003- ‘THE BEAUTIFUL THING ABOUT TECHNIQUE IS THAT IT CAN ALTER, IMPROVE OR MODIFY THE MATERIAL’S QUALITIES AND CHARACTERISTICS.’- KATHARINA EISENKÖCK
IN CONVERSATION WITH KATHARINA EISENKÖCK
Name: Katharina Eisenköck
Profession: Designer Maker
Works at: EKDESIGN
Origin: Graz, Austria
Currently lives in: London, United Kingdom
Tell us a bit about your products and your work?
I have a great interest in the revival of ancient techniques and craft processes brought into a new context. My approach to design is a very personal one; the making process, the refining and finishing is crucial to me. I believe a product should be expedient and purposeful while greatly influenced by a distinct use of materials.
What is your ultimate goal as a designer?
Creating new ideas with a strong bond to existing techniques and craft processes. To recover traditional forms of craftsmanship, while questioning them. Re-evaluating certain historic moments of the past can be very stimulating.
A product seems to me unfinished until everything starting from the product to packaging up to the wrapping paper and tape is designed and made with thought.
What was your first job?
When I was 13 I spent my summer holiday at my father’s architecture office making a 2 by 3 meter wide landscape model with a hotel at the top of the hill. That is where I fell in love with model trees and I remember adding more on the plan to make the model look more beautiful; luckily the client seemed to like the outcome.
You come from a family of architects. Did you always know you wanted to get into the profession of a designer-maker? What led you to this place right now?
Growing up in a creative family has definitely influenced me in a way. But it was very sudden when I decided for myself that I wanted to do something creative. At the age of 14 I changed from a linguistic focused school to an art school. That must have been the beginning of my creative career.
Was it hard for you to break away from that tradition?
Yes and no, I learned quite quickly that being an architect means spending very little time making and creating with your hands. It became obvious that this path wasn’t an option for me to pursue. I am proud though with what I am doing now as it extends my family’s field of creativity.
There is a strong focus on material and technique in your products and the design seems to come from that focus. What comes first as the inspiration- the material or the technique?
I believe one doesn’t work without the other; the beautiful thing about technique is that it can alter, improve or modify the material’s qualities and characteristics.
You’ve travelled quite a bit. What made you leave Austria and come to London?
Love or was it heartache I can’t remember, both of which inevitably go hand in hand with the burning desire for freedom.
Is there a design process you follow?
I believe each project has a life of its own. As much as my work may seem formal, I design very little and more so towards the end. I prefer conceptual aspects tied with intuition, research and experimentation with materials. But it usually starts with research, an idea in my head, sketching, then reaching a typical point of despair- that is the indication of knowing I am ready to start making, testing, prototyping, until I get to the finishing line (that is if there is even one in design).
Your most treasured possession?
Hard to say, I used to collect a lot but it got to the point where I became overly emotionally attached to some objects. That is why I have been trying hard lately to free myself from most objects. However I think it is good to rejoice in objects of durability, because things in life change sometimes faster than they ought to.
If you had the power to banish a design trend, what would that be?
When I started off in training to become an architect, I once drew up a space with lots of 45° angles to presumably make the space more interesting. My father came over and looked at me in horror and told me to never ever do that again. He said something along the lines, “Don’t ever try to make something to create a certain look, or style. What would it be good for other than just making what is probably already somewhere out there. Design to create reasoned solutions. Let them provoke or question but don’t every create looks or trends”.
So I guess I would banish the term trend itself. Trend at least for me is something temporary; I am aiming to create something that lasts.
Your work place essentials?
That would be a black ball pen, sheets of A4 paper, grey card and a cutter. My latest addition is masking tape in all sizes and colours, the more the merrier.
What is your next dream destination?
Scandinavia, in particular Copenhagen, I’ve been meaning to go there for years, but I seem to especially develop a great wanderlust in winter times, not the best period to go there. By now I have probably created a picture of this city that is far too beautiful in my head, hopefully it won’t disappoint.
Do you collect anything?
I would say I have a fairly great affection for collecting cups but I am trying to hold off on buying more. Moving from city to city, from one flat to another almost forced me in a way to stop collecting things.
Your favourite website you’ve bookmarked?
Phew that would be a few, I spend every morning browsing through stuff online that interests me but with one link bringing your directly to the next one I’ve found it best to just allow myself a certain amount of time doing that before I get on with my daily work.
Your design heroes?
It would make sense to quote a huge list of designers from the modernism period. And yes, I believe that architects and designers like Eames, Corbusier or Mies van der Rohe were heroes in a way but I personally draw my inspiration more out of things, places or people around me.
If not for this line of profession what would be your dream job? Perhaps in another life?
I know it sounds cheesy but I am pretty much doing my dream job now. If this will stay that way I don’t know, we will see…
Images courtesy Katharina Eisenköck