CONVERSATION

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects

issue #38: Superpowerful objects

The Diary of Belgian designer Maarten De Ceulaer reflects on the superpower of objects to evoke emotions, trigger mental associations, and engage the imagination. This is because the relationship with objects triggers connections with deep themes such as memory, nostalgia, identity, and emotional attachment. Conversely, it prompts reflection on how challenging it can be to confront change and the loss of what we hold dear. Enjoy your exploration!

Welcome to Caleido, a diary on extraordinary people curated by MM Company. / Read the Editor’s letter here.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
Ph. Joran Vanhaste x Modular Lighting Instruments
1. Your design is based on stories, meaning creating objects capable of shifting attention from the object itself to something imaginative. How is this possible? What are the conditions to achieve it?

I often try to express or convey a certain feeling, emotion or atmosphere within the work. With my Suitcase pieces, for example, I am using these forms, materials and details that are inspired by luxurious suitcases and steamer trunks from another sophisticated era, and naturally this makes your mind drift off and dream about journeys from your past or adventures that are yet to come. When you see a large sofa that looks like a cluster of microscopic cells or a virus grown out of scale, your imagination also starts to work instantly. Like with art, these objects evoke all the associations that your mind can make, so the object creates a dialogue with the viewer. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be a story in the narrative sense. My Stained Glass Lights are lighting objects that are so abundant with colors and patterns, that you can just enjoy them as if you were looking at an abstract painting. I want my work to inspire people, and not just make another pretty object.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
2. Where do you draw inspiration for this process? Is it recurring, or always different?

Inspiration often comes from very small little things that I come across, whether it’s during a walk in the city or in nature, an art exhibition, books, looking at architecture, fashion, movies, anything. A little something catches my attention and sticks with me, and in the days or weeks after that, it will click with something else, and then again with something else, and slowly the project will start to take shape.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
3. Who is an artist who succeeds in doing this with you? Can you suggest one, so we can start following their work?

@gaetano.pesce, who sadly passed away, was definitely someone who is capable of doing that to me. His work is so expressive and free, his creativity had no boundaries and he did not care about being ‘consistent’.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
4. Your design is dreamy, always containing an element of fantasy. What is your relationship with dreams? is there a recurring dream that chases you? or one that you daydream about?

I really like dreaming. I love dreams that make no sense, that when you wake up you really wonder how your mind could have arrived at such a thing. I love it when you intertwine people, places and things that have nothing to do with each other but, in that context, inexplicably acquire meaning. But then you suddenly wake up and realise that you were dreaming something impossible. In a way, that’s how my creativity works too. It is about connecting ideas, concepts, materials, production techniques, details, stories, etc., and ‘dreaming’ a new project.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
5. What is your relationship with design manufacturing companies? What is the relationship between craftsmanship and industry in your projects?

My career kicked off with the Pile of Suitcases, my graduation project at the @designacademyeindhoven. I knew I wanted the piece to be fully made in leather, and I obviously did not have the skills to make it myself, so I worked in a very close collaboration with an absolute master leather craftsman, @ralphbaggaley. It was a long process, we met each other very regularly for months, discussing all possible details, prototyping them, testing them, adapting them. I very much enjoyed this process, where as a designer I was able to push this craftsman out of his comfort zone and make him try things he never did before. After that, I have often been relying on craftsmen and manufacturing factories to make my unique and limited edition pieces, because I just wanted them to be perfectly executed. I have had some really nice collaborations with design brands as well, like with @deknudtmirrors, @supermodular or @cc_tapis, but unfortunately also quite a few bad ones, where I invested years in projects that then still got cancelled in the end, for various reasons. Working with brands seems to be a much riskier business than working with galleries, where you are much more tied to the ‘1to1’ concept. With brands, there are so many factors and people and departments involved in the process that in the end a lot of things are completely out of your control… When I do a project on my own or with a craftsman, on the other hand, I have full control of the process, and that gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
6. Recently, I bought a children’s book (Feeling at Home), which said “you don’t go home, you return home.” What do you think of this phrase? Where is your home (in a broader sense)?

At this moment, home is where my loved ones are, and where I can do what I like to do. My partner, my family, my close friends are very important to me, and having a studio where I can do my work in peace as well. I’ve been living in Belgium my whole life, except for a few years of studying in the Netherlands, and as it’s such a small country, I have most of the people that are important to me quite close by, as well as the people I need to create my pieces with.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
7. what is your relationship with your home? what is your special corner, is there a habit that ties you to your home?

I recently moved out of my apartment, where I have been living in for almost 15 years, to go live in the apartment of my partner, and I have to admit it was harder than I thought to let go of this place, emotionally. After all those years it seems like I got pretty connected to the house, the neighborhood, the garden, etc. But in the end, what really matters is to be close to the person I love most, and I also enjoy this period of discovering and finding my way in this new house and new neighborhood.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
8. From studies at the @designacademyeindhoven, to design for brands (@fendi, @budri_official, @cc_tapis), to creating art pieces and collectibles (@ninayashar, @rossana_orlandi), experimentation is at the core of your work. At a time when everyone is talking about experimentation, can you tell us how yours happens? In what forms, along your creative journey, do you experiment?

I like to use my work as a tool for exploring and discovering new materials, production techniques, crafts, etc. I’m not the kind of designer that has one favorite material that I always try to work with, rather on the contrary. Of course I always try to find the materials and production techniques that suit a certain project best, but sometimes the material and production techniques comes first. For example, I visited the glass studio @atelier_mestdagh, here in Belgium, and I fell in love with this gorgeous mouth blown glass that I discovered there, and the whole project developed itself from that point onwards. When you discover a new material, inevitably there is a long process of experimentation involved, where you explore its characteristics, and figure out how you are going to use it. It’s what I love the most about this job, the explorations, experimentations, the journey of developing an idea and making it physical.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer

Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to make, or what I want the pieces to look or feel like, and I just start trying out all sorts of materials and production techniques, until I find something that works well, like with my Mutation pieces. It also happens that I’m just experimenting with materials out of the blue, with no idea of what I want to make or achieve, and I let the process and my intuition guide the way. That’s how my Balloon Bowls came to live, by experimenting with plaster, balloons and pigments.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
9. Where does the value of design reside today? Looking both to the past and the future, how are the values that new generations attribute to design changing? What do new generations seek from design objects, furnishings, and products?

I feel that we are currently in a period where the great schools and dogma’s in design are gone, and we entered an era where anything goes and anything is possible. Of course also in the past there were people that were approaching design in a radically different way than their peers, like @ettoresottsass_official or @gaetano.pesce. But today there are so many more new young designers entering the field every day, and everybody is trying to make a mark and find their own way. I like the fact that collectible design is gaining importance these days, and that many people start to appreciate the artistic aspects of design next to the merely functional.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects
@maartendeceulaer
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 a ceramic kettle that I got as a present from my dear friend @nacho_carbonell, with whom I studied together in the @designacademyeindhoven. It was one of his earliest projects, from long before he got famous, and it reminds me of all those wonderful moments that I spent with him and his girlfriend Paloma, and all those other international students that we shared a building with. It brings me back to those times when we had no worries and no clue about what the future was going to bring us, but we were very excited and eager to jump in.

Maarten De Ceulaer: Superpowerful objects

Diary of @maartendeceulaer
Follow @caleidodiary.eu on Instagram

All images are taken from the interviewee’s Instagram account, and are an integral part of the interview’s editorial storytelling. See the interviewee’s Instagram account for full credits.

No products in the cart.