Bread and roses by Pierangelo Caramia
WATER, EARTH, BREAD, OIL. This first expedition to Italy, in the region of Puglia wanted to explore the creative possibilities of bringing together designers from different countries with today’s realities of production in this historic part of the world. The savoir-faire of certain archaic materials available for centuries in Puglia, as well as the singular history of every corner of this region — always provide a direct link between this particular culture and the rest of the world. The Italian philosopher and literary critic, Giorgio Agamben in his text, What is Contemporary ? printed in 2008 writes about an essential relationship between the archaic and the present moment, the proximity between the original historic material, from pre-history to the experience of today. Ideas circulate — he writes — between these two locations, two eras bringing something new from this understanding and collaboration. This expedition, CERAMIC & FOOD in Puglia was based on five elements or areas of research : water, earth, fire, bread, oil. The goal was to create a relationship between designers of different backgrounds and the historic realities of production, and embedded identities within this territory, to detect and revitalize the principles still living and present in the archaic source material, these original principles are the very source for ideas and objects ‘leaning’ (in relationship to the archaic thinking) and humanist, full rather than empty, objects which come from this flow of ideas, this intellectual and fact-based history. One of the core principles and values deep inside these projects and the objects created in the research period, the studios and production is the durability of time. It acts to defy obsolescence and programed obsolescence that is more and more present in our contemporary practice and contemporary design thinking — in the name of efficiency for the market. In fact, the public perception of these ‘things’ or ‘objects’ produced so quickly does not realize their intrinsic origins. IDE expeditions, of which Puglia was the first, are not simple. There is no simple way to put together designers and companies, where the research studios and the producers work for several months together in situ, before the post-production, communication, distribution and sales across the globe — which is the International circuit of IDE. The ideas and objects that flow from this special hot house atmosphere, almost like a pressure cooker, would never otherwise be possible — the marriage of this cross pollination which takes place together in this new place within this limited time frame. During the months of expedition, designers from different companies chosen by IDE live on location and work inside the companies and are regularly consulted and followed by IDE’s international experts during the incremental phases of development. IDE in collaboration with local academic institutions in the areas chosen for the expeditions, are dedicated to cultural transmission of design to the upcoming generations who are part of the research period with the enterprises. In Puglia, an agreement was signed with the Politecnico di Bari, for a collaboration between the students and professors of the Department of Industrial Design, with a workshop directed by the designers and IDE members in March of 2019. This full immersion in Puglia with its ever-active daily life and culture provoked the designers, the studios, the companies, to facilitate a creative short circuit of experimentation that led to strong results. In the studios — it was no use to look for a language, or a local identity — because this identity and style are just a pose we often see everywhere. Instead, the conditions of daily life and work created a conceptual comfort zone, an emotional liaison, and like-mindedness between the designers, the artisans and the companies with the landscape. Thanks to this natural synergy, a creative freedom appeared and gave birth to functional products that were at the same time full of sense, historic references, strengths and connections to the contemporary scene, the local and global conditions. This allowed the designers, artisans and enterprises to think, reflect, conceive and produce with a linked approach to pure and profound research, while applying real thinking about this creative goal to find truly unique and new relationships. This process is the reverse of how design thinking is used currently to fill a ‘need’ in the market for some kind of specific desire by the consumer. At IDE, we are convinced that the international market can identify and absorb products thanks to their real character and the innovation of their nature. Products containing a history of ideas from the region and its society are both fundamental and intrinsic. These underscore the history of IDE expeditions — which present these products with their creation stories as narratives of collaboration and transmission. In Puglia, the relationship between the archaic and the contemporary are fatally present in every studio whether a small atelier or a large enterprise, because the seduction of this region resides — to a great degree — in this very relationship between the symbolic power of the archaic and the comfort and relevance of the contemporary. A universe of ‘sensitive’ objects, rich in content, should be created and many designers are open to these ideas. It is necessary then to give the possibility of experimenting in this direction, and this expedition is designed for this very objective purpose — to create this opportunity. Design is a culture, a discipline, a working methodology, whose principle objective is to understand everyday things and, in parallel, the symbolic and humanistic emotions that should inhabit and bring life to these ‘things’ which make up our built environment, and the world of our daily lives, so that they might be worthy of us. Design should then, ideally, be a combination of ‘bread’ and equally ‘roses’ — to borrow a slogan first used historically by striking textile workers at the beginning of the 20th century in the USA. This phrase corresponds well to what we are speaking about in the world of work, and manufacturing is an integral part of its design foundations. It should and can be nutritional as it was clear during certain eras which were known for their ‘glorious’ designs ; it could and should be together a harmonious solution for the complexity of life today. Designers, businesses, and consumers who are not yet lost in the consumer culture on the global market can still make, with the right elements and creativity, with new intelligence, a new beauty in contemporary production. IDE is one of these rare opportunities. The expeditions in new territories constitute a holistic system in which the participants have a significance, a power and are part of a lively integrated system, and inversely, a system that appears and proposes to the consumer a vision of products made with efficiency and grace that reflect a harmonious understanding of the new in relationship to established sensibilities.
A nomadic look by Jill Silverman Van Coenegrachts
FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES, human beings have developed activities around sustaining themselves through nourishment, and developing the objects that make this possible. The hunting cultures made hand axes from stone to kill animals. Later with gathering and the evolution of agriculture, food cultivation became a communal activity with vessels and objects made from baking the earth for serving and storage. CERAMIC & FOOD have been a very old couple through all of human history, and this continues into our current world. At a basic level we need to eat to survive, and we need to put what we eat into something for cooking and serving and storing. Without the latter we would starve, and our culture of hospitality, welcome, celebration, daily meals and annual festivals would be meager events. Human beings are social animals and part of this involves sharing what we eat and drink with each other. Learning about local habits and specialties, bridging cultural divides through the traditional breaking of bread, drinking wine. All the religions around the world involve some form of ingestion and ritual objects holding bread, wine, fire, ice, smoke and incense. All cultures master their own manner of marking their specific locality into these objects and foods. The IDE Expedition CERAMIC & FOOD raises this daily practice to an art form of understanding origin stories — which are varied and different, as are the faces of one area next to another. These narratives give locality its charm and seductive ability. Within a globalized world with instant visual communication we still strive for the intimate and personal, the unique and passed down from generation to generation. A grandmother’s famous recipe, an uncle’s favorite bowl. The histories of family and community are handed from one person to another through the stories of making, and finding and we have these mingled throughout our cultures of food and ceramic. It is a process of understanding that the object and the nourishment are special and unique. Their stories hold mystery and excitement, a particular response to a specific environment. No two tomato sauces homemade in a ceramic baking dish can be the same ever. The history is inside the object, just as it is in the raw ingredients themselves. The IDE Expedition is taking a long traveling and nomadic look at these roots and the process of transmission of cultural values through CERAMIC & FOOD. These are tools for a deeper understanding and a deeper creative development of new forms and recipes. The challenge of keeping this long precious narrative fresh in a contemporary culture that tends to homogenize rather than celebrate diversity. A bowl in one province of China is not the same as a bowl in another. A soup in one home is not the same as a soup in another. IDE Designers dig into the marrow of locality by simply staying put, breathing the air, walking the fields and speaking with the local people, living for a stretch of time in a new environment to better understand its special qualities. From this deep slice of knowledge, the fertilization comes from outside and a new creative production is begun. The end result is always a surprise with endless possibilities for forms, shapes, textures, colors, finishes. The world of new kinds of foods and new kinds of containers is rich with prehistory, in a highly sensual way. Being in situ allows an immersion in the unsaid and the undocumented — gestures and expressions that pass between a craftsman and visitor. Between a chef and a designer who do not speak the same language but understand the desire to share something together. CERAMIC & FOOD is the back bone of human history and in our nomadic International Design Expedition we take this long trail and spin it forward into the future through new ideas and new collaborations, new questions and haphazard accidental discoveries. This is design thinking at its best rooted in what makes us human.
The wonderful adventure by Catherine Ferbos Nakov
THE WONDERFUL ADVENTURE of International Design Expeditions began quietly and without fanfare in the summer of 2011. Mathilde and I were pursuing a dream, perhaps a slightly mad one, to stimulate collaborative partnerships between young designers and small to medium sized businesses, industrial or artisanal, within a European context. Both Mathilde and I had been tremendously influenced by our trips abroad and realised how beneficial it was to venture out of familiar environments. To be elsewhere both enhances human relationships and enlarges your own personal horizons. You only have to look at the results of the Erasmus Programme to be convinced of this. Based on this model we created, in Brussels, the Belgian registered charity International Design Expeditions. It's aim was to help young international designers work creatively with experienced professionals and this outside of their own countries, thereby learning new skills in totally new environments. As with all dreams our's had to gradually and increasingly adjust to practical reality! The task was immense. We attended meetings throughout Europe, with mayors, civil servants and many and varied associations. We submitted dossiers, then corrected them, then rewrote them even. We travelled extensively, from Belfast to Talin, from Thessaloniki and Athens to Brussels, Paris and London. Throughout this period we never forgot our original aim to help young designers benefit and learn from the experience of seasoned practitioners as well as acquiring working knowledge of industrial machinery. As the years rolled by we adapted our structure, collaborations, themes and places. Mathilde was in charge of the design side and its practial applications; I became responsible for the Advisory Committee. Neither of us lost sight of the guiding principles of the project - to associate top quality participants, be they young creative designers, experienced crafts people, skilled industrial workers or other experts, all within an international dimension. The Puglia expedition, our first real practical workshop, in the summer of 2019, created and designed original objects. These, together with the rich exchange between all participants owed much of its success to the generosity, both financial and practical, of the majority of those involved. To go forward and capitalise on this very positive start - and having proved our ability to achieve excellent results - IDE needs a substantial funding injection from the public or private sectors, or both, European or locally specific. These funds will enable us to encourage a number of international experts to participate and help develop other projects, notably in Poland, France and, if possible given the current circumstances, in China. New works will be designed and created during these sessions and these objects will then encourage the creation of other new works and so, we hope, our initiative will mushroom and grow.
