Talking Botanic Psyche with Marlène Huissoud
Spazio Nobile’s upcoming Botanic Psyche exhibition reunites designers Marlène Huissoud and Marcin Rusak who both use nature as the material for their works
Until last year the designers Marlène Huissoud (FR) and Marcin Rusak (PL) shared a studio in London. Despite now living and working in separate countries, they continue to share similar attitudes towards their design practices. Both designers work research natural materials and use these as the main materials of their pieces, translating elements of nature into objects such as tables and lighting. Huissoud works with insects, primarily honeybees and silkworms, using their byproducts and production process to create limited edition pieces. She offers an alternative to industrial design process collaborating with nature in order to create. In a slightly different approach Rusak uses waste flowers and leaves infused with resin to create his sculptural furniture pieces, fascinated by ideas of ephemerality, values and aesthetics. The pair will be reuniting for a duo show at Spazio Nobile Gallery in their exhibition Botanic Psyche, starting on September 14 until November 18.
TLmag catches up with Marlène Huissoud to discuss her work and the upcoming show:
TLmag: How do you think sharing a studio with Marcin Rusak influence your work?
Marlène Huissoud: Sharing the studio with Marcin was a rich experience. We both graduated the same year in London and took different paths in our practices. We have been stronger together as it is important to be surrounded by people and to share your ideas, doubts when you have a studio. Being a designer, an artist is quite stressful at times as you have tight deadlines. So it is amazing to have colleagues on your side. We support each other a lot in the field as it is a small community at the end of the day.
How does it feel to come back together in the exhibition at Spazio Nobile after working in different countries?
It is amazing that our paths are meeting again. And I’m very happy to present different bodies of work I have developed in the past 5 years for the duo show.
Can you tell us about one piece in the exhibition that you are particularly excited about?
All the new Cocoon lights have been very exciting to make but also very complex. We had to be in contact with a lot of people to help us realize them and we had to experiment a lot before finding the right finishes to use. We created the varnish ourselves which we apply on the cocoon and it was challenging to find the right texture and to do it naturally but we managed as you always manage at the end!
Where did the idea/fascination with working with animals and their systems in your work develop from?
It all started with my family’s background – the French Alps, my father’s beehives, the Nature – and I guess a digestion all of that has created what I do now. I feel strongly connected to nature and I feel like I have a mission of protecting it and showing the beauty of the insect World.
The pieces seem to be memorials to the world of bees and silkworms, is the species increasing threat of extinction something you consider when making your pieces?
Definitely, no animals are harmed in the process of making my work. I take the leftovers from the insects. I’m really concerned about the vanishing of the bees and now I’m talking to associations to be more involved in research. I have started to have my own beehives with my father a few kilometers away from Paris this year. My work is here to celebrate the beauty of the insect world and bring an awareness of what is happening now in the Industry.
What has been the biggest surprise of working with silkworms and bees?
I enjoy a lot working with insects and the scale of their materials is very accurate with my work. You start with a small resource and then you get bigger and bigger to give a voice to those amazing materials. Of course, it takes forever to make a piece, but I see my work as a statement and I’m not producing a lot of pieces per year. I just make when I feel there is something to say. I do appreciate creating a piece that takes 8 weeks to produce. I do design for me first. When I feel something has to be made I will make it and seeing people touched by that is the most important thing for me. I will never make something to respond to a market or to target a specific customer just to make money.
What has been the biggest challenge?
There are so many challenges in my work in general.
I don’t set rules in my practice and I have no need to produce a lot and this comfort is an amazing feeling when you make. I would never want to be a factory of myself, I try to produce as little as possible.
I hate when people are like “WHAT IS NEW?” We, as artists, designers, are not machines, not robots. We need to feel when it is the time for us to make, there is a right time for every creation and nothing should be rushed for the design or art market. It is a very idealistic opinion but I don’t want to become a fool of myself.
For me, it is important that my designs evoke something strong in the way it is made or it is politically engaged with something happening around us. Especially today where the politics around the world are more and more dictated and obscure. Design and Art are the best tools to tell a story or to show something to a wide audience. It is like a language that you can manipulate to touch everybody and this is not only from a shape or a function but can be thanks to a smell and through a lot of different other ways.
It seems your job as a designer is connecting manmade elements such as metal legs to naturally created elements such as the beeswax resin, how do you see your role in the process of your designs? For example: Are you the facilitator of thousands of small designers or the link between human and nature? A material designer?
My role as a designer is to say something. I don’t pretend I can change the world but I think everybody can add something to the table, and just having your statement out there can have an impact. It is all about respect and being conscious of what surrounds us and how we make and why we make.
Botanic Psyche will be on display at Spazio Nobile Gallery, Brussels, from September 14 to November 18
Additional events include:
A conference of Marcin Rusak on September 12 at Flagey, Brussels
‘In conversation with Marlène Huissoud, Of Insects and Men’, on September 27 at Spazio Nobile, 7-9 pm
There will also be Sunday Brunches at Spazio Nobile on September 16, October 14, and November 18 from 12-4pm
Watch this space for an upcoming interview with Marcin Rusak