One of my favorite feature stories of all time is in the February 2011 issue of Dwell. It's about the Brussels–based furniture designer Christiane Högner who makes all manner of smart, clever, winsome products out of industrial castoffs, furniture she finds on the street, and objects as disparate as her father's dress shirts to heaps of old sandbags. Her recycled design approach is quite inspiring, so I asked her a few questions about her process, and how we the laity might crib a few of her ideas.
What kind of advice would you give people when they come across something cool or inspiring but can't quite figure out what to do with it? Is there a series of questions you ask yourself as a designer when trying to figure out what to do with say a chair left on the street, or a bunch of old milk crates, or an abandoned basket?Take it or take a picture of it and glance at it from time to time. While squinting at it ask yourself and sense what aspect of it inspires you? Is it the materiality? the colors? or texture? is it a reference to something else? In which context do you want to see it? and surrounded by what? Don't forget to think with your guts instead of your brains!How important is it in your work to reimagine uses for objects? And how do you dream up what else they might be good for? Product design is two-edged for me, although I am fascinated by it, I think twice before going for an idea. At this point we can't neglect facts like shrinking resources and the impact production and consumption has on the environment. Re-using existing things will certainly not be THE answer to these problems, but it is one aspect of a changing behavior and it is a way that I like to occupy myself with. Next to that it is a particular concern for me to create awareness (also in myself) of what we have already, that sometimes not much is needed to live in an inspiring environment.Any advice to people who might want to work the way you do, or people inspired by our story on you on how they might do it themselves?Although we are exposed to heaps of information via media and the Internet--and inspiring work of others is just one click away--don't forget to look inside yourself! What is it that is really important to me? Which way of working gives me pleasure? And most importantly, peace of mind!