Four hands concerto in asia by Pierangelo Caramia
THE MAIN OBJECTIVE of the Cambodian expedition was to promote a creative and result-generating relationship between designers of different origins and the protagonists of historical productive realities, as well as the “identity” of the territory of the expedition. Mathilde Bretillot guided and followed the work of the designers concerning the ceramics, Marc Bretillot concerning the culinary experiments, and Pierre Balsan, long established in Asia, guided the expedition participants through the local places and cultures, alongside analysing the projects in relation to the sensibility and requirements of the contemporary design market. IDE expeditions are not simply “matchmaking” between designers and artisans in order to realise the designers’ projects. They are “full immersions” together for designers, art directors, advisors and IDE experts in production workshops – also in local life – in order to seek and experiment together with “third parties”. We establish paths that make languages and practices evolve towards contemporary “relevance” thanks to creative and respectful exchanges between people of different backgrounds, skills and cultures. IDE expeditions are essentially laboratories of sociability and culture and, subsequently, tools for generating development and income for the expedition’s protagonists in the country concerned. The ideas, writings, culinary preparations and objects generated during the expedition could never have been thought up and realised by the designers and by the local craftsmen and companies without the on the spot international exchange between all participants in the laboratories and without the “cross-pollination” lived together during a given period. With its expeditions, IDE puts everything in place to create living and working conditions that allow for conceptual “comfort” and an emotional and intellectual understanding between designers, craftspeople and inhabitants of the territory, so that in conditions of synergy and naturalness, free and new creative syntheses can appear. These environmental and logistical conditions that IDE organises along with every expedition, allow the designers, ceramic and culinary craftspeople to think and create with a pure and deep research approach. We apply a real combinatorial and creative thinking to obtain results in relation to the existing and historical material culture of the country. It is about generating from a territory new syntheses and new objects/horizons that are sincere, powerful and sustainable, as well as a well-structured encounter between different cultures. This generous and curious journey, the reciprocal exploration of cultures and territories, are noble and effective ways of exchanging between humans. These encounters create a healthy porosity of the borders that separate us and that contribute in generating shared growth and sustainable progress for all. In these immersions and experiences we learn, among other things, to abandon Manichean visions and to develop the ability to see and to listen to the unknown. One of the elements of design culture – and culture in general – is the practice of dialogue and mutual exchange between people of different backgrounds and skills. We at IDE believe that this local – and at the same time international – approach to design can make a small contribution to world peace by giving us all tools to develop the practice of complex thinking and by accompanying us towards the realisation of our “earthly citizenship”, as Edgar Morin teaches us. This expedition/immersion in Cambodia allowed participants to get a “change of scenery” and to experience and touch this Southeast Asian country up close: the Khmer land with its long and troubled history, its Theravāda Buddhist religion, its lush vegetation, its tropical climate, its many temples (starting with Angkor Wat), its Mekong River, and many of its environmental and cultural characteristics. The tourism industry is the most significant influence in foreign exchange for Cambodia and, in parallel, the textile industry is the most important manufacturing activity of the country. As for the primary sector, the main activities are agriculture – especially the cultivation of rice, corn and tobacco – and fishing. Roland Barthes said that places and landscapes must be inhabitable, not visitable. In most countries of the world, including Cambodia, tourism is an important industry. But it is fundamental for all countries that, in parallel to tourism, local primary and manufacturing production with its own historical identities is supported and developed. This allows the local people to live their culture and feel “at home”, anchored in their history and at the same time alive to contemporary life, thus able to generate a future for their artisanal and artistic activities by confronting other cultures and the elements of the contemporary world. The laboratories that IDE organises in its expeditions are a way, with regard to tourism, not to produce in the workshops “unloaded” and mannerist objects to sell to tourists – as is often the case in many countries – but an opportunity to stimulate creative impulses in craftspeople and designers that can generate living and contemporary utilitarian objects, while being anchored in the history of the place and with a future in front of them. One of the goals of IDE expeditions is to give a small but sincere and relevant contribution to local production by putting it in dialogue with other cultures and contemporaneity. Likewise, by giving them international visibility in order to generate design that is also “storytelling”, that communicates something about the country and its specificities, while also generating new income for local craftspeople and entrepreneurs thanks to international networks. Exploration and exchange with distant and “foreign” languages and “styles” to feed research in design and art has a centuries-old history and has long been practised by designers and artists. We can recall here, to name but a small selection, the work of Charlotte Perriand in Japan that went in this direction, or the work and relationships that Ettore Sottsass had with India, or the very strict relationships with Africa and the “primitive” art of Pablo Picasso, which means we can say that Cubism was born in Africa. The question that designers and artists have asked themselves throughout history is how to get out of the simply exotic/tourist vision towards other arts and cultures in favour of a universal vision of “world citizens” that can generate hybrid objects, relevant witnesses of the exchanges with which they are created and of the territories in which they have been conceived and realised. This question of the search for language in design is still relevant today – and will remain so in the future. We work with our designers, with food materials, and with raw clay meant to be fired afterwards, studying and experimenting with the relationships between these two historical and ancestral practices of material manipulation in order to achieve “creolised”, contemporary and internationally-relevant results. The fundamental element of all IDE expeditions is the practice of manipulation of raw earth/clay and food and the successive practice of cooking: the use of fire, heat, air and the oven. At the end of each expedition, we organise an exhibition called “Just Out of the Oven”. Water, fire, earth and air were the protagonists of the encounter and challenge between archaic man and the elements of nature. Man became “adult” and creative when he learned to manipulate the earth, when he was able to light and control fire and when he knew how to tame water. He learned to bake raw earth after it was dried; he created baked clay and started to surround himself with useful clay objects, which he himself made, for his daily life. To feed himself, man passed one day from raw to cooked food and, beyond the pleasure of savouring it with his mouth, man learned the pleasure of manipulating food with his hands and utensils before eating it: he experimented by kneading, cutting, superimposing, exploring the shapes, textures and colours of his food. Raw and cooked food and raw and cooked earth, thanks to fire and water, are the most important elements of his work. IDE creates the conditions for designers and craftspeople of diverse origins to venture into the depths of these ancient practices, but with contemporary minds. IDE organises near-archaic expeditions, but at the same time very contemporary and dense laboratories of thought and creation, in which design has things to experiment with and to say – and will also have in the future. By getting close to the origin of these ancient and fundamental practices, simultaneously with the tools and knowledge of our time, the designers can exercise their roles in a relevant and fruitful way. In the objects of use conceived and realised during the IDE to Cambodia expedition, we can see the East meeting the West; we can see the colours, textures and historical signs of this tropical country entangled with the aesthetic syntheses resulting from the Western reading of them. In these objects we also witness references to Buddhism and Khmer temples, which are confronted with spiritual sensitivities from elsewhere in the search for a language that speaks and is readable on many levels by people from different cultures. As for the food design research that takes place in close relation with the ceramic workshops in the IDE expeditions, we explore creative ways of consuming and preparing food and drink, along with presenting them on the clay pottery. Together with Marc Bretillot, we experimented with recipes that were syntheses of the encounters between cultures and practices of different origins. The aim is to create a “third” cuisine that comes from the territory and its culinary traditions, but at the same time experiments with new relevant and creative paths that accompany the local cuisine towards wider horizons and that are in dialogue with contemporaneity and other culinary cultures. These recipes were realised and tasted on the spot by the people involved in the expedition, but IDE will make sure to also present them in international contexts, in the framework of the exhibitions and presentations it will make. One of the main objectives, as in other IDE expeditions, was to “lift” the objects, to free them from the vernacular and folkloric cage, to make them participate in the world and the global research of design and art by expressing the complexity and richness of human relations and cultural exchanges in the contemporary world. One of the main roles of design and art is indeed to raise its achievements to the rank of eloquence and relevance in the time in which they were produced. We at IDE do not want to apply abstract formulas elaborated upstream in the territories and countries in which we operate, as has been the case historically with the so-called “international style”, for example. Instead we are there to listen, assimilate and elaborate creative syntheses made “four-handedly” by the creative craftspeople and designers hosting the country during the expedition. Moreover, we present to the public the objects resulting from the expeditions in a collection called “Haute Collaboration”. With this “field” philosophy and attitude of dialogue that starts from the place and its identity to bring it elsewhere, with this work that goes from the particular to the “global”, we believe that our expeditions help make our generation – and also the generations that will follow us – move away from the type of often pretentious and destructive relationships and practices that the West has historically had with the countries of the East and also other countries of the world, based mainly on economic logic and on relations of force and power between the parties. We believe that IDE is participating in the necessary renewal of the contemporary design landscape and that we are giving concrete opportunities to the craftspeople, artists and entrepreneurs of the territories where the expeditions take place, to participate substantially in the debate and the international design market.
