Meghan Edwards | July 03, 2012
The prolific Jaime Hayon designs furniture for the likes of b.d. ediciones, ArtQuitect, Established and Sons, Moooi, Gaia and Gino; lighting fixtures for Metalarte and Swarovski; and objects for Bisazza, Lladró, and Baccarat. Hayon Studio, with its offices in both Barcelona and Treviso, Italy, has also executed complete interiors for leading hotels, restaurants, and retail establishments. During ICFF, we spoke to the London-based designer about his latest furniture series for Sé, which is available in the U.S. exclusively through Mondo Collection.
Interior Design: Tell me about your latest work for Sé, what does it include?
Jaime Hayon: The Tambor table, this Cristal Bala table, that Beetley sofa, and the Arpa chair—there are quite a lot of things. It's part of a collection that I did in London. The Tambor mirror is quite interesting, you should see if from the side, because it has an aluminum shell. It looks really simple but it's actually quite sophisticated. Also, that lamp where the man is yawning right now—but the lamp doesn't make anyone yawn! - that is mine as well. It's really fun to see all these things here because normally I see them in a completely different context. They are part of a collection for a London-based manufacturer company Sé that makes very sophisticated furniture. They work a lot with special techniques and very rich materials.
ID: You're known for taking materials that are really traditional and putting them to use in non-traditional aesthetics. How does that relate to this collection?
JH: I do like to work with materials that are very resistant and that have been there for a long time.
ID: And why is that?
JH: Because I think why should I go for technology, which I feel is what people are using today, when the materials that already exist are strong enough and interesting enough already. For example, marble has been used since Roman times. Ceramic the same thing. Crystal the same thing. So I am sort of the anti-plastic dude. For example, I designed this watch with glass, steel, rose gold, and leather—they are all materials that are quite noble and we know how they behave, we know that they get better with time, not worse. This is the point. That's why I'm not a plastic boy that does everything in plastic, I hate that. When you use materials that we already know how they behave, it's easier to design with much more control. My experience with a lot of plastics and things like that is that very, very little makes me understand—it's a little bit out of control. People go for technology, but they don't know the results in five years. In general, it's crap, to be honest.
ID: So essentially you're looking for something that's timeless and will resist the elements?
JH: For me, everything that I make in general stays very well. Because, like this Tambor table, it's made with materials like a 2.5-cm-thick marble tabletop which is a material that has been there forever. It's classical marble. And this is still. It can be scratched and we can repair it—but it is so thick that this material will still be alive for 300 years if you take care of it.
ID: How do you feel about a lot of the recycled composite materials?
JH: Some of them are interesting, but I'm not—you know, I'm not that much into it. I have the feeling that there is a lot of spirit that is ecological and always thinking about super green things, but people get that wrong many times. I work with Fritz Hansen, which is probably one of the most eco-friendly companies. If you go to Denmark, everything they make, even the Arne Jacobsen old chairs—even though he designed them in a time when glue was really important to apply the leather to such a sophisticated shell which is so feminine—today they had to study so many different ways to glue it, because the glues are not approved by the standards of quality. They are not green enough! I think that's very important, but on the other hand to base your design only on that is a true mistake. You see a lot of people that are wanting to use a lot of recycled materials, but then they make crap that lasts like 3 days. And then you've got to buy a new one—so is that good? Is that more ecological or not? Furniture that is made to last forever in a very beautiful material will last for generations and my grandson will still have it. Everything has to be seen with a third eye. There is nobody seeing this.
ID: Do you every worry about a timeless material becoming boring?
JH: If you use a material it needs to be interesting. And that happens with anything that I do, it doesn't matter if it's a shoe, a watch, or furniture. There's also that little detail that communicates something. It's like that lamp, it's just really simple, it's white, it has ceramic on the top and metal in the middle. Then it has a silver part. Why does it have a silver part? Because it needs a joiner between the ceramic on the top and the metal. But that silver thing is also the dimmer to light up the lamp. So you try to use what you need without adding too much or too less. Materials are really important to mix properly.
ID: Is there a material that you haven't used yet, or that you're excited to use in a new way?
JH: Ok, in my career, I've understood something. I use certain materials, but I use certain techniques more than materials. I've been challenging a lot of the big producers, especially in Europe, companies such as Lladró or Baccarat, which have been around for a really long time, so it's hard to innovate with them. For me it was a chance to say, how do we do this well? How do we get them to the 21st-century? How do we make generations that are young work with these things? At the beginning, I didn't understand that. Now I do. I understand the contribution of the techniques I've used and the way I think about design. It's been a way of contributing to certain techniques. And even when you work with really modern techniques, by using certain artisanal techniques in the industry, you help the artisans. But this is something that you have to have in your brain. Because if you work in a very, very natural way and you don't care, then there is no future for those techniques. And those techniques are amazing! The best things around in New York are old school—seriously! You see those incredible buildings which have been done in Art Deco times - they are still the same. They haven't moved. There's something about our modern mentality that needs to change.
ID: I'm curious to know about the collection you did for Lladró that was taking porcelain and making it very contemporary - is there something else innovative like that you want to do, but haven't tried yet?
JH: I'm working on a lot of projects! There is a lot to do. I work with themes. For example, the Beetley chair is based on body of a beetle, with small legs and a thicker body. These ones are the Time Piece tables. They are in lacquer, it is kind of like a top part and a small part—you get the theme from the name. And this chair is based on a harp, so I call it Arpa. The nice thing about this chair—it's made on theme, but I could do a theme anything from the encyclopedia, or anything that is here - even you. Because it's inspiration. It's all about looking in a different way. When I look at things, I just feel there is something and I look and see.
ID: Can we take a walk around, and you can show me how you see?
JH: Here for me it is really funny, because I normally see the pieces in a very clean environment. This Arpa chair for instance is made from six tubes. The technique is only one machine that makes it. There is a guy that passes the tubes through a machine, and in one morning we get the chair done. It's all about the technique we use—for instance, these are ceramics. Brushed, handmade technique that is passed through an oven 1,200 degrees. And when you go into ceramic with a brush, normally you see everything. But here it's not, it's almost like steel. It's a lot about the techniques we use. To be able to make this in one piece we use a mold, which is recycled from air plane parts. So this factory has huge molds to make enormous parts for motors and for noses of planes. So the interesting thing about this company is how we mixed artisanal techniques with very smart industrial techniques. For example, you wouldn't be able to make a mirror like that if you didn't use aluminum. It's like making a casserole. Imagine, you heat it once and you get a table, or a mirror. In reality it's very simple, but it's nice, it's beveled, it's slick. Small details make it nice. It's also beautiful to me because it's floating. It has flexibility, too, because it's a little bit of a stool. This piece was one of the most challenging to make, just really, really difficult. It's super simple, but there's only one machine and there's almost no welding in it. It was very challenging to make - but that is the passion of the work. Without challenge, it's boring.
ID: Is there anything you're looking forward to in particular at ICFF?
JH: I don't even know, because I haven't been for ages, I think three years. I hope there is something nice. I normally focus more on Milan, because what happens for ICFF a lot is that we bring things that are already made. So the nice thing would be bring things that are not made, so that it would be exciting to introduce them to the states. But the states is always kind of difficult. I still find it difficult. I've never made a show here like I've done in Europe with all the different kinds of work that I do - it's very complicated. Sometimes I think to reach the audience in the right way with all the things that you're making is not the easiest thing in the world.