Do what you Love
OEO Thomas Lykke & Anne-Marie Buemann
BY ADAM MARELLI
Recently you finished a new showroom for the family run flooring company, Dinesen. The space feels more like a home and less like a showroom. Many people don’t think of floors as anything special because they are always under our feet. Could you explain how you elevated flooring from simple materials to a complete sensory experience?
It is not like we are rainmakers or anything – we just have a desire to make a difference to the people we work with.
When you are in a certain trade you tend to get tunnel vision. You limit yourself to certain opportunities or it can be difficult to create a compelling universe that communicates your inner values and qualities.
Talking about the material – in this case wood, it is all about the context in which you use the material. So back to your question – we found it interesting and challenging to create a complete, full embracing universe using the Plank (floor), and in this case elevating the floor to become a whole universe…subtle, sensory, tactile and emotional – by doing this we have created an experience that on an emotional level communicates the values of a Dinesen floor and why a Dinesen floor is more than a floor you walk on. A Dinesen floor is a statement as a Leica is to the Leica connoisseur.
Working with companies that have been passed from one generation to the next must be fascinating and challenging. In the past, craftsmen used to rely solely on quality. If it was “The Best,” someone would buy it. But today, quality is only one part of a more complex picture of success. Could you explain the facets of design which allow a tradition to survive?
It is an interesting question. I think that today the word quality has more layers to it than in the past – there is quality of the material, quality of skill, quality of authenticity, quality of communication, quality of aspiration etc.. Many layers that all have influence on the success of the product.
To highlight a few values – that are crucial for a tradition to survive:
- And it is about creating new, meaningful concepts that build on the legacy, with an inspired eye to the future and with a metropolitan feel to it instead of local – becoming aspirational to people.
As we are talking about craft we should treat it as so. Craft will never be about being a commodity – there are limitations to true craftsmanship in terms of production. So let’s stop thinking about making less expensive products that can be mass produced – that will never work for true crafts – in my personal beliefs it is more interesting to make less, but better and unique.
To quote Mies van der Rohe “Less is More.”
As the creative minds responsible for rethinking how a client will define themselves in the coming years, how do you find and select projects?
We meet our clients through our personal relations and we are recommended by people and clients via our network.
We get our next jobs through relations and we get picked for our passion, philosophy and different way of thinking, and for the experience we have gathered over the years. On top of this, we also get picked for our sincere interest in wanting to make a difference for the people we work with.
It must be very important to garner trust with your clients because most of them have relied on their businesses for generations. In addition to working with a number of impressive European clients, you have several projects running in Asia. Cross culturally, this is not always an easy jump. How do you build trust with clients and what roles do you play for them?
I think when you travel you should have an open mind – you are interested, adventurous, curious, and pay respect to the country you visit. I think the key to Japan is to be patient, observant, open minded, passionate; to pay respect to others and to have some modesty.
Can you tell us a little bit about how Japan Handmade came into existence? At one point you mentioned that the craftsmen in Kyoto wanted to expand outside of Japan, but there needed to be some changes in their approach. What did you suggest and how has it evolved?
The 6 members of what became Japan Handmade all have a long history – all are very proud companies with long traditions. From the first meeting we had with them – we wanted them to be successful – again communication plays a big role in success on the global market, and also you need to have the right product mix that sits in an international context.
We created the brand collaborative that we named Japan Handmade and we shaped individual product universes for each of the craftsmen that helped evolve their trade – specially targeted at the global scene for art and design lovers. This means we challenged the original brief where the companies just wanted to take their heritage products and bring them to the international market.
Craftsmen are famous for their fierce competitiveness, secretive natures, and often jealous tempers. In some cases, it has contributed to entire traditions collapsing. But with Japan Handmade there is a very diverse group, working together internationally to support each other. How was this able to happen?
First of all, they are all in different trades. Japan Handmade is today like one big happy family. We believe that united, you are stronger. The name Japan Handmade allows this collaboration, as all are equal – the result is much more powerful in communication and storytelling and relevance.
The members of Japan Handmade have become role models for a whole new generation of craftsmen and crafts companies all over Japan. I think that is the biggest achievement of all. They bring hope to the next generation.
Japan Handmade, called GoOn in Japan, has now become a part of the national school books as an example of crafts and tradition evolved to a modern context.
Design and art are often thought of as excesses or luxuries. But throughout history, all of our oldest relics are the things that civilizations have created. To the non-believer, could you explain why you feel like design is an essential part of the human experience?
I guess that is what makes us humans – not robots and not animals.
Personally, without art, design, poetry etc. I would die. It is what makes me happy, feel alive and at peace. Design is like all other arts; a way of expression and it is a powerful tool of communication.
At the forefront of all of your projects is a hands on feel, where clients and customers interact with design. What changes for people when they feel like they are part of the process? And how can design gently shape our lives?
The best design comes out of a collaboration between the designer and the maker – we like to create design that communicates on its own. Design has to come naturally and it has to feel natural.
Rodin used to say, “What is made with time, time respects.” In regards to the disposable lifestyles that emerged in the last fifty years…how do you feel that design can influence the way we make objects, spaces, and environments for the future?
The past shows us that good quality lasts – both in terms of material but also in solution. I hope that people will realize that the last 50 years of disposable lifestyle is not the way forward.
In the last few years, we have overlapped a bit in Japan. The Japan Handmade project was just starting when I set out to create “Lost Ceremony.” When we first met, it was like we already knew each other. What parallels did you see in our approaches to looking at and working with Japanese craftsmen?
I think we came with the same approach, passion and respect – you used the camera – we used the pen. I believe in synchronicity.
What is up next for the OEO team and when is our next drink together?
It is on our shelf of dream projects to do a hotel – a full embracing concept from the naming and smallest of details to the embracing experience you want the guest to feel and remember. And as for the drink – New York, Kyoto, Florence or perhaps Copenhagen
To learn more about Oeo visit them at http://www.oeo.dk
To see more of the Japanese craftsmen visit Japan Handmade: http://japan-handmade.com