One of the standout pieces on show at London's PAD fair this year comes in the organic and graceful form of a desk by young German designer Valentin Loellmann. Winner of the Moët Hennessy PAD award for 'best piece of contemporary design', it is part of a stellar selection of pieces on the stand of Galerie Gosserez, a relative new-comer to the Parisian design gallery game.
The new desk's smooth oak top - charred to black, then waxed to give it a leathery feel - belies the intricacy of its underside, made from plates of metal that have been welded together and moulded around the wood. The desk stands on thin, hammered metal legs that look as if they've been drawn in the air. 'I like to hide the complexity of my designs,' says the 30-year-old, who studied product design at the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts, and graduated in 2009. 'I create furniture that looks almost like it could have grown that way in the wild.'
Valentin's desk is part of his 'Seasons' collection for Galerie Gosserez, which also includes a dining table and benches made from charred wood. All the joints are hidden, which makes each object look like one solid piece of nature's own creation.
'His work is very elegant and poetic,' says Marie-Bérangère Gosserez, who founded the gallery in 2010 and has been working with Loellmann for three years since spotting his graduate project at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. 'It is totally timeless and both young and old people are drawn to it.'
Loellmann counts PAD founder Patrick Perrin among his private clients, and next week his work will go on show alongside artists Daniel Buren and Leandro Erlich and designer Matali Crasset in Private Choice, an exhibition curated by Nadia Candet for FIAC in Paris. We caught up with him during PAD to find out more about his work...
W*: You hail from a family of artists, including a ceramicist and a photographer. What influence has this had on the way you work?
VL: It's entirely natural for me to be able to build something out of nothing. My father taught me to always be making things in my head. I never sketch. During my studies, I realised I'm not really a conceptual person, I prefer to start building and see something come to life. The inspiration comes entirely from the working process.
Describe where you work?
My studio is a former hat factory in Maastricht. I share it with a group of painters. I have built a relaxed and atmospheric surrounding that cultivates my work.
Talk us through some of your key projects so far?
After graduating, I created a family of furniture called M&Mme, pieces of which were shown at Galerie Gosserez and Ammann Galery. They were hand-made from old bangkirai wood, reinforced with a polyester skin. With the more recent Fall/Winter pieces from the Seasons collection for Galerie Gosserez, I wanted to create furniture in a very simple way. I went to the woods and searched for the right branches. I wanted to create useable furniture; very organic and personal objects. The pieces I make have always developed from a curiosity; a curiosity towards materials, their travels and the histories they tell. Using craftsmanship techniques, I create new narratives with them. I treat my materials like living organisms.
You create all of your furniture by hand. Won't it be difficult to expand if you continue to do everything yourself?
I am beginning to work with assistants and my team is growing but it's important for me to have very close control of my pieces. Rather than produce big volumes of work, I would rather limit what I do, and focus on the things that really interest me and support my work, process and growth.
What have you created for the Private Choice installation in Paris?
I visited the house where the exhibition is being held - the former home of a string of artists and creatives, including painters Julie Manet and Berthe Morisot and writer Paul Valéry. The curator asked me to create something that would make the house look more lived in. She asked for a dining set, and it was clear to me that this would be the set from my Fall/Winter collection. On our way out, we passed by a little office room. I was charmed by this secret space, and imagined putting something inside it. So it inspired a new desk. I like to make things that are influenced by the space they are intended for but also add something new to a room.