Khmer sculpture and its world by Jean-Michel Filippi
FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY it was fashionable to speak of Hindu, Indian art to evoke the forests of temples that the Khmer builders left us. We then pretended to forget that the famous mountain temples, an Indian vision essential to Hindu Dharma, were not erected in India, but in Cambodia. We were warned by Rabindranath Tagore, who was the first to dare to express the paradox: “I see India everywhere, but I don’t recognise it”. Does this mean that Cambodia reinvented India? The question is far from being rhetorical when one lets their gaze linger on Khmer statuary. The names of the gods are indeed Indian, but this part of their identity stops there because the faces are, from the beginning, Khmer. Far from Hindu exuberance, here we are in a world of restraint where sensuality is subject to strict coding. Austerity? Far from it, because Khmer sculptors compete with ingenuity to humanise their representations: the radiance of the folds of clothing, barely perceptible movements, superb belts...If the pretext is Indian, the text is Khmer. India loves high reliefs; what could be more natural to represent scenes from the daily lives of the deities? And yet, the Khmer world rejected them from the beginning. Except for one motif, Krishna lifting Mount Govardhana, there are no high reliefs in Cambodia, as if the individuality of the statue was not compatible with a wall. Khmer sculpture is the result of a long process that slowly freed itself from the support of the wall to create statues in the ground, the height of a statue worthy of the name! In Cambodia, the statues have no rivals. It is easy to convince oneself of this by seeing what is happening in neighbouring countries. The ancient kingdom of Champa, the world of Dvaravati, and Java also carve a great deal, but the primary requirement of these statuary traditions is representation of the sacred side, which is indispensable to our secular world. In Cambodia too, but – and this has not been noticed enough – while representing deities, the Khmer statue primarily sacralised a given reign: dividing the statuary into styles is exactly equivalent to marking the history of the country: one reign – one style. In Champa, for example, it is difficult to identify the different artistic periods, whereas in the Khmer world, where the choice has been made to symbolise each reign, the division between different styles becomes clear. To symbolise a reign is of course to sacralise it with the perfume of eternity, but also to individualise it in relation to past and future reigns. In both cases, it is the statuary that plays an essential role. This is a measure of its political importance, unique in Southeast Asia. If we make the effort to keep in mind the symbolic specifications of Khmer statuary, museums offer us a breathtaking spectacle: an initial anatomical realism is followed by representations where stiffness and stylisation begin to dominate, leading to an absolute hieratics at the beginning of the 10th century, which, in less than 50 years, would give way to the introduction of movement... Khmer statuary ceased to be a wise object of art history, to become an untimely subject of history itself.
The frenetic experience by Anne Xiradakis
THE TEMPERATURE, THE HUMIDITY, the smells, the colours and the tastes there, everything attracts and intrigues our curious minds. Sharing our emotions, our enthusiasm, we are together facing this unfamiliar culture. We embraced the flavours of Cambodia by tasting traditional dishes like num banhchok, a green curry soup with rice noodles, in which one dips raw flowers and herbs with tastes from sweet to bitter; amok, fish cooked in a banana leaf, with spices and coconut; and prahok, a fermented fish sauce, to which one adds raw vegetables. All these meals introduced us to the local cuisine, but also allowed us to understand how objects and food garnish the Cambodian table. We wandered through numerous temples, all different yet with repeated schemes of elements such as stone columns, clerestories, bas-reliefs, dancers wearing sophisticated headdresses and sculptures with rhythmic skirts. All of this in an exuberant, invasive nature, drowning the ruins in infinite shades of green, gave us formal and colourful reference points. The ceramic collections and the reserves of the National Museum of Phnom Penh, where we learned that in Cambodia, ceramic resources have historically been reduced to a few varieties of clay, traditional glazes with ash and a restricted colour palette. In this austerity of colours and forms, it is for me the details of the pieces that give all their value and orient us on how to take or use these objects. A button leads us to open a lid, a relief invites us to pick up a container, a thick lip indicates its use. The traditional ash pigments, produced according to the amount of oxygen and the heat movements in the kiln, give an irregular, flowing glaze, which goes from dark brown to green, living, vibrant, unpredictable colours. At the workshop, we were lucky enough to be welcomed into a family of brothers, sisters-in-law and friends working together in smiling balance. We were adopted, in the midst of children running and playing with the earth. We matched ourselves to their rhythms, slipping in to create together. Having dialogue not so much through words, but gestures, drawings and shapes. Finding ways to exchange in another way by sharing convivial and festive moments, every day we tasted life together, the Cambodians laughing at our grimaces as we ate green bananas with the peel soaked in very hot spices. Magic happened on a daily basis through intense discussions between the designers and forms that are born through the tactile translation of the potters. This frenetic and immediate experience, where creation and production happen in a common time, brings me into a new configuration of work. I learn to let go, to let myself be carried away by the energy of the group, to try new things and be surprised by the result. We are all very lucky to have experienced this common adventure.
Kompong chhnang or the city of cooking pots by Armand Desbat
The city of Kampong Chhnang, “Port of Pottery”, is among the greatest centres of pottery manufacture in Cambodia. Its excellence in the industry reaches back to the 12th century, as testified by one Chinese traveller of the era. Nowadays, several villages around Kampong Chhnang still perpetuate this ancestral tradition. Among them is Andong Russei, where around a dozen craftspeople still make pottery following a traditional technique that was widely known in all of Southeast Asia (Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia). The potter starts by digging out clay to obtain a hollow cylinder. After enlarging and strengthening the cylinder with a wooden or bamboo beater, they shape the lip by moving, dance-like, around the pot, placed on a palm trunk block. They then deform the body of the cylinder, using a beater and counter-beater to give it a rounded shape. Next, they polish the surface and print a decoration under the lip. At this stage, the vase looks finished, but still has no bottom. After partial drying, the bottom is finished by pushing the clay, still using the beater and counter-beater. After drying for several days, the pots are fired. This does not take place in ovens, but in the open air. The pots are laid out in a heap on interlaced wood and bamboo, then covered with rice straw. In this type of firing, the fuel ignites very quickly, but the pots are left in the kiln overnight and continue to burn. The clays extracted from neighbouring Phnom Penh are of very good quality, and allow the production of high quality culinary ceramics, including the pots that made the reputation of Kampong Chhnang and gave it its name. For the last 20 years, some potters have started to use the wheel to make products especially for tourists, with different clay and kiln firing. Thankfully, this has not led to the disappearance of traditional production and some families practise both techniques. Although traditional pottery is generally in regression, due to the industry of mass manufactured products in metal or plastic, I was beyond happy to witness that this craft continues to exist and that young Cambodian potters are developing their practice and maintaining the traditions.
