Interview with industrial designer Jordi Canudas
Jordi Canudas (Barcelona, 1975) is a truly great designer from Barcelona whose work is internationally recognized and can be found in incredible places such as the collection at the MoMA in New York or the Die Neue Sammlung Design Museum in Munich. His Dipping Light lamp stands out among his different creations, a hybrid of lighting, artwork and an experiment. An equation that defines his way of creating and working very well.
Without wanting to reveal any more, here is the interview so that you may discover Canudas’talent in it. Come on in and read.
I love natural phenomena, watching a drop hanging off a leaf or a ray of evening sunlight, slanted light on the forest floor…
“The curiosity to generate material situations is born from that observation. To play and experiment with materials, light and perception. Repetition and routine bore me.”
I am calm and methodical in my doing, but restless and distracted in my thinking.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I never really knew.
“I was terribly bored at school and I found it hard to study. In time, I learnt that I am dyslexic…”
Luckily, with a lot of patience, my parents managed to get me to university. I liked architecture but didn’t make the grades, so I ended up in design. In hindsight, I think it was a stroke of luck: less paperwork! Also, looking back, I remember I was always dismantling or customizing objects, building things… As I do now!
When did you discover what you wanted to do and what were your first steps like?
After studying industrial design, I spent some years working in ephemeral architecture. Collaborating with companies and architect studios until, at the age of 30, I went to London. Firstly, to learn English and to try to make a go of it, and then to study at the Royal College of Art, where my way of working was conceived.
How would you define your style?
I don’t think I have a defined style. I work based on my own methodology, experimenting with materials. During this process, I’m interested in what happens and the formal part tends to be spontaneous, chaotic, dirty. Projects often end up like that. Other times, they generate enough interest for me to continue working on them and the aesthetic part is refined until they become installations or products.
Designers through the ages that you admire…
Richard Serra, Rebecca Horn, Olafour Eliasson … are artists, but I think they work as as designers. Sometimes, the lines of the different disciplines blur…
What can you tell us about the history of Dipping Light?
It started as an experiment in which I dipped a lit light bulb into a bucket of paint. The idea was to create the lampshade with paint directly on the bulb. As a single layer of paint did not darken the light enough, we applied more layers, and then the lines and the characteristic fading effect of the Dipping appeared. The project was developed as a “performing” installation in the window of the legendary Il Giardinetto restaurant in Barcelona. It was an order for the Understanding Design festival. There we had a bulb going up and down, dipping into green Paint, and with the tin base, we obtained Giardinetto’s Green. We produced a small edition and it flew off the shelves. Then the colours appeared and we called it Dipping Light. We began producing small amounts until we got a large order from the MoMa shop. At that moment, we were overwhelmed, because we didn’t have the necessary means, but luckily Marset appeared, a company with tradition, industrial know how and the essential comercial infrastructure and we were able to return to what we like, what we are best at.
The truth is that the project has grown a lot with Marset. They gave the product quality and we quickly developed the family with the lamp fitting, suspension.
“Looking back, I realise we didn’t just design a lamp, we also invented a system.”
The production process is still very similar to what it was in the beginning. They are made in the Dipping Room, an adapted space where we continue to dip paint manually. That’s why they are all different, and with the lamp switched on you can see the possible imperfections. It continues to be a performance.
What memories do you have of the London collective OKAY Studio and of your experience in London? And what was it like to have Ron Arad as a teacher?
At OKAY Studio, we are a group of friends who met at the RCA, an intense experience that brought us together. After that, we continued to share a studio and some adventures, even a few projects. They are my London family. Those who live in London continue to share the studio and the workshop, so when I go I always have a place to feel at home. Now that I am travelling a lot less with Covid-19, I miss them!
I like some of Ron Arad’s designs very much and some others I like very little but I respect him enormously, above all for his keenness on innovation. He is always looking for new intelligent applications for materials and technologies.
“As a tutor, Ron Arad is very harsh. If he didn’t empathise with your project, he would leave without a word. However, if he was interested in what you were doing, he would give you brief feedback, very skilled, sharp, and he always nailed the key point of the project. He is brilliantly intelligent.”
Your Work is exhibited internationally and can be found in the collection in MoMA New York and the Die Neue Sammlung Design Museum in Munich, among others. ¿How do you feel having achieved these milestones and seeing your work recognised in this way?
It makes you more confident. Design research projects, that are not a direct response to the market, are often difficult to contextualize, because they do not have a direct application. The recognition of these institutions gives you the confidence to continue. Like small pats on the back.
You recently designed a colourful trophy for the Young Guns 2019 awards, organised by The One Club for Creativity. How did this collaboration come about?
It was a proposal from Hey Studio, who designed the whole identity this year. The trophy is always a 3”x3” cube and Hey Studio worked the colour. We proposed several options and after several experiments with gellatine and caramel, the design was defined. We then made them out of resin.
What object would you like to have designed? The Eclisse lamp by Vicco Magistretti and on what project are you currently working?
“Right now, I am starting to research materials for a project of my own that I have been wanting to develop for some time.”
Which of your designs makes you proudest?
There are two projects that have marked my career: the Less Lamp that has to be broken to release the light. It was publicised and exhibited all over the world, but in spite of the fact that it did actually get produced industrially, it never really worked as a product. The Dipping Light has that same “performing” part with the dipping system but besides that, it has worked very well as a product.
It’s a very complete lamp. The challenge now is to do it again!
You also teach at the Escuela Superior de Diseño Elisava in Barcelona. What is it like to be on the other side and how do you manage to get organised to be able to do so many things?
Being on the other side is much easier! The secret to being able to continue with the studio and the classes is to never devote more than two days a week to the university, so that there is time for the studio. Well, that and… many nights going over projects! I only teach classes on projects, because I am too dyslexic for theory classes :)
It is very rewarding as we construct the classes with teams of very competent and diverse tutors. At Elisava, there is a very interesting reflection regarding the future of the profession and the responsibility of educating professionals capable of intervening positively on this scene. Product design can continue to be linked to a great extent to the industry but also to Sociology, Biology, to Technology…
“I consider myself lucky to be able to continue at the university, it connects me to the future.”
What does Barcelona have that other cities don’t, besides being your hometown?
Bar-cel-ona as Mariscal once said: Many bars, a great climate and the sea: And, a lot of friends! But it is also very dense. When you have lived in more airy cities, with more green space and quiet streets, you notice it. We have now moved to the countryside close to Barcelona; more green, more silence, quieter for the children.
What does a design have to have for you to like it? ¿Are functionality and aesthetics a Must?
“For me to like a design, it needs to be innovative, to provide something positive, to contribute to the ancestral knowledge which is our starting point.”
The aesthetics are a must, because without it, nothing can work properly!
Somewhere to lose yourself in…
In the forest, where I can best sense the ecosystem that we are a part of.
A future for our children. That humankind learns to manage the resources we have in a sustainable way.
(*) Cover photo: Alba Yruela. Less Lamp photo: Beatriz Janer. Award photo: Enric Badrinas.