Francois Bauchet lives in Paris and teaches at the School of Fine Art in Saint Etienne. As well as designing limited edition pieces for Galerie Kreo he designed The Yang and Pluriel sofa systems for Ligne Roset. This year he unveiled Roman, a new, minimal storage range.
How did you become interested in design as both a designer and a teacher?
It’s a long history. When I was young, I was always fascinated with how things fitted together – from clothes to toys, furniture, buildings, everything.
Where did you study?
I went to university in Paris and then moved to Bourges, a town in France, where I continued. There I was friends with many designers and artists and began my career as an artist, making installations and sculptures.
And from here it was a small step into design?
It was at the end of the 1970s and the design and art worlds seemed very closed. They only really communicated with each other. It wasn’t as open-minded as today. I felt it was very necessary to explore art that communicated with others. My first object was a chair called ‘This is also a chair’, like Magritte and Duchamp. This was the starting point for my career as a designer.
Is it fair to say you were informed by a need to change or provoke rather than a need to provide solutions then?
When I started I was very influenced by minimal art in the USA and really felt a need to communicate – that for me was by provoking rather than presenting something very ordinary that people wouldn’t really look. I still wanted my designs to be practical and answer people’s needs but I wanted people to have an emotional connection with them also.
How has your ethos developed since then?
At the beginning I only did limited editions. Although they were always for living with and using, they weren’t manufactured. I worked with a gallery (Leo 2) in Paris and my work was shown and sold there. Step by step I began to work with manufacturers and industrial contacts but the gallery was my first outlet.
Today, bar some notable exceptions, it seems to be the other way round.
I know – but for me it wasn’t really a conscious path, it just happened that way.
When and why did you start teaching?
Very early on. I realised if I had my own money it would give me more liberty with my work, so I decided to teach.
Do you learn from your students? Do they and the process of teaching inform your designs?
The contact with students allows me to be aware of new developments and maybe react quickly. Students are always very open-minded because they’re young and just starting and have to be as fluid as possible when entering the world of design.
In most of the fair it’s difficult to see any evidence of a global financial crisis but in the student areas, it appears to have had far more of an impact. How do you see design changing?
It’s not just a financial crisis but a crisis felt throughout the whole of society. It’s symptomatic of a society that needs to regenerate itself, not just financially. Design has a very important role in this process.
So how do you feel designers might respond? Is it a matter of using basic materials and simpler, cheaper manufacturing processes or something more fundamental?
I think it’s more fundamental definitely. New lifestyles call for new responses. We don’t eat like our grandparents used to eat – with napkins and placemats and a full set of cutlery for example. Even the things we eat are very different. We’re far more concerned with what we eat now and hence perhaps we don’t need these elements of design. Most of us eat a lot with just our hands. As life changes so the objects we need change too. It’s the role of designers to drive these changes.
How is this reflected in your designs for Ligne Roset?
The first piece I designed for Ligne Roset was a sofa called Yang. It’s very low to the ground and was created like a puzzle, which you combine as a whole circle. The idea is that you can have as many pieces as you want and it functions both as a sofa and a bed.
And the new designs, how do they reflect changing needs in the home?
There’s a need for smaller products in the home. The Roman desk for me is a modern home office. Nearly everyone who works at home works with laptops and hence we only really need somewhere to store very basic equipment and paperwork. So my design is more like a cabinet. There’s still a lot of storage space and a pull-down desk, as well as holes for cables and wires, but everything can be hidden away at a moment’s notice.
As a teacher and a designer do you feel optimistic about your students’ future in the industry?
In many ways it’s an easier time today than it ever has been. There are opportunities to participate in so many competitions all over the world. Also large companies, manufacturers and journalists are always fascinated by young designers. They are always looking at young generations to provide new solutions. They’re open-minded and hence willing to invest in future generations.