Water by Alicja Patanowska
THE CAMBODIAN LANDSCAPE is the ever-present water and the wooden architectural constructions that pass on the multi-generational knowledge of the local people living in harmony with the natural environment. It is the red earth that creates branching roads, like a circulatory system building internal communication, the majestic water buffaloes wading in flooded fields. The round, tall palm trees on the horizon, once identified, open up a whole range of plant varieties previously, ignorantly called “palm”. It was the ceremony of eating together: at home, in a restaurant, in the studio. It was the unimaginable positions of the hammocks, and the sophisticated way of wrapping and packing food in banana leaves, which is an example of the best design. Unfortunately, we learned that this solution is slowly disappearing and being replaced by the ubiquitous and non-recycled “Western plastic”. A large part of my memory of the Cambodian landscape is occupied by the magical spirit houses – structural portals for communication with spirits, embodying the strong beliefs of the local people. I recall the floating water lily crops, the stray dogs roaming the streets, the cloying smell of burning garbage, yellow and red temple bracelets, the NGOs. It is the memory of an arriving truck with delicious dragon fruits brought in nets, reminding me of the apples sold on the streets of Poland. It is the taste of mung bean rice cakes – small white balls with melting palm sugar inside – and amok, a dish that tastes completely different depending on the chef. It is the flavour of the best bananas I have ever eaten, affectionately called “chicken eggs”, the candies that were scattered on the ground for spirits, the mango salad and palm sugar in the form of a paste. It is the image of the vastness of milk farms – puzzling enterprises in the hot climate and land of coconut milk; the cement tiles that witnessed colonial history. It is the reminiscence of the unimaginably cruel Pol Pot regime, and the presence of extreme wealth mixed with poverty, among the emergence of the middle class. The endearing kindness of people, expressed in many languages. The stories of the gods, encoded in the architecture of Angkor Wat. A bit of Hinduism, a bit of Buddhism, a bit of animism. And again, the ever present water. Recalling the images, smells and shapes of Cambodia, I think primarily about the people: Anne Xiradakis, Mathilde Bretillot, Camillo Bernal, Marc Bretillot, Pierre Balsan, myself, Sihak Son, Valentin Hochet, Anne-Lauren Barteney, the team of the Morodok studio. They shaped our journey. Literally, in the form of projects, but also through bringing their personalities, inspirations, stories and experiences into this mutual adventure. For me, IDE is a concept designed to create conditions not only for learning about a new culture, but also for finding new design languages through close interpersonal relationships, as only those give a chance to explore the multifaceted personality of an artist or designer. For me, this is of crucial importance to the project. To say the least, it is an utterly different experience to work with local designers in their environment, outside of the usual office situation. In Cambodia, we were hosted by the local people who introduced us to the country and culture in their very own day-to-day activities, from pouring a few buckets of water over our heads as an act of blessing, through several hours of tasting Cambodian dishes in the company of Chef Luu Meng, to visiting sites of Angkor architecture, a pottery village, a trip to Tonlé Sap lake, where it is clearly visible how people once adapted to nature – building houses on water that allowed them to move in the natural rhythm of the lake’s natural cycles. We spent most of our time at the Morodok Ceramic studio working on prototypes of our projects, where the languages of gesture and drawing were a necessary tool of communication. I embraced it with great joy. For me, as a potter, working with the “Morodok family” team was fascinating, because it was a radically different way of producing ceramics from the one I know. First of all, the “dug” potter’s wheel, which turned out to be too much of a challenge for me, but also aspects such as methods of firing, or organising the studio. I especially recall the moments of charging and firing the kilns. Generally, I tried to spend as much time in the studio as possible. I quite miss the tension in anticipation of the final effect, but also the time of feasting together and overcoming cultural differences. It was the greatest honour for me when, after returning to Poland, I received a proposition to return to Siem Rep as an advisor for the studio. It is not an easy decision, but the proposal itself is a big deal for me. I was particularly inspired by the traditional wooden Khmer architecture. Its use of water as a valuable resource, and the use of motifs drawn from the animistic beliefs of the local culture that take into account the non-human perspective, so crucial nowadays in the discussion of climate change. These aspects are very close to me personally, as well as present in my artistic practice. One of my projects – a bug drinker – is a set of bowls, the true use of which is revealed when the piece is turned upside down. The tiny indentations on the surface inspired by lava rock are actually watering holes for insects. Tiny holes keep water in and simultaneously protect insects from drowning. The natural properties of ceramics are used in this design – the porosity of the fired clay prevents water from drying out too quickly. I owe the charm of my Cambodian version of the self-watering pot to the floated forest of Anne Xiradakis. There is nothing more valuable than to ask a master for advice! The change of the arch – or rather a reference to the very form of the pot – made the small hole measuring the maximum possible amount of water a beautiful, decorative element. As a ceramics designer, apart from the importance of cultural inspiration, I always have to take into account the difficulty of making a shape, knowing that production costs in a manual workshop are often decisive. During this expedition, I was inspired by wooden architectural structures made of sticks. The Thotem Set is a vase and platter with interchangeable chopsticks as a decoration. They also include the user in the creation, because they allow you to replace the chopsticks according to your own colour preferences. A similar concept is behind the ceramic pots standing on wooden sticks, which are a direct recreation of traditional Khmer wooden architecture. Special to me, though technically tedious to produce, they are inspired by the mysterious architecture of the temple columns at Angkor Wat. Equally unique, although again technically arduous in production, is the column inspired by the architecture at Angkor Wat. It consists of seven ceramic bowls, which, when placed on top of each other in any order, create a new pattern on the surface of the column each time. The inspiration for this project is Cambodian mythology, i.e. the seven seas of the heavens. However, I created it primarily for the culture of Cambodian dining, where, before the main dishes are served, there are a lot of extras, sauces and spices in small bowls, thus always giving the last word to the taster. I love it! Only now, a month after returning from Cambodia, I have the impression that I can start designing. I’m arranging a clear story around the colours of this culture, characterised by many great differences. I was warned “you will want to come back” – and I indeed do. I am on a continuous journey inside and out of such a rich culture, and that reflects itself in my designs.
Fellowship by Camillo Bernal
I AM CONVINCED that passion is the main motivation to grow – as a person, as a designer. The IDE expedition to Cambodia has allowed us to build a common language, a language that may not be structured with words or symbols, but is governed by our senses, a manifestation of our bodies and hands. In Cambodia we all wove a link. With the culture, the traditions and with those who keep them alive today: we shared moments outside of time in fellowship that transcends language barriers.
Transmission by Anne-Laure Bartenay
SOME OF THE EARLIEST Khmer pottery remains from as early as 5000 BCE have been found in Cambodia, but the tradition of Cambodian ceramics dates to the 3rd millennium BCE. At that time, the ancient Khmers were producing three kinds of ceramics: for architectural decoration (roof tiles), for religious ceremonies (vases and statues), for daily life (containers, vases, etc.). This was an essential part of the trade between Cambodia and its neighbours. Kampong Chhnang (which literally means “Port of Pottery”) is the historic cradle of Khmer ceramics where the skill has been passed down for many generations over 1500 years! Khmer ceramics is one of the main areas of traditional Cambodian expertise and part of the country’s legacy. Before COVID-19, most of the households in Kampong Chhnang’s “pottery village” were involved in the ceramics trade – around 300 families were producing ceramics, distributing products to shops located in the main cities, such as Siem Reap, and selling some souvenirs to tourists visiting the village. Today, only a dozen families are still trying to eke out a living in ceramics – most of the ceramists left the region or changed their job to support their family and survive, leading to a decrease in the number of artisans and the loss of traditional skills. Managing the IDE TO CAMBODIA expedition enabled me to create a fantastic link between the IDE process and the goals of the Cambodian Handicrafts Incubation Centre Satcha, which transmits ancestral know-how. Satcha is Beyond Retail Business Cambodia’s main achievement in promoting Cambodian products and artisan talents to local and international visitors. But it is, above all, a way to transmit traditional expertise to younger generations and to allow them to survive over time, through modernising and adapting them to the modern-day market. Satcha – meaning “truth, authenticity” in Sanskrit – is based in Siem Reap. There, it incubates local artisans with an innovative artistic approach, combining contemporary designs inspired by Khmer culture with traditional know-how, to reinforce collaborations that help foster Cambodian artisans’ practice. Equally, it helps them create unique, high value-added products that reflect the richness of Cambodian craftsmanship, while having a sustainable social, economic and environmental impact. Today, Satcha hosts more than 40 independent craftspeople specialised in eight unique ancestral skills, including ceramics, with the ambition of highlighting Cambodian culture beyond the country’s borders. They aim to develop artisans’ core skills and allow emerging talents to become autonomous and financially independent by offering them “customised services” tailored to their abilities, needs and ambitions. Satcha inspires and encourages the younger generation to perpetuate this ancestral legacy by stimulating their desire to work in the field and allowing it to expand over time!
Lalala by Marc Bretillot
CAMBODIA IS AN INTRIGUING PLACE, with extremely fine facial features and graceful aerial movements of the body; dancing like a living testimony of the subtle Khmer art, with a climate conducive to the luxuriance of the plants and the siesta. Animal proteins are expensive, used sparingly in food preparations and more as condiments than as main components of the dish. This balanced use of local resources should be taken as an example by countries that are overburdened with too much poorly-raised and environmentally-harmful meat. The wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices are the real treasures of Cambodian cuisine, giving it its freshness and incredible colour palette. The cuisine is light, easily digestible and pleasingly economical. There is little use of vegetable oil and even less of animal fat. Dairy products are non-existent. Fruits and vegetables are available all year round with no real seasonality, so that few preservation techniques have been developed (except for fish). The colour and flavour of food remain intact and vivid. The traditional architecture still very present in this very rural country, made of wooden houses on stilts covered with coloured sheet metal, is in a surprising adequacy with what is eaten there. The lightness of the buildings is matched by the lightness of the meals. The warmth of the sun beating down on the metal sheets is matched by the hot, but not overwhelmingly so, spices. It is also a country of rice, the quality of which is recognised as one of the best in the world. It is therefore mainly eaten plain or in cooking containers that give it subtle aromatic notes, such as banana leaf or bamboo. The farms are small family-run polyculture businesses with little to no mechanisation. Production is essentially food manufacture and contributes to food self-sufficiency. The imprint of the former French protectorate can still be seen in some institutional establishments, post offices, markets, banks… where the pediments bear inscriptions in French. You feel like you’re from another time while sipping a cocktail in the Elephant Bar of Grand Hotel d’Angkor. As of my interventions, I focused on workshops in cooking schools where the day starts with the raising of the national colours and the national anthem. As to the practical aspects, the students are very receptive to my teaching methods. As for my conceptual practice of culinary design, it is an abstraction that is really too far from their subsistence concerns... The expedition ended with an exhibition and a gala dinner at the French Embassy in Phnom Penh. It was my birthday, and in addition to the birthday cake, there was the “Ban bourguignon”, a participatory tune, that was as joyful as it was naive. It is a question of singing lalala by raising the hands like puppets. The ridiculousness of the practice, which must be carried out at the end of the meal uninhibited and titillated, does not take anything away from the universality of the happiness to share together a good meal lalala!
