For the sixth year running, Sebastian Bergne is curating the Ambiente special presentation ‘Solutions’, which showcases examples of products for the table, kitchen and household. The British designer is like a child at Christmas imagining all the new items from which he’ll again select his exhibits. After our interview, we were even looking at bars of soap differently.
For more than 25 years, Sebastian Bergne has been developing ideas in his London design studio for world brands, and has won numerous international awards. The 49-year-old takes a fresh look at everyday things that in his eyes are more or less neglected. As the son of a diplomat family with French and German roots, he gained experience of the world at an early age. After completing his studies at Central St. Martin’s and the Royal College of Art in London, his career took off rapidly. His designs can be found in the New York Museum of Modern Art and other famous collections.
Bergne’s designs can be characterised as simple and rather functional. A playful joy also shines through, for example in his beer glass and soap!
“That’s also a fitting description of the products we showcase in ‘Solutions’. The objects must be practical and have an everyday use. I like products with a cheeky aspect, like my pipe: a drinking glass shaped like a tobacco pipe, produced in a limited edition of 100. And the ‘ring soap’, a 1994 design, can be displayed on your bathroom or kitchen wall like a graphic design. It hangs on a hook, so stays dry and doesn’t get used up so quickly. I displayed this and other designs from the last 25 years at the London Design Festival in the autumn. These included the ‘Drop’ jug, made from heat-resistant glass, and my new ‘Cubit’ beer glass. The glass plays with the regional French tradition of serving beer on top of fruit syrup or schnapps. The body here is moulded in the shape of a bottle. The syrup is poured into the hollow stem, then the glass filled with beer. This will be the first time I’ve shown my own designs at my stand at Frankfurt – let’s see what visitors make of my rubber ‘Bouncy Baubles’.”
On the subject of solutions: The longlist normally runs to over 150 products. How do you choose the finalists?
“Imagine a room with lots of open packages in it. I look at each product that’s submitted, working with industry experts. Is there a clever new idea behind it? Is the product easy to use? Does it offer a real solution to everyday problems in the kitchen and around the home? We use everything, we’ll test out a corkscrew on a wine bottle or cut something with a knife. The room looks like a miniature workshop. We discuss our personal favourites until we’ve settled on the most interesting products. There are normally 20 to 25 innovative items that ultimately impress us. The next step is video clips that demonstrate how to use the items, which we show at the ‘Solutions’ presentation.”
Unpack, use and be amazed. It’s starting to sound a bit like Christmas! Did you find any funny, genius products in previous ‘Solutions’ presentations?
“We did have a fly swatter with a little pair of tweezers in the handle, to remove the dead fly from the wall afterwards. It was nothing truly unusual from a design perspective, but the added functionality was really handy. Often there’s just a small, sometimes unprepossessing detail that has a big effect. ‘Solutions’ shows off precisely this sort of experimentation and invention by makers. On the subject of Christmas, there was a brilliant ‘wrapping thumb’ made of plastic. It held knots and bows in the ribbon in place while you were tying them, like having a third hand: amazing functionality. My favourites are the simple, really clever everyday items.”
So Mr Bergne, home sweet home: what can we expect when the UK is Ambiente partner country?
“Our country has very good young designers. Typically, many of them implement new ideas using tried and tested technologies, for example in ceramics. This shows the legacy of the Arts & Crafts movement here, of which we are still rightfully proud. At the same time, revolutionary technologies have also made their presence felt. My studio is currently working with an American firm that prints out 3D designs in metal using a complicated high-tech process. The quality and price are market-ready. In future, it will mean that we can manufacture products like this on demand, so producers won’t have to store them.”