From working in his grandfather’s workshop through to setting up his own studio, this Austrian furniture designer talks about his ideas and his interest in glass
Award-winning Austrian-born furniture designer and maker Alexander, aged 30, decided to move to London where he became a Designer in Residence at the CASS School of Design and set up his own studio in 2013. Believing in the natural beauty of materials, he’s always experimenting with his design process and developing his own design language at the same time.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your childhood and what you studied?
I grew up in Carinthia, a southern Austrian region in the eastern Alps. It’s a beautiful area, characterised by the mountains and lakes. When I was young, I spent a lot of time in my grandfather’s wood workshop tinkering about and helping out with small jobs, working on the details, which is why I now enjoy incorporating these ideas into my work.
What encouraged you to move to London from Austria?
Austria is a beautiful country, but quite small. I felt like I couldn’t express myself properly back at home and London was an exciting alternative. The capital offers amazing possibilities for culture, art, history and design, all of which inspire me and my work, and when I found a course that combined traditional and modern furniture making and design, I knew where I had to be.
Who or what is your design inspiration?
I’m strongly influenced by architecture and my surroundings. London’s galleries, buildings and museums offer inspiration and research possibilities. I tend to look for small, interesting details, juxtapositions and angular lines. I love an angle; I’m an organised person and need my surroundings to reflect that, and clean lines give rooms an order and calmness. Clean lines are referenced in my designs.
Above Dahlia collection, starting from £650; photo: Matteo Lavazza
How do you take an initial idea and progress it through to the design stages?
Once I have a rough idea for what I want, I sketch it and quickly move to the workshop to prototype it. It’s only through the tactile experience that I get a feel for proportions and ensure that all designs are functional. This is something I consistently try to achieve, as it helps develop my understanding of the material I’m working with. Once I’m happy with the prototypes, I re-sketch for the manufacturer, and then we discuss the best ways to make the pieces, select materials appropriate for the designs and try to reduce any material wastage.
What is it about wood that’s so appealing for you to work with?
Wood is a natural and timeless medium that can be worked with in so many ways. I still have to learn and try out, to achieve different styles. I am a solid wood guy, I personally don’t like working with veneers, as solid wood products are made to last. Wood, ash in particular, has been a constant companion on my journey to becoming a designer. When I was a student, for example, I used it to build prototypes and enjoyed working with it, despite people telling me that there are ‘nicer’ timbers to use. I feel like I understand how to work with ash and use it to its potential. Looking around the design world and the heavy use of oak or walnut just made me feel more confident to use ash for the Dahlia Collection to showcase its beauty, durability and strength. Not just from a machining point of view, but also the grain variations and capabilities of taking different finishes.
Are there any materials that you haven’t worked with yet that you want to work with?
I am constantly on the look out for new materials and mixed material combinations; I am really keen on working with glass, as I find it is a fascinating versatile medium which requires skill and material understanding.
Above C-Collection for Capsbury; photo: Yeshen Venema
How important is sustainability to you and to the future of design?
I think sustainability is very important in this case. As designers, we are responsible for the amounts of new products created, so the way they are made, materials used and packaging can all be designed and changed to offer more sustainable products.
Can you talk us through the ideas behind your new Dahlia collection?
Interesting details of buildings I pass by when walking around the city often form the inspiration for detailing on my designs, as in the Dahlia Collection, which features simplified lines inspired by little contrasting details I noticed in London architecture, such as drain pipes on buildings in contrasting colours, which give the houses interesting outlines and enhance the overall form.
Can you reveal what you have planned for the rest of this year and beyond?
Excitingly, I am working on a new collaboration and also working on ideas for London Design Festival in September. I am also in the process of potentially collaborating with my partner, who is a choreographer and theatre director, to combine furniture design with performed arts.
Article by: EKBB