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Marlene Huissoud on Crystallized

Apr 2, 2017

Marlene Huissoud, showing at Spazio Nobile in Brussels until April 15, talks about her creative process and materials, and tells us where we can see her newest work during Milan Design Week.

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Text by Nadine Botha
Photography by Margaux Nieto / Courtesy of Spazio Nobile

Experimental designer Marlene Huissoud challenges notions of natural and artificial, raw and waste materials. Showing on the Crystallized exhibition at Spazio Nobile in Brussels until April 15, the French-born Britain-based designer talks to TLmag about her creative process and motivations.

How has your practice and philosophy developed since you graduated from Central Saint Martins’ School of Art and Design in 2014?

Since graduation, a lot of things have happened. I couldn’t have asked for more. After the degree show, I got good visibility in the press, and met one of my first galleries and my first collector. That gave me enough confidence to set up the studio. Of course, when you graduate you are a bit overwhelmed and don’t get all the business aspects right at first, but I was lucky enough to meet people I could trust and share ideas with. My philosophy hasn’t changed; I’m sticking to my bioresearch, always trying to push the boundaries of natural materials even more. My works get bigger year after year, which is something I’m very excited about. I don’t want to produce too much as I see my work as a statement of what is around us. When I want to make, I make, but I can’t force myself to do something that is not in my direction. I would rather spend eight weeks on a piece that evokes something in me than becoming a robot of my own practice.

How did you become interested in insect by-products as materials?

My father has been a beekeeper in the French Alps since 1975. I grew up with insects around the house, going for holidays in the woods with my family. I’m so grateful to have been able to discover the natural world when I was a kid; it definitely opened my mind and creativity. I studied at the École nationale sSupérieure des Beaux-Arts de Lyon in France before enrolling in the Material Futures Masters at Central Saint Martins’ School of Art and Design in London. I was curious to experience the London art and design scene, and the course seemed perfect to challenge everything I had learnt in France. We learnt a lot from different experts during the two-year programme thanks to tutors such as Caroline Till, Carole Collet, Kieren Jones and Nelly Ben Hayoun.

At Crystallized, you are showing a new piece from your Of Insects and Men project. Please tell us about the creative, conceptual and production process?

Of Insects and Men was launched at the Milan Design Week last year. I was interested in confronting the bee resin with glass offcuts. It is quite hard for people to see the honeybee resin as a natural material as it looks so fake, so glossy. The project is a celebration of those two discarded materials that have similarities but different properties. The bio-resin is used to bind the glass pieces together in sculptural alien-looking pieces. It is questioning and underlining the way we use materials now, and in the future. It is also considering how two waste materials, natural and industrial, can complement each other perfectly.

When Spazio Nobile commissioned me to design a piece for the exhibition, I wanted to give another dimension to the work, and proposed a mural piece. It opens a lot of new territories for my practice. Those pieces take quite long to make, about one or two weeks each. It is hard to determine exactly what the piece will look like before starting. I don’t sketch a lot as I like to be driven by the material itself; my practice is very intuitive and hands on.

What other works do you have on the Crystallized exhibition and how do they relate to your oeuvre, which seems to be somewhere between material research, craft and speculative design?

All my work is based in a crazy kitchen, looking at new ways of experimenting with bio materials. At Crystallized, you will find one of the first pieces of the From Insects collection – the Large Tree Vase – as well as one of the first pieces from the Of Insects and Men collection.

What are you doing in Milan this year?

My work will be presented at two shows. I will be showing a brand-new body of work at Spazio Rossana Orlandi. My work is also included on the IN RESIDENCE programme, the result of a magical workshop in Turin in October. Every year they invite six designers to be teamed up in pairs, who then develop a workshop with Italian students from Turin and Milan. A book reflecting on the workshop has been produced, which will be launched in Milan. This year is also their 10-year anniversary, and they have invited all the designers from previous workshops to think about the notion of a talisman as a contemporary symbolic object.

Season IV – Crystallized at Spazio Nobile, Brussels (BE), 23.2.2017-15.4.2017, www.spazionobile.com

Marlene Huissod. Photo: Trent McMinn
Marlene Huissod. Photo: Trent McMinn
Of Insects and Men n°1, mural piece, honeybee bio resin, discarded glass, 2017, unique piece data-height: 85cm, data-width: 70cm, depth: 25 cm, weight: 15 kg, unique piece. Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Of Insects and Men n°1, mural piece, honeybee bio resin, discarded glass, 2017, unique piece height: 85cm, width: 70cm, depth: 25 cm, weight: 15 kg, unique piece. Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Of Insects and Men n°1, mural piece, honeybee bio resin, discarded glass, 2017, unique piece data-height: 85cm, data-width: 70cm, depth: 25 cm, weight: 15 kg, unique piece. Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Of Insects and Men n°1, mural piece, honeybee bio resin, discarded glass, 2017, unique piece height: 85cm, width: 70cm, depth: 25 cm, weight: 15 kg, unique piece. Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Of Insects and Men n°6, sculptural vase, honeybee bio resin, discarded glass, 2017, Height: 48cm, Width: 50cm, Depth: 50cm. Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Of Insects and Men n°6, sculptural vase, honeybee bio resin, discarded glass, 2017, Height: 48cm, Width: 50cm, Depth: 50cm. Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Of Insects and Men n°6, sculptural vase, honeybee bio resin, discarded glass, 2017, Height: 48cm, Width: 50cm, Depth: 50cm. Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Of Insects and Men n°6, sculptural vase, honeybee bio resin, discarded glass, 2017, Height: 48cm, Width: 50cm, Depth: 50cm. Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
 From Insects, Large Tree Vase, honeybee bio resin, 2017, unique piece Height: 42cm, data-width: 16 cm, depth: 16 cm, weight: 2 kg, unique piece. Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
From Insects, Large Tree Vase, honeybee bio resin, 2017, unique piece Height: 42cm, width: 16 cm, depth: 16 cm, weight: 2 kg, unique piece. Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19
Installation view of Crystallized at Spazio Nobile until April 19

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