The new luxury by Pierre Balsan
WHEN A MARKET INITIALLY expands to luxury consumption, it sets the tone for a lifestyle of extravagance that can only be achieved with the purchase of certain high-end items. Consumers are therefore motivated to purchase these items not only for the value of the product, but also for the impression of belonging to a higher social status. The concept applies when luxury goods are first introduced to any market. As the demand for these products increases, so does the prestige associated with them. Higher prices for these items infer a certain level of exclusivity and quality that individuals perceive as desirable, and thus, highly sought after. This notion creates an entry barrier for those who don’t have the financial means to purchase such products. In conclusion, luxury goods are associated with a certain level of expense and social status. Consumers view these items as a sign of success and status. Naturally, after a few decades, consumers seek products, services or experiences with a more sophisticated luxury component. They look for unique, quality time, and an authentic personal experience to satisfy their desire. As illustrated by the remarkable success of luxury groups worldwide, the lion’s share of luxury consumption continues to go to the top-branded goods. However, these brands now need to share the market with numerous means of opulent consumption. Thus “luxury” – as defined by an exceptional product created and produced by exceptional people and sold in an exceptional environment – applies to fashion, leather goods, cosmetics, gastronomy, travel, but also to time spent, discovery and personal enlightenment. With new communication technologies and social media, there is a clear acceleration of these more diverse, more settled and more exciting trends in the world of luxury. Part of this recent shift is the emergence of luxury experiences and products originating from Asia. The best known example is perhaps the luxury resort industry brilliantly launched by Aman Resorts in 1988 with Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand. Recently, brands such as Icicle from China or Jim Thomson from Thailand have joined the luxury world. All these brands or concepts were born from the extraordinary meeting of a designer and savoir faire, e.g. Coco Chanel and her seamstresses, Christian Dior and his fabric, Thierry Hermes and his saddle makers, Adrian Willem Ban Kwie Lauw-Zecha and the traditional Asian hospitality. Likewise, in Cambodia we are now witnessing the birth of a luxury product thanks to the latest International Design Expedition (IDE) in November 2023. IDE is a European nonprofit organisation based in Brussels working in tandem with the E-Community Market Platform in Asia. The IDE team is made up of professional experts in architecture, design, art, business, law, economic development and education. IDE operates expeditions where international designers collaborate with local enterprises and artisans, thereby fostering sustainable innovations for regional development. It is hands-on work that produces prototypes leading to sustainable product development, as designers are in residence in the artisans’ village while completing the journey of simultaneous design and production. Local enterprises need an innovative design process, and young designers need a hands-on, real-time experience – so it is an opportunity for international designers to confront challenging real-life situations on the ground, with the support of experts. It is also an opportunity for enterprises and regions to see the benefits that design can bring to a business, the last step of this project being local retail and international exports. Recently, IDE travelled to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in Cambodia, bringing with them artists of exceptional skill to collaborate with local talents to create avant-garde ceramics. It is here that we witnessed the true blossoming of Cambodian luxury. The team included Anne Xiradakis, a designer who has worked with many French chefs to develop ceramic serving dishes, Camillo Bernal, a Colombian living in Paris who graduated from Camondo School in Architecture & Design, Alicja Patanowska, a ceramist who graduated from a school in Poland, and world-renowned designer Mathilde Bretillot, who initiated this project. By bringing international designers together with the exceptional craftsmen of Siem Reap, IDE has indeed started a movement that inaugurated a one-of-a-kind cultural exchange.
Cosmopolitan Poland by Jill Silverman Van Coenegrachts
FOR OVER ONE THOUSAND YEARS Poland has been at the centre of cosmopolitan life, on the Central European crossroads of North and South, East and West. From the Middle Ages until today it has witnessed a sweeping history of social, religious and political diversity. A thousand years of coexistence, cooperation, rivalry and conflict, autonomy, integration and assimilation – all of which has left traces of physical materials, pottery, textiles, recipes, raw agricultural ingredients, architectural styles; a myriad of colours and textures brought together from the four corners of Asia Minor, the Middle East, Europe and the Nordic regions, carried first by people on foot, then with their possessions strapped on horseback, later piled into carriages, later still on trains, eventually in automobiles and trucks, and now also on planes that criss-cross the area, the largest land mass in the heart of Europe. Trade routes continued one century after the next, bringing products and goods through periods of thorny conflict and through alternating bright chapters of common history, where religious communities and people of different origins lived peacefully together, sharing and evolving their arts and crafts and eventually developing new regional styles. Poland offers a unique history of Central Europe through its artefacts and objects, and through the contemporary designers and artisans who are today interested in revisiting some of these deeply-held traditions. Poland has by chance had the advantage of being more distant from and not as affected by certain levelling and homogenising aspects of globalisation, such as large-scale farming with pesticides and the mass production of housewares. There is currently a new generation of young farmers, chefs, designers, creators and artists looking towards slower, more locally-sourced positions – and searching out new forms rooted in the terroir itself. IDE has come to understand through its Ceramic & Food Route projects that every object is important and fills a gap in the memory – the personal as well as collective memory. In this virtual community of Central and Eastern Europe, there are over 1,900 cities, towns and villages located within the historic borders of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and spanning the territories of today’s Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Moldova. Each population centre has its own stories to tell, family traditions, manufacturing specialities, culinary highlights, recipes and festive occasions galore. The excitement of seeing this history and the personally-evolved habits that give Poland its own alphabet of experience – through new eyes, new design impulses, new awareness – will bring magic into kitchens and ceramic studios, creating a new vision of this old culture and its objects. With the warmth of a family’s historic hearth and wood burning oven, to the most contemporary version of ancient delicacies through experimentation and daring re-interpretation. This is IDE to Poland, Ceramic & Food Route, an adventure that will ultimately bring food to the table in vessels and platters that have evolved from a thousand years of history.
The Forbidden fruit by Pierangelo Caramia
HERE WE ARE ON IDE TO POLAND, immersed in a new adventure after the one we had in Italy’s Puglia region in 2019. Warsaw is an intense, romantic city with a past of pain and untamed, burning passions that can be clearly and strongly perceived in the architecture, urban spaces, objects, and the looks and kindness of the people we meet. Poland’s history goes back more than a thousand years. It includes the Renaissance period in the 16th century, when Poland was in close contact with Italy – the Polish royal family welcomed Italian artists and intellectuals, especially in Kraków. This fermentation produced culture, art and science, culminating in Copernicus’s heliocentric theory, which is the foundation of the modern world. Throughout its history, Poland was a bastion of Western civilisation and helped spread European culture eastwards until the reign of John III Sobieski (1674–1696), an important Polish king by virtue of his defeat of the Ottomans at Vienna, which made Poland an early bulwark against the East. After his death, the country was bullied by its neighbours and its borders experienced painful “elasticity” and indeterminacy, until it disappeared a century later, swallowed up by Russia, Prussia and Austria. Second, we all know what happened in Poland’s later geography and history, and there is no need to recall it here and now. It is obvious that a country that has experienced – and one could say suffered – this kind of history needs to recover and find its power and feeling in the folds of history, as well as in its wounds. The designers of this IDE expedition and us, IDE members, should in our creative effort consider and understand the geo-history of the place that welcomes us as much as possible, while bringing with us our cultural differences. A meeting between these different histories and sensibilities in light of the knowledge and technologies we have today should produce sparks that generate new intuitions, forms and paths. THE APPLE Poland has the largest apple orchard in Europe, with an annual production of around four million tons, representing about 80% of the country’s annual fruit production. Linking this agricultural and natural reality – where the apple plays an important role commercially and in terms of identity for Poland – to the country’s tormented geo-history seems like an interesting idea for me to submit to the designers of the IDE expedition. This conceptual path includes the metaphor of the forbidden fruit par excellence: the apple, fruit of the mythical tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and all that comes from it in terms of creativity, knowledge and pleasure. The tree of knowledge is the tree of the earthly paradise mentioned in the Book of Genesis, from which original sin came after Adam and Eve ate its fruit in violation of God’s prohibition. This willingness to transgress on the part of Adam and Eve, their desire for risk, their thirst for autonomous knowledge, but also their courage to enter into contact with the world, their bravery in accepting transgression and death, made them human – and, I would add, artistic and creative. Interpretations from Jewish culture say that the forbidden fruit was not the apple, but the fig. After eating the fruit, Adam and Eve felt for the first time a sense of shame about their nakedness, which they had not known before, and took the first thing they could find to cover themselves: the leaves of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (which Genesis says were fig leaves). Other interpretations suggest that the forbidden fruit was grapes, wheat or cedar. The apple, however, has had more historical success as the forbidden fruit than the others, because in Latin the word malum refers to both the fruit of the apple tree and evil. Thus for linguistic reasons – in the figurative arts and later texts – the apple became the fruit of the tree of knowledge. One of the themes of this expedition’s project could therefore be to work on the metaphor of the forbidden fruit, and thus on the theme of the energies, passions and curiosity that this fruit generates in an adventurous and creative spirit, such as that of a designer. What does the forbidden fruit represent today on a symbolic and formal level? What does the grotesque mean for contemporary sensibility? What do sin and transgression mean in the modern world? What does it mean to have the courage to eat the forbidden fruit today and to break a rule imposed by authority, taking responsibility for this “original sin”? What is disobedience in the contemporary world? What are the limits we are willing to explore in order to acquire knowledge at the risk of losing our bearings? Finally, what is beauty today? What is harmony? And disharmony? What are the sensitive and rich conceptual foundations of design for us and for an object made during an expedition of this nature? During our visit to the Majolika workshop at Nieborów Palace, we could see that the Polish aristocracy historically favoured the international language of porcelain used in the courts of Europe and China at that time. They would have had the opportunity to practice and meet its decoration and form during their travels, interpreting and referring to it in their creations back in Poland. The maiolica ceramists and our Polish friends also told us that the everyday ceramics of regular people had, in a way, neither forms nor colours connected with the history of the country – there were only archetypal forms directly generated by function, in dark brown or grey colours. Another possible line of work: How, in this expedition, can a synthesis be made between these two object systems that never met here, as happened in other places in the world? Is it possible today to try to make a synthesis that creates a symbolic short circuit and a post-historical creative gesture for this country and its porcelain and ceramic objects? This expedition has all the characteristics of a romantic adventure in a country where romanticism is everywhere. It is in its DNA, where emotions are felt powerfully and can find their way and formal crystallisation if the working groups stimulate and pollinate each other. Let us try, in the creative adventure that is this expedition to Poland, to ask Nicolaus Copernicus for inspiration and help regarding the scientific nature of design. May this father of modern culture guide us and give us logic and acuity in our progress! On the other hand, we would like to ask Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin (or in French: Frédéric François Chopin) – born in the Duchy of Warsaw to a French father and a Polish mother, one of the fundamental artists of Romanticism and an absolute poet of the piano – to help us with the sentimental, emotional and artistic aspects of design. With these two excellent references from the world of science and art, we and the designers have at our disposal high quality models and compasses. They can help us in this creative adventure that consists, among other things, in understanding what happens today after eating the forbidden fruit!
