Uncovering the personality of materials–In conversation with Victoria Ledig
Industrial foam is elevated to beautiful, textured surfaces which one has never seen or touched before. Long rolls and small plugs of this material transform to rugs and a kind of flexible furniture which invite you to prod and cuddle them.
Elsewhere, the origins of leather are exposed through design, when every part of an animal's hide is employed for a range of leather accessories. Suddenly, the imperfect, the ugly, and ignored portions of animal hide are highlighted and used to create a poignant, almost living object of beauty.
These are stories of designer Victoria Ledig's work.
Victoria's work stands out for one simple reason- a personification of materials. She sees a personality in each material she works with, and through her creations, she empowers that personality. Often, she lifts a personality, and material, out from an ordinary existence, and redefines it.
There is a strong narrative to Victoria's work and approach to materials. This makes it a perfect start to our series on designers from the Form&Seek collective. Since early 2016, Victoria has showcased her work as part of a unique group of designers from all over the world–Form&Seek. After Via Ventura in Milan in April 2016, the upcoming London Design Festival in September will become a second opportunity for Victoria to exhibit her work as part of Form&Seek's diverse and well-curated collection of objects and products. What is more, Victoria's work, like the other designers', will respond to a larger theme that brings together the work of 35 Form&Seekers for this exhibition.
Recently, Victoria spoke to us from Taipei, Taiwan, where she is among a few designers selected for the prestigious Designers in Residence Program–a partnership between the cities of Eindhoven and Taipei. In this conversation with Victoria, she shares insights into several of her works, tells us about her journey with design and materials and gives us glimpses of her current and upcoming projects.
MD: Victoria, when we see your work, we feel that you describe the materials that you use in an almost human, personal way. Is that true?
VL: I do believe that every material has a personality and a set of characteristics.
That is what makes the material interesting. It becomes my aim to draw out these features through my work, but I also avoid forcing anything onto the material. I almost let the material design itself.
During my time at the Design Academy Eindhoven, this exploration was encouraged, and here much of the work was and continues to be material-driven. You could say that this approach to materials is part of my DNA then, owing to this experience.
MD: We love your collection of work with mirrors–Liquid Mirror–where you have added depth, play, and curiosity to the ordinary experience of looking into and touching a mirror. Imbuing a new materiality into existing materials appears to be a strong theme in your work, tell us about this.
VL: In ancient times, mirrors were never perfect. Often metals and even reflections in a pool of water served the purpose of a mirror. That history is what intrigued me.
Even today, mirrors are calibrated to have a certain effect–to make one look thinner, or taller. They never really tell the truth. This is something that I decided to play on.
I worked with transparent resin, which appears like liquid once applied, to alter the image of the mirror from something flat and sterile, to a dynamic, interactive experience.
MD: Victoria, tell us about ‘Softie Wanted’- a collection that you and designer Mandy Roos created together.
VL: In a previous project of mine, 'Soft Core', I had started to work with foam- to deform and bend it. I was drawn to foam for its industrial roots, but also because foam makes you want to reach out and touch it– squeeze and cuddle it.
For Softie Wanted, I wanted to deform foam in a much more refined way. I reached out to Mandy Roos, who is also fascinated with such materials and like me, with the "beautiful, the ugly and the awkward", and we created this collection. The result is a range of flexible items that serve as rugs, mats and furniture even, composed of varying sizes and shapes of foam which invite you to interact with them.
MD: Victoria, tell us about 'Precious Skin'- your work with leather.
VL: My first experience of working with leather, was an internship at the design department of a tannery. I saw that the leather that was used for products had to be perfect and belonged to only certain parts of the animal hide. I began to question where the rest of the animal (hide) went. So, for my graduation project at the Design Academy, I took those body parts which were not normally used in leather goods, such as the cow’s head, tail or lower leg and turned them into leather, highlighting their natural forms and textures. This leather was then shaped into bags accessories, calling attention to the leather's past, as a living being. I also wanted to create value from parts of the hide that are ignored and discarded.
I received tremendous response and reactions to this work, which inspired me to continue working on this. This became my first collection of leatherwork, created from industrially sourced raw material. For the second version (Precious Skin 2.0), I worked with local hunters in Sweden to acquire hide and leather.
MD: Tell us about your journey with Form&Seek so far.
VL: My relationship with Form&Seek began with showcasing work as part of the group, in Milan earlier this year. Arriving there and displaying my work alongside the others made for an exciting atmosphere. The entire environment of collaboration with Form&Seek is trustful and extremely supportive. I look forward to working with them further and to our presence at the London Design Festival.
MD: Victoria, tell us a little about what you are working on currently.
VL: Right now, while I am preparing for the London Design Festival, I am in Taipei, as part of the Designer’s in Residence program. Since coming to Taipei, I have been inspired by the efficient and hugely successful waste management and recycling practices here. Through my work here, I want to change the outlook to waste even more– to a viable design material.
I’m trying to find a new approach to waste, through design, and I hope that I will be able to engage a local population with my work through workshops and manuals perhaps.
Taipei was also announced as the World Design Capital this year, so really, this is a very exciting place for me to be.