A TALK WITH HELLA JONGERIUS
Tireless researcher and eclectic designer Hella Jongerius joined Mutina team with the launch of the new Diarama collection, clear expression of her passion and sensitivity for colour, the main subject of her researches and projects. During our meeting, we traced back the milestones of this ever-changing study, starting from its origins, going through the collaboration with Vitra, until coming to the one with Mutina, of which she revealed some details.
Your work on color is a constantly evolving research. Could you trace back its origin? What led you to take this path?
I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that, even watching at designers and color theorists’ work from the past, everything about color is led by isolated, very personal experiences. And this lack of objectivity is a blessing for me and my work. Furthermore, color binds together a range of important topics in life: the aesthetic value in art, the scientific research into our human perception, the philosophical questions on the words we use to address colors, the social and cultural relevance of color in our society… That’s what turned my curiosity on and made me start this intense research.
The book I Don’t Have A Favorite Color tells the story of a decade of research and experimentation resulted in the Vitra Color & Material Library. How has this work influenced your approach to color?
Color, texture and materials have always been important to my work, but in an instinctive way. The more I have studied it in this project for Vitra, the more interesting I have found it, and the more I realise I have to learn. In my approach, the personal reigns: I base my insights on intuition and personal sensation, as it’s my conviction that only thus can we take a meaningful step forward in creating new colors, and recreating the colors we lost in the process of industrial production.
Color is one of the most subjective and ever-changing elements that exist in nature: it changes according to the light, the forms, the materials and not least to the person observing it. It must not be easy to study its characteristics and above all put it in an absolute catalogation. In the case of the study done for the Vitra Color & Material Library, did it ever occurred arriving at an outcome that you subsequently had to question?
Studying color is a never ending process. There’s no objectivity or stability, so it’s impossible to get to a complete conclusion, but that’s where its beauty resides. Even now, after all these years, I have so many questions I couldn’t give an answer. The Library as well, it’s like a living and growing organism. The internal structure of the color wheels keeps many options open, but there’s no room for thoughtless coincidences. If it will be recall into question, everything will be addressed consciously.
The collection created for Mutina is the result of a personal project that has been going on since 2015. Could you tell us how it has evolved?
After my first color researches, like the “Porcelain Color Research” and “Colored Vases” projects, I decided to do a study on ceramic tiles on my own. I used them like canvas, to see what happened if you had different bodies of colored clays and you put glazes on the top of them. I wanted to create a wide range of shades with a limited palette of clays and glazed colors by layering them, as it happened in early oil painting. Since it was my own initiative, at first it didn’t have a physical industrial outcome. I spent years with those tiles lying my studio, thinking: what does this product need to become? And then Mutina called. I believe I was waiting for that call, it was all in one. It was the right moment, the right company.
Were you surprised by the output of the collection?
Definitely. I was especially surprised by how it evolved in an industrial product and in its enrichment. During the design phase we discussed about the whole process, chose the body, slightly changed the shades… This made these tiles look even better than those that I did by myself years ago.
I have read that in your Berlin studio, under the windows, dozens of glazed ceramic tiles are positioned, to observe the effect of the changing light on each shade. In the case of the collection created for Mutina, how will the 12 shades interact with the light?
Actually, I haven’t thought much about it. Of course, the next level to experience the tiles is by seeing them on a large base, both horizontal or vertical, playing with light… but I can’t talk about it right now, because they haven’t been used yet. It’s like as if they’re colorful, but still. But I’m sure that, once they’ll be used, they will create more than just a colored surface.
The collection presents a chromatic complexity and above all a freedom of composition that leaves open numerous interpretative possibilities. In which environment would you see it better and in which shades?
What I really like about my work is that I don’t create an end result, but a tool that will be used by someone else to create settings and environments—or to cover a sofa, if it comes to my textiles. It’s no longer in my hands how the tiles will be combined and what effects they’ll create. I like the output to be a surprise, even to me. That’s why I just leave this imaginative task to interior designers.
The environments that we live every day change radically depending on the time of day. Chromatically, what attracts you the most, the brightness of the day or the darkness of the night?
I’ve always been curious about how the changing daylight affects an object’s hues and various kind of lights can render a color pale or saturate it. At the same time, as shown by the Colorful Blacks project, I’m also fascinated by dark shades, which still occupy just a small part of the industrial color range, but can offer a versatile range of subtle nuances.
Could you tell us a bit about the encounter with Mutina? What strikes you the most about this company?
I enjoyed working with Mutina. The team is professional, they love their work and really care about quality, which is very important to me. We share the same values and cultural references, and that’s what made the product so outstanding in the end. We did more than just creating a new collection.