Embracing Touch–The work of Marija Puipaite
By Purva Chawla
Many, many instances of design today– products, furniture, and spaces–claim to draw the bulk of their inspiration from the human body. Whether it is about catering to the needs of the body, providing nuanced comfort, or engaging and interacting with users–this relationship between design and the human entity is always highlighted in the narrative of these pieces.
What happens then, when this relationship between design, materials and the body is no longer just conceptually embedded, implied, or 'factored in' during making–instead it becomes physically obvious, apparent in the most organic of ways.
The work of Lithuanian designer Marija Puipaitė illustrates this scenario beautifully. Her works–in ceramics, glass, wood, metal and fabric–originate in the shapes and movements of the human body and carry the subtle imprints of the moments where man and materials touch. In this way, Marija’s work, especially her most recent collection of jewelry, becomes a natural, almost fluid extension of the human body, lessening and perhaps even erasing the sense of ‘other’ that one experiences when interacting with external objects.
This organic connection between an object and user originates in Marija's design process and signature approach to materials–one that resembles a ritual where all given factors, phenomena and coincidences lead to the final result.
Marija Puipaitė lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania. She received her BA degree in product design from the Vilnius Academy of Arts, before completing an MA in Contextual Design at the Design Academy Eindhoven. She currently works as an independent product designer for several brands, molds her design collections and works for prominent design exhibitions, and while playing the role of mentor at Vilnius Design College.
For Form&Seek’s ‘Age of Man’ exhibition, Marija will present her most recent collection ‘Embracing Touch, Jewelry’–A continuation of her MA graduation project from the Design Academy Eindhoven, called ‘Embracing Touch,' that she began in 2014. Maria says of this collection: “It is a jewelry collection marking certain body parts. Silver and bronze puddles ripple onto body landscapes. The goal of this collection was to hone in on commonly fitting shapes, so that large pieces can sit comfortably, as an extension of the body.”
From wood, plaster, and resin in furniture pieces that express the presence of the designer in them; to intuitive hand-held ceramics, and to wax cast bronze and silver jewelry now–Marija’s 'Embracing Touch' project has evolved tremendously since 2014 and encompassed different materials and product types. Interestingly, Marija's commissioned work–as varied as fabric accessories, shoes, and ceramics–bear the same quality of human imprint, and using the human body as both a tool and motive for the shape and function of a design object.
Recently, we spoke with Marija, to learn more about her Embracing Touch project, her efforts for Milan Design Week, and her relationship with materials.
MD: The theme ‘Age of Man’ represents our relationship with the environment and our age. How does this idea express itself in your work?
Marija: I am fascinated by how we have managed to master the resources and materials of the earth; how much we have developed the ways of crafting and giving meaning to the material world. I spend the most time thinking about the intimate connection between our bodies and the non-living environment–how we build this bond, and at what point it becomes a part of us. This fascination, and in a way interpretation of the 'Age of Man', express itself in my work, and how it is created.
MD: What are the materials and techniques you have used to make 'Embracing Touch, Jewelry'?
Marija: This collection is made from cast silver and bronze, using wax forms melted under body heat. Before casting in metal, I worked with wax that is usually used in dentistry. It is perfect to work with because it is soft, thin and takes the shape of the body by melting at low heat. Since the jewelry is cast this way, from the touch of the body, there is also the possibility of personalization here.
MD: Your work relies on an intimate and organic connection with materials to generate its form. What are the materials you have enjoyed working with in the past, and are experimenting with at the moment?
Marija: I used to experiment with wood a lot before. I saw a beautiful connection between the working hand and the surface of the wood itself. After all, we are naturally attracted to touch a wooden surface. Recently, however, I have gravitated towards clay and metals. I see a technological complexity of here, and a full range of possibilities to experiment with.
I also really love the idea of working with precious metals, because while creating an object, one never destroys the material, and it is never finished–it can always be remelted, recast, and raised to a new life. I see some universal truth in this endless process.
MD: How does this work relate to the ‘Age of Man,' in the sense of its impact on the earth?
Marija: In the same way that I look for timeless issues to capture in my work, I also choose long-lasting, ‘rich in themselves’ materials. It’s not just about being sustainable, but also appreciating objects, feeling respect for the materials, and keeping them for a very long time. In a way, I probably believe in the energy and power that resides in different elements.
MD: Tell us about your involvement with Form&Seek and how you feel about this unique collaborative of designers.
Marija: Milan Design Week 2017 is going to be my first time showing work with Form&Seek. I’m very excited and feel honored. Form&Seek is a great initiative that all independent, rising designers crucially need. It’s about sharing your experience, creating a priceless network of people and being seen and heard together.