A Gourmet Alphabet by Laurent Denize d’Estrées
WHEN WE READ a word made up of letters, the meaning of each letter disappears. Yet each letter is a symbol, a graphic sign carrying a phoneme or a group of phonemes. Letter symbolism concerns the alphabet as a symbol, in its capacity to represent analogically, to be interpreted, to carry meaning and values (in addition to the practical or material aspect). On the other hand, the symbolism of letters appears to be pure delirium to those who insist on the arbitrariness of signs. Thus, St. Augustine, in On Christian Doctrine (II, 24), condemns what he sees as superstition: “The letter X, for example, which serves to mark the number ten, has a different meaning among the Greeks than among the Latins; a meaning which it derives, not from its nature, but from an arbitrary convention; and he who, knowing these two languages, would write to a Greek, would not use this letter to express his thought in the same sense as if he were writing to a Latin. ‘Beta’, in the same pronunciation, is the name of a letter among the Greeks; and among the Latins, that of a kind of beet.” IDE, thanks to the beautiful complicity of Marc Bretillot and Laurent Denize d’Estrées, wanted to imagine an alphabet that would identify their culinary and design experiences. A “graphic symbiosis” of the countries visited through the ingredients or methods used to create, not a series of phonetic letters, but strongly drawn signs to mark each experience like a seal, leaving only the Eye and the Mind to understand. No sound, no accent, no territoriality interfere with the reading – the imagination is the key to reading. It is a visual treat before tasting the proposed dish with all one’s senses. Robert Czerniawski beautifully realised our IDE vision.
Fast paced by Eimear Ryan
I WAS DELIGHTED to take part in IDE Poland from the beginning and indeed it did not disappoint. A unique experience for which I did not have many expectations, it was fast paced, extremely enriching, and has changed my way of seeing things in my work going forward. We lived like a family and formed dear friendships, which in turn shaped our other experiences as we discovered Poland together, its history, food culture and lovely people. As time passed and we further sampled Poland’s culture, I began to feel certain similarities between my home country, Ireland, in the food, humour, and spirit for resourcefulness and reinvention, which I found to be both comforting and intriguing when it came to the project and what we wished to create together. The atelier experiences were electric, a real exchange and collaboration, as we each pushed our own and each other’s usual working methods with the hope of creating something special. Drawings and deliberation were kept to a minimum, the design “decisions” were improvised and often made in the moment between the designer and the ceramist. I felt our time there to be a constant frenzy of learning, laughing, intense moments, introspection, observing, trial and error, with some leaps of faith towards the end. I think we were all truly shocked by the result, by the number of pieces, the variety of approaches from each designer. It was clear to see that they all still had something in common, but hard indeed to explain. I will take many many things from this experience and what I learned in Poland, but mainly I will remember the people and how they have positively shaped me.
Modernise traditional Zhuo Qi
IT WAS MY FIRST TIME visiting Poland, so – especially as a designer – I expectantly tried to see what was happening in this “new” country. As in many other European cities, Warsaw is composed of the ancient and the modern. Thanks to the IDE project, we were given the chance to both visit Polish ceramic artisans and taste traditional and innovative Polish cuisine. When it comes to the former, I deeply experienced a passion for innovation from young designers and artisans in Warsaw. They all told me: we are a new country. They are very open and friendly to designers from different cultures, and eagerly want to communicate and cooperate, hoping that this cooperation between different cultures will collide with new design works. At the same time, some craftspeople are also attempting to discover what Poland was like historically and what was “made in Poland”. In this way, they are trying to modernise traditional Polish craftsmanship. My own research focuses on what the thoughts and expectations of people from post-socialist countries are. I am from China and go to Germany frequently, part of which was also once a socialist state. When we visited Poland during the IDE project, I kept reflecting in my mind on the differences between these post-socialist territories. What do they have in common? What are the impacts and influences of the history of socialism on people’s aesthetics, education (including their pursuit of design) and their attitude towards food? I created a series of “designs” in Poland after visiting restaurants in Warsaw and other Polish cities, experiencing life in Poland, making many Polish friends, and getting to know their feelings.
Modern cuisine in Poland by Marc Bretillot
FROM ONE TREND TO THE NEXT, it comes and goes, banned one day, then in the spotlight again the next. This is the law of the fashion industry, but what about culinary trends? It’s more or less the same waltz, but slower, more societal, more impactful... After the common agricultural policy at the end of World War II, more productivity, more chemistry, more machines... less farmers, we stupidly find ourselves as sick and fat as sweaty lardons, soda chips and double cream triple sugar ice cream, packed with marketing and plastic and paper and petrol to pollute everything. Poland, which in its history has not escaped much from the throes of Europe, has escaped by itself from the destructive capitalist model for the nutritional and environmental quality of food. It’s modern, in fact, at the cutting edge – who would have thought it! Eating lacto-fermented vegetables that are good for your health, preserving food using ancestral techniques of smoking and salting that do not require the energy of industrial refrigeration... A whole toolbox of common sense, know-how, taste, food-producing agriculture, culture. What we, infused with wealth, took for granted as a degrading, old-fashioned disaster, is now a model of necessary and joyful sobriety. A new generation of Polish chefs is reappropriating this, with the help of innovative culinary techniques, to offer a cuisine that is both identity-based and resolutely modern. Even if there is still work to be done to organise it all, we can bet that the country will become a future El Dorado, if awareness is gained of the precious wisdom present there. Our IDE road trip offered us some nuggets of succulent caviar, excellent organic farmhouses, virtuosos of cheese production, avant-garde restaurants, the list goes on…
Beauty in ugliness by Miska Miller-Lovegrove
“WHAT IS COMMONLY CALLED UGLINESS in nature can become something of beauty in art.” Auguste Rodin Beauty has been historically associated with order and harmony, many philosophers have identified ugliness with disorder and disharmony. An ugly thing may have its appeal, at times may even be beautiful. The great Australian-born philosopher Samuel Alexander argued that ugliness is an ingredient of aesthetic beauty, much like discord in music or the horror of tragedy. Such ugliness, he claimed, is a “difficult beauty”. For me, returning to Warsaw – my home city – after so many years away, was like travelling in time. Warsaw, the city of old-world charm that was reduced to rubble by Nazi Germany, has been reborn twice since then. First it became an example of socialist city planning, rising in the post-war era as a rather drab and grey embodiment of an oppressive communist rule. But almost three decades of post-communist economic growth have produced a booming vibrant city of unchecked ferocity, modern glass architecture, cutting-edge museums, and revitalised historic buildings. Each time I visit Warsaw, a lingering sense of beauty and ugliness come to mind. My memory of the city was one full of the wounds of a tragic past: damaged, destroyed, dilapidated, run-down houses, uneven pavements, bullet marks on buildings. When I moved to London in my 20s, I was taken aback by the incredible variety of colours and shapes in the streetscapes, the advertising and consumer goods. The capitalist world was technicolour, mobile and free, while socialism was a smoke-ridden grey, concrete, and very much totalitarian. With time we have all realised that the colourful world of consumer goods and advertising is somewhat shallow, wasteful and unsustainable; that there is huge potency in seasonal local products, bio-rich organic production and clear skies. For me, the imperfection, the certain roughness and obscurity of Warsaw, were only on the surface – real beauty persevered and thrived in its people, food and culture. A parallel metaphor for beauty in ugliness are mushrooms. Often considered ugly, deformed and muted, but such a tasty delicacy, rich in organic shapes and extremely useful if not vital for the whole ecosystem. Mushrooms – fungi – are all around us, in the soil, in our bodies and in the air we breathe; they are often too small to be seen with the naked eye. As we now know, they provide great health benefits, are a rich source of sustenance and even contain magical properties. They are central to the natural world, acting like a transport network that carries memories and nutrition to the plants and trees around them. According to the first large assessment of the state of the world’s mushrooms, the fungal kingdom is vital to life on Earth. There is incredible beauty in ugliness. You just have to know how to notice and see it – and, of course, you have to keep looking.
