CONVERSATION

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics

issue #40: Rethinking classics

Sometimes it is necessary to question the icons, the great classics, the seemingly untouchable works created by the ‘sacred’ masters. This is because ‘everything changes: our society and the way we live, interact, travel, work’. We talk about this with designer Sebastian Herkner.

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

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
Ph. @evelyndragan

CALEIDO

You are attracted to small, remote corners, in which are often hidden almost forgotten craft techniques, manufactures with a centuries-old tradition, sleeping beauties of craftsmanship that you want (and succeed) in awakening from their slumber. If you were to write some notes in a diary page, could you tell us about your experience in this regard?

SEBASTIAN

As a designer I am driven by curiosity. The curiosity to discover rare techniques or the moments which make our life unique and exciting. I want to create treasures not products. I want the people to cherish my designs and to understand their origin. There is a personal value I add to every object with the support by amazing craftsmen around the world. They are a huge source of inspiration. They are experts in doing something specific, with a lot of passion, energy, know how, sweat and dedication. There is a lady in Germany doing straw marquetry, trained in France, a technique from the 18th century. I commissioned her to work on a new tabletop for my Bell Tables for @classicon. It is a stunning work, so delicate and surprising. her father developed a special machine to cut the straw and to flatten it afterwards which was done before by hand. this flatten straw pieces need to be cut precisely in shape and get placed next to each other on the table top. In Taiwan I met once an old man in his 80ies manufacturing bamboo furnitures using now screws just bamboo dowels. he was a master in creating the most challenging shapes.

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
Unpublished: taken from Sebastian's Camera roll

CALEIDO

One of your focuses is on the design of everyday objects. What are the key, long-term factors for your work? You often speak of ‘balance and intuition’… can you tell us about this? How/where do you look for these factors and how do you combine them?

SEBASTIAN

I design objects for people. The best moment always is to walk around a city and to find your designs in a restaurant f.e. So to see them in action, getting used by people who add a story and memories to the product. The design process is very personal and I follow my experience and intuition. I do not see design as a job, it is passion, my way to express myself. It is very personal, that’s why I love to collaborate with small factories or manufacturers to work hand in hand. Design is about communication and the dialogue on all levels. The one between the pen and my hand, the spontaneous way of sketching where unexpected shapes appear. Later the dialogue with my team and the translation of my sketches with the 3D software. I prefer the balance in various ways between Digital and Analog, Tradition and Innovation, Crafts and Technology. I do not want to create aliens. I think a good design need to have a moment we feel comfortable but also surprised or even irritated.

“Through irritation we start to deal
and interact with something.”.

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@sebastianherkner
Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@sebastianherkner

CALEIDO

What if those everyday objects belong to the past? How do you rethink design classics (ref. Thonet)? What thoughts and steps did you take in this work? Is there something that particularly struck you?

SEBASTIAN

Working with @thonet_official, maybe the oldest furniture company, you are dealing with a strong heritage but on the other hand you find an incredible knowledge. Thonet approached us in 2017 to design a new simple solid wood chair for dining. For us it is necessary to understand a brand, its history and identity and name a common vision. For me it was important that the new design will have attributes of Thonet but is also lead by our design language. Steam bended elements and the famous Thonet wicker for the seat were just two important details we wanted to add. The idea was to create a simple but elegant dining chair. During the development I came up with the suggestion to give the chair a very strong personality by finishing it in high gloss colors. This was very new 2018 to the market and definitely set a trend. Till today the collection is growing and we introduced the 119 lounge chair 2 years ago and recently the dining chair 118 FV with armrest.

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@sebastianherkner @thonet_official
Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@sebastianherkner @thonet_official

CALEIDO

In your work as a designer, is there anything that particularly concerns you? Something you shy away from?

SEBASTIAN

At the beginning is always a personal contact to the brand, the owner, the design director but also the people in the workshops. I need to feel welcomed and comfortable. Second, I believe in a partnership and to work on a vision together. I don´t want to design just a new trendy thing, I want to create something with substance, a treasure. There are many aspects I need to understand and check. Where is the place of production, how are the conditions there for the people, does the material sourcing make sense, is the quality in line with my expectations, does the company have a repair service for broken items or are they willing to upholster a sofa again after a couple of years. A design process is connected with any questions I have to ask and also, I have to answer. I never did a plastic chair for indoors and I will never do. It makes no sense for me.

“I want to use always the best and right material for product, a material which gets old in a positive way and which lasts forever.”

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@sebastianherkner
Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@sebastianherkner
Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@sebastianherkner

CALEIDO

If you had to express a professional wish, is there a piece of classic design that you would like to reinterpret? Which one and why? What are the memories associated with this piece?

SEBASTIAN

Actually I don’t know and I don’t see the need. We are all changing like our society and the way we live, interact, travel, work… I think we should find new solutions and answers to those changing realities.

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@sebastianherkner

CALEIDO

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?

SEBASTIAN

There are many souvenirs I bought on trips to various cultures and countries. Souvenirs we use in our daily life and which are always great starting points for conversations. Like salad bowls from Colombia or glasses from Japan we use at dinners with friends.

Sebastian Herkner: my suggestions

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics

*Lettres à Yves by Pierre Berge

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@amazon

*On Weaving by Anni Albers

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@feltrinelli
Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics

*Wilhelmsplatz, the farmers market for local food, fruits, bread, sausages, surrounded by nice restaurants.

*Ledermuseum, a museum dedicated to leather crafts, which is connected to the history of the city, as the German place of leather production (bags, wallets…)

*Riverbank of the river Main.

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics

*Mirror Ultrafragola from Poltronova

*Pilao chair by Jose Zanine Caldas

*P700 Shelf by Vittorio Introini

Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@poltronova
Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@istDibs
Sebastian Herkner: Rethinking classics
@pamono

Diary of @sebastiankerkner.
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