Le Journal Interviews

INTERVIEW WITH SWISS DESIGNER PHILIPPE CRAMER

INTERVIEW WITH SWISS DESIGNER PHILIPPE CRAMER

Philippe Cramer is a Swiss-American interior designer based in Geneva. He founded Cramer + Cramer in 2001 and now sells a range of exquisite furniture on ArtAndCollect. Cramer often plays on the crossover between art and design and has even had a solo exhibition at the Museum of Art and History of Geneva. He is considered one of Switzerland’s leading designers and has had his work featured in a range of publications including Elle Decoration and The Financial Times. Le Journal interviewed Philippe to find out more about what inspires him.

You come from a fine arts background, who is your favourite artist?

Thankfully, the world offers many options when choosing favourite artists. And to me, artists with very different means of expression can be part of that group. For example, I really love the concept of the Cadavre Exquis but also automatic drawing. I am as enthralled by a Flavin néon piece as by a Hieronymus Bosch grotesque and nightmarish landscape. More than one particular creator, it is the Pantheon of the great artists that have come before us that nourishes me.

Which artists have influenced your designs?

Brancusi. His quest for essence became the model for the minimalist that is part of my creative self. Furthermore, it is thanks to his work that I became aware of the link between an object and its environment. For instance, the question of placing a sculpture on a pedestal or not is of the utmost importance. There is no such thing as an object in itself: objects exist only when considered in a particular context. Actually, what I take to be the main element that distinguishes my work from traditional notions of design, is the very idea that objects are not just autonomous entities but should be seen as part of a whole.

Hans Arp. I admire the freedom of his forms. The contrast between the fluidity of his lines and his rather masculine choice of materials proved to be quite helpful when I was starting to develop my own artistic voice.

Max Bill. I am particularly fond of this Swiss artist and his pieces of furniture. His stool Ulmer˛ was my first encounter with design. He is also a rare example of a local designer, and one that felt free to create art as well as design or works of architecture. Like him, I do not believe in boundaries between mediums.

What else influences your work?

I get inspired by materials, fabrication techniques, codes of aesthetics, symbolism, and many dimensions that are part of the design process in general. That is why I am as comfortable designing a small hand-crafted ring as an industrially made sofa or even a prefab house. Each time I travel I find interesting visual details or fabrication techniques to borrow from, whether from a tiny market in India or a car plant in Detroit. Of course, nature is still the best inspiration. I enjoy visiting natural history museums, they are the most exciting treasure troves. I also collect books on all kind of details found in nature. Right now, I am studying geometrical patterns found in plants or bone. They give you wonderful insight on the best construction structures. I am also investigating microsturctures found on butterfly wings and beetle shells to understand colour refraction. I have explored crystal growth in the past and with a scientist specialising in nature-related algorithms, developed a 3D program mimicking the way crystals actually grow over millions of years. With this particular program we made virtual crystals grow directly on a ring like a structure on our computer, almost instantly, then manufactured them with a 3D printer.

Philippe Cramer
Golden Landscapes / Weisshorn, by Philippe Cramer, available on ArtAndCollect

Do you decide the material or design first? What are your favourite materials to work with?

I believe myself to be atypical in this business. First of all, not only am I a furniture designer, I also design jewelry, home accessories and interiors in equal measures. I work indiscriminately with wood, metal, ceramics and plastics using handcraft methods or industrial techniques or a combination of both.

I am just as open minded in my creative process. Some pieces will start from wax that I have personally hand carved, each being unique. Others will be born out of an intellectual concept forcing me to find new ways to materialise them into actual objects. But I also draw a lot on paper. My drawings often look like doodles when I start out with an idea. I let my hand be the guide. I firmly believe that this process, allowing for instinct and emotion to lead the creation of a new piece, is key in developing a product that will resonate with the inner self of the user.

What are some current trends in contemporary home design?

I tend to stay away from current trends. That is one of the reasons I have not visited the Salone di Mobile in some time, or any big commercial fair. Independence of thought is difficult when we are bombarded with beautiful images or products perfectly styled in a set up interior. We tend to be influenced by the hype and lose touch with our instincts. I see all the brass that is being used at the moment, as well as the pastel pinks and greens, white marbles, etc. But as we know, what is in in the present will be out very soon.

Which piece would you recommend most from your pieces on sale on ArtAndCollect?

The hand embroidered landscapes with gold thread on canvas are very special. They can take up to a year to be made as it is particularly hard to work with a metal thread and one has to pause often. We can only make two to three pieces a year. And the artisan I work with for these pieces is the last person that works in this very traditional technique. Soon, pieces like this one will be impossible to find.

Also, my Randogne sculptural lamps are considered to be part of my classics. Each one is different, by the colour or the shape, making each unique. They really are a bridge between a light and a sculpture, and evoke a humanoid shape, especially when in a group.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on a collection of pieces that incorporate leather. It will be the first time I will be working with this material and I am very excited as I am learning a lot along the way. I recently finished a few works in marble. This material is magical. I used a very special greek white marble that glitters depending on the way light falls onto it.

Philippe’s work can be purchased on ArtAndCollect here: Philippe Cramer