Partnership by Anka Simone
WHEN PLANNING IDE TO POLAND and putting together the expedition programme for the IDE team, it was crucial for me to showcase the rich historical, cultural and culinary climate in the country and to provide our international guests with the most authentic and local experience. I believe Poland has so much to offer – and our partnerships proved it. I sought to provide an engaging environment in which the designers could learn and where they could use their time to dive into contemporary Polish culture as well as its old traditions – to fully grasp the essence of Poland. I am confident in saying that those experiences, lessons, stories, encounters, conversations, laughs, all found themselves and speak radiantly through the objects designed during the stay in the country. I am beyond happy and proud to have witnessed the success of this cultural exchange, guaranteed by the professionalism and innovative thinking of the IDE team and our partners. We wanted to provide a network of people and businesses that would be convinced by our project, share our ideas and drive for creation, while also understanding IDE’s larger vision and ambition. In choosing partners, we aimed to find connections that would benefit from and appreciate putting different people and cultures together. We are very fortunate to have had the chance to work alongside cultural institutions, such as the Adam Mickiewicz Institute (which aims to develop worthwhile encounters by initiating international cooperation and cultural exchange in Poland) and the team from the French Institute in Warsaw. It was our pleasure to collaborate with Antoine Azaïs, Director of Epoka restaurant, Thomas Brugnatelli (thanks to Marta Mauberg’s introduction), General Manager of the Raffles Europejski Warsaw hotel, Andrzej Szumowski and his wonderful team at the Polish Vodka Museum, Agnieszka Jacobson-Cielecka and Arkadiusz Szwed from the School of Form, and Autor Rooms, which the IDE designers called home for six weeks. We are incredibly grateful to the many many more inspiring people who helped us throughout the expedition. Each partnership was of mutual interest to both us and the organisations, museums, restaurants, schools, hotels, and many other private initiatives. We created friendships and professional relationships that continue to grow well beyond what we would have expected. We were extremely lucky to have had a diverse range of partners, who were ready to trust us and provide the very best experience of Polish hospitality. During the Poland expedition we were yet again generously supported by our previous patron, the Fondation d’entreprise Martell which has encouraged the IDE initiatives from the very beginning.
Something happened by Goliath Dyèvre
AGREEING TO GO ON A RESIDENCY in Poland with the IDE team was a risk. A risk because it meant leaving the “sacred” principles of the design project behind. Act fast, create fast, produce fast, not in the mechanical sense but in the human sense of the term. To be in workshops, to produce almost without any preparation, as close as possible to the craftsman’s methodology. That’s what it meant and it didn’t suit me at all. But I think of myself as curious, since I like to discover where life can take me, so I went anyway. And something happened. Being in the workshops and seeing the production process was thought provoking; something began to move inside me. Observations that become intuitions, intuitions that turn into experiments. And these experiments have the status of objects without really being projects yet. Entering craftsmen’s workshops allows us to be close to the processes and to see what is usually not seen. IDE is therefore an experience that is lived – and this experience shows that one cannot understand everything only from one’s own design studio, that one must go out, must see, must learn to see that a detail can be the source of a project that is larger than the detail from which it comes. There is also the encounter with another country, a history and a particular story. The encounter with Poland was a shock, so to speak. A history that was horrifying, often more violent than that of other nations. Here, too, the idea of evoking an unknown culture in a project, of appropriating this culture in such a short time, seemed illegitimate to me. In reality, we are not here to give a lesson, we are here to bring a simple and direct external view of a raw understanding. Like a child who can draw objects. The Polish men and women that I met, instead of taking umbrage, encouraged this approach. IDE is therefore an experience that surprised me. They took me by the hand and brought me on a tour of a country, sat me at a table, showed me skills, and then told me to hurry up! I hurried, because time is an important component of this residency. One month is not much, very little, but in reality it gave an energy that pushed me to work differently and ultimately to know myself better. IDE is therefore a whirlwind, a whirlwind that takes you away from home. And when you accept that you don’t know where or how you will land, you relax and really enjoy the journey!
A kind alphabet Robert Czerniawski
AS SOON AS I RECEIVED THE PROPOSAL to provide graphic design for the IDE to Poland expedition, I joined the project at a lecture on the history of Polish cuisine at Villa Intrata in Wilanów. Suddenly, I found myself in a distinguished group of very interesting people originating from many countries – united by living in Paris, creating industrial design, and consuming innovative culinary experiences. As I took part in extraordinary tastings at traditional and renowned restaurants offering Polish cuisine and listened to lectures on culinary history, I wondered how I could relate to it all and combine it with my graphic explorations. After all, I had initially planned to only design a poster. In a conversation with Laurent d’Estrees and Marc Bretillot about the transience and subjectivity of taste experiences, the idea of creating a kind of alphabet – an “alphabet of flavours” – surfaced. I picked up the idea immediately. It just so happened that not long before, I had created fonts and custom lettering as part of identification projects for housing developments – both for wayfinding and for decorative murals on walls and fences. While visiting an exhibition at the Vodka Museum in Warsaw, I showed Laurent and Marc the cover of a magazine from 1974 designed by Wolfgang Weinart, with its abstract typography. To my delight, both guys looked impressed by the cover, which immediately reassured me that we would be able to combine tradition with a bit of avant-garde in the project. Across the next few days and during wonderful trips to Mazovia and Warmia-Masuria, to unusual vineyards, sturgeon farms and cider factories, the idea became clearer and clearer. The international IDE community from China, Italy, France, England, Ireland and Poland, complemented by the northern wilderness of Poland, reminded me of my ancestors from Sejny and Grodno – before World War II, these cities were a melting pot of many cultures and religions. It turned out that the letters of our alphabet would be a combination of different letters from words in several languages, describing the most popular dishes in France, Italy, Poland, etc. It reminded me of the structuralist game of constructing narratives, according to a rigour often hidden from the reader, by writers from the Nouveau Roman novel movement in France. Like the letters of alphabets that we find exotic, the letters of a new unfamiliar alphabet would draw attention to the phenomenon of the sign, or – as Roland Barthes put it in The Empire of Signs – the beauty of the form itself. They would enable many new mysterious connotations and the creation of new, liberating cultural myths. I remember discussing this with Laurent d’Estrees, Pierangelo Caramia and Jill Silverman van Coenegrachts one sunny morning in the courtyard of an inn in faraway Warmia. It was then that Jill – an incredibly warm and welcoming person – told me with a smile, referring to my meditative search, that it was a moment of illumination.
Multifaceted experience by Dariusz Kołodziej
THE IDE PROJECT that settled in my studio was a wonderful, multifaceted experience. The work started innocently enough, but day after day, as we got to know each other better, the ideas that arose in the minds of Mathilde, Eimear and Goliath began to take on an increasingly real form. Starting with sketches, technical drawings and 3D printing projects, we then began to work on real objects. Each artist worked in a completely different manner. In Mathilde’s case, the objects were created very dynamically – we created them “live”, so to speak. With a simple drawing and her great eye for proportion, Mathilde knew exactly how she wanted the object to look. Eimear, who creates objects using 3D printing on a daily basis, came up with designs that were quite difficult to translate into the language of ceramics. Geometric, sharp shapes do not bear up to this medium, but through compromises and some alterations to her designs, all her goals were achieved. Goliath was very precise in defining his designs and was not afraid to experiment. He reached for more and more new tools and used them in his own way. Collaborating with such different personalities and working styles gave me great energy and made me realise how much can be achieved if you have an open mind. New elements of the target works were created every day by simply playing with clay, which was wonderful and liberating. In the flurry of work, we also found time to learn how to turn on the potter’s wheel. Each participant had the opportunity to try this technique, turning it into another fantastic experience. Their concentration on their work and the completion of the various stages of the projects released a kind of “childlike” joy in learning about the new. Seeing the smiles on their faces gave me the feeling that I was succeeding in my task. Of course, we also found time to get to know each other better. The friendships and relationships we established while working together brought us all closer to one another. We were also able to relax, talk about what we were doing and share our plans. Those moments made me realise that we all love what we do, and that what we do gives us great joy. The month we spent together was not just about intensive work, but also about getting to know each other. Those experiences created a bond between us. The sheer memory of the event brings a smile to my face. It was certainly one of the most valuable experiences in my career. Different people, with different backgrounds, at different stages of their project paths, and yet we found something in common, a wonderful thing that I would not hesitate to call friendship. I think that each of us, to some extent, shares my feelings. It was a great time and I am immensely happy to have been part of the IDE project.
The raw and the cooked by Pierangelo Caramia
PRAISED BE YOU, my Lord, through Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste. Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night, and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong. Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces varied fruit with coloured flowers and herbs. (1) Water, Fire, Earth, Air, the elements for which Saint Francis sings praises to God are the protagonists of the encounter and challenge between archaic man and nature’s elements. Man has become ‘adult’ and creator when he learned to manipulate the earth, the stone, when he was able to dominate fire and tame water. Man touched the earth, manipulated it, shaped it and adapted it to his needs with water’s help. Then he was helped by fire and water which he had now tamed, to cook earth after drying it, and created terra cotta. And Man, that already for long fostered intimacy with raw earth for a long time, began to surround himself with objects in ‘cooked’ earth, useful to its daily life, and made by him. To feed, Man moved from raw to cooked and, beyond the pleasure to experience food with his mouth, Man learned the pleasure to manipulate it first with his hands, to experiment kneading it, slicing it, overlaying it, and to explore the shapes, textures and colours of his dishes. Raw and cooked food, raw and cooked earth, thanks to fire and water, have always been closely related in the history of Man. The designer who today will be able to venture deep into this relationship will find himself in a land of dense and archaic thought and creation in which the designer nowadays still has things to experiment and tell. By finding himself in proximity with the origin of these ancient and fundamental things, I’m convinced that the designer and Design can only give the best of themselves.
