and sentimental.

Khaled El Mays
"Welcome Mr Breuer" Chair - Ph. by @tarekmoukaddem
Khaled El Mays
"Welcome Mr Breuer" Chair - Ph. by @tarekmoukaddem
8. Can you tell us something about a new project you are working on?

I am working on a small solo exhibition for Design Miami/ 2021 in Miami Beach with House of Today. The pieces will be a continuation of nature subjects with elements of the Art Nouveau period and introduce a material I have never worked with before.

Khaled El Mays
Flora collection x @nilufargallery
9. What definition would you give to the concept of luxury?

It is the possibility to be free from as many constraints as possible when making choices in daily life, including the possibility of collecting and how to do it.

Khaled El Mays
The fishawy rack (valet) multi color and leather detailing edition (2020) x @houseoftoday - Ph. @carlhalal
Khaled El Mays
The fishawy rack (valet) multi color and leather detailing edition (2020) x @houseoftoday - Ph. @carlhalal
Khaled El Mays
Sofa 02 from the Flora collection x @nilufargallery - Ph. by @danieleiodice
10. What is an object in your home that you would never give up? What is the memory associated with it? Can you send us a photo taken by you?

I have moved so many houses in the last two years that I don’t really have an answer to this question… The things I take with me to every house I go to are small objects I have acquired over time and family heirlooms that end up in boxes, but always resurface… Perhaps the most important of these is the Kilim, a carpet made in Lebanon that was given to my great-grandmother and then to my father. My great-grandmother used it mainly in the summer to sit outside and cook. Unfortunately, it is in one of the boxes and I cannot show you a photo.

Khaled El Mays
Transformers collection and the full moon x @nilufargallery
Khaled El Mays
Transformers collection and the full moon x @nilufargallery
Khaled El Mays
Transformers and the full moon x @nilufargallery

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