Emotions and culture links by Lili Gayman
THE IDE EXPEDITION offered a two-month total immersion, working disconnected from our daily lives and obligations. We three designers began by discovering the region in its many facets which penetrated us to a maximum. Visiting food markets and flea markets ; tasting local flavors in restaurants, canteens, cheese cooperatives, bakeries, and kitchens ; visits which produced drawings inspired by archaeological museums, palaces, churches, forts ; walks in the countryside, through ancient olive groves and plantations of fig trees ; escapades along the rocks and sandy coast line beaches ; pausing in the whitewash painted villages, Baroque towns, exploring the regional architecture of the Trulli, the Masserias. During the trip, students, craftspeople, producers, restaurateurs shared with us their local customs, precious stories and their private and candid points of view about their region. In parallel, we discovered harassing heat and a rhythm of life associated with this ; we learned to enjoy the intense natural light that sublimates the red earth and silvery olive trees throughout the day. The IDE expedition invited us to highlight this territory of Puglia, by questioning local traditions to create objects conveying a geographical, historical and cultural context. In a world where everything moves too fast, where meaningless objects accumulate, it was important for me to borrow from different cultures and civilizations to create objects bearing emotional and cultural links, carrying an inheritance between past and present. Having been used to working as an independent designer, I make creative choices alone. This trip was an opportunity to work in a group. With Marta and Sarngsan, we managed to generate a rich group emulsion, in a rhythm often intense and almost uninterrupted. Focused on this new environment, we conducted a collective reflection, crossing our eyes, our practices and sharing our ideas. We have discovered together different places, shared our documents, inspirations, pictures, palettes, samples, our collection of kitchen utensils, and we brainstormed together... Mathilde and Pierangelo have brought me a lot. Our discussions allowed me to go further in my proposals and to bring more character. By targeting some of my drawings, I was able to develop an animal collection, a personal track revealing my understanding of Puglia. From the beginnings to the realization of the prototypes, we also worked in close collaboration with the craftsmen whether it was earth (clay) or paste (for bread or pasta). Working with them meant being carried away, knowing how to modify our drawings directly on the potter’s wheel or on the kitchens’ work surface, trusting the craftsman’s gestures, their technical experience, their experience of form, decor or taste. Accepting the unexpected and the random, a very rewarding experience.
Freedom by Marta Bakowski
IDE IS A JOURNEY that invites a work of translation, and pushes the designers as well as the craftsmen out of their comfort zone, while challenging their established methodology and creative reflexes. This project came as a moment of intense freedom in which most of the ingredients were gathered to allow a fully immersive, collective and cultural experience. Amongst many other images, Puglia could be defined by its archaic landscapes made of old tortuous olive trees covering the infinite red lands divided by irregular dry stone walls and punctuated by folk, lime-covered Trulli constructions. Its identity is also strongly rooted in its local products and cuisine, wonderful in its rusticity, simplicity and honesty. In this region, what could be perceived as rudimentary is in fact a fantastic demonstration of authenticity. Puglia is a place stripped off from the superfluous, an invitation to go back to what is essential. It is that notion of ‘primitiveness’, that I understood as something that is ‘at its origin’ ; something that speaks about what is ‘elementary’, ‘positively naïve’ and ‘unsophisticated’ that nourished my research and constructed my design response during the entire expedition. Our experience in Puglia took the practice further, as the time between the thinking and the making was drastically reduced. We hardly made any drawings or heavy conceptualization, as we started working straight from very primitive sketches to clay prototypes, letting the hand of the craftsmen follow uncertain silhouettes. But this is where I think the beauty of this experience lies : in letting the intuition do the work and the hands do the thinking ; in letting the ball of clay raise before your eyes, under the pressure of the craftsman’s fingers, and allowing yourself to say stop when the shape just feels right. In the end, the format that IDE took encouraged us to listen to our deepest instincts, leading to a series of objects that will remain as they were left : ‘straight from the oven’, unpolished and honest.
A lively couple by Marc Bretillot
CERAMIC & FOOD are a lively couple that trigger my sensibility as a culinary designer through the potential of multiple approaches : the origin, the earth that gives organic matter to ceramics, and its sub-strata to food production — thus feeding earth. The circular movement of a plate rising from the potter’s hands, and of the dough kneaded by those of the baker — the piece of meat roasted on the spit, licked by the flame from which the precious juice is collected in glazed pottery... CERAMIC & FOOD, two ancestral activities, distinct or intertwined, constantly revisited and always contemporary in that they touch our senses at their deepest aspects. To taste bread of sprouted wheat from fertile land, then pushed onto the oven’s floor made of baked earth itself, brings to our mouths a rough terra cotta bowl filled with milk reminiscent of the maternal breast. We met each other, we reoganised each other We lost sight of each other, over and over again We refound each other, we separated, then we kept each other warm.
Things take shape by Sarngsan Na Soontorn
I AM GLAD to be part of this first expedition. The launch always has a pioneer nature and this is what I like — the freshness, the adventure, the risk, the doubt, the courage, the tenacity, the ambition, the ideology, the practicality, the adaptability — all while confronting the chaos, the intelligence and wit while facing the uncontrollable and the unpredictable, the tension, the fatigue, the stress. This tests the maturity of our IQ, EQ, QC, ICU, IDE, etc. It is very lively. While living the expedition and being able to witness its setting-up and its organization, everything is stimulating. Seeing things taking shape is valuable learning. The not — settled — yet conditions brought all participants closer together. It created mutual and intimate relations and sometimes friction, which gives us all a chance to contemplate human nature and appreciate professionalism. All of this enrichs the ongoing reflection. The idea of my work evolved from finding associations that made sense between contemporary use and historical resources — technics, forms, stories, meanings, etc. but in addition to this, the very important aspect is that time was short and there was a lot to get through. The development was like ping pong with only one ping and one pong. The ping had to be swift, smart and soulful so that the pong would give a good surprise. Quite a challenge. The pieces, not only mine, were bathed with the immediacy, spontaneity and liveliness. New colleagues, new friends, new rhythms, new rules, new works. The moment I was back into my place after the residency, I felt like I was away, far away, for a years. It was actually not even two months and was in a country next door. The experience was very rich and intense. Happiness and pain blended. Frustration and joy alternated. All were very concentrated and superposed, being designer, father, learner, teacher, husband, housemate and human being. From where I am, we should learn to be like ‘water’. From here I added ‘sii agile come l’argilla’ (same quality but with a bit more of self-solidification, so to speak). Thank you very much International Design Expeditions for this chance to join the ship.
Amazing outcomes by Pierre Balsan
I FIRST visited Puglia with Mathilde, Jill and Pierangelo in the summer of 2018 when I discovered the richness of its Craftsmanship along with the craftsmanship of its agricultural bounty. A year later, when I came towards the end of the Expedition in Puglia, I was completely taken by surprise with the amazing outcome of the 6 weeks when our designers, under the leadership of Mathilde and Pierangelo, managed to show over 50 exciting prototypes. My mind was racing through the multiple opportunities for business development created by IDE. Whether it is coffrets combining Olive Oil and ceramic tasters and containers or unique vases and carafes such as the Pupa, the Holly Fish series or Ucello, the IDE creations will encounter great success with consumers in Asia and in Europe. The Puglia expeditions set a very strong precedent for the coming expeditions in Poland, China, France and elsewhere.
The meeting point by Valentina De Carolis
A PROJECT which started with the first expedition taking place in Puglia, concentrated in a set period of time ; needed capabilities to listen, to dialogue and discuss in order to reach the goals, which could be achieved only by the quality of the collaboration between the engaged makers and the selected designers. Together, they realized new products for the CERAMIC & FOOD program, coordinated by the IDE team with international experts. To be open-minded and cooperative in order to gain reciprocal benefit on both cultural and production points of view, was an important challenge. Design new products inspired by the understanding of the territory, its production and Savoir-faire, as well as men and women behind it : this is IDE methodology. During the expedition, the design experience starts with the discovery of the region, live there, explore the landscapes, learn about rituals and rhythms which tune daily life. Design operates as an interface between Puglia, its characteristics and traditions and a group of professionals who meet in this part of the world. Each of them carries its own luggage of culture and experience, aiming to Design new objects which go far beyond the expression of a local identity. The aim is to design and produce objects which can be appreciated worldwide through IDE distribution network, objects carrying the idea of this mix of culture, customs and traditions linked to food and ceramics. For this reason, we worked with the ceramists of Grottaglie, renowned for its ceramic production of the highest quality and a selection of the best food producers of olive oil and baked goods, based in neighboring towns of Fasano, Cisternino and Ceglie Messapica. IDE’s program is in fact orchestrating this meeting point, and generating a positive short circuit both, on cultural and economical grounds. Design is a creative practice which takes into account all kinds of criteria in order to respond to functionality but also needs to create emotions ; a process which needs time and attention, as well as a shared vision for the partners and the designers to succeed in offering the right power to the international market.