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Beau Bertens and Eline Ceelen are two keen Dutch designers behind the moniker Vowel. In 2012, they started their creative collaboration in hopes of building a new visual language system. Their focus is on creating their own language, which makes use of design as a medium to express their ultimate message. We had an in-depth conversation with them in order to explore their unique world and to gain more insight on what lies beneath it.

We know that you both work in different design fields. Would you like to tell us more about your individual jobs?

We both have a background in design. After our studies at the art academy we put our skills into practice, Eline as a textile designer and Beau as a graphic designer.

How and when did you meet?

We met at the art academy back in 2008. At that time, Beau studied at the department of visual communication and Eline at the fine arts department. We noticed that we had a shared interest in artists, art movements and subjects.

What experience from your individual paths did you draw from and bring to this innovative and unique partnership?

After the academy Beau moved to Amsterdam to work for different design studios. Eline moved to Ghent to specialize in textiles and material research by completing a Master’s program in textile design. By mid-2012, we started to give a more concrete form to our connection. We both felt the need to work on a more interdisciplinary level so we started our collaboration under the name Vowel.
Vowel gives us space to develop our own thoughts and concepts freely.

On your website, you claim:Vowel aims to create its own system to construct a new kind of visual language where the definitions lie in the eye of the beholder. Would you like to further explain to us what is behind Vowel and what the ultimate message you wish to deliver through it is?

One of the subjects that really interests us is language and how language translates perception into meaning. Words give meaning to the things that surround us. We humans have the urge to order and place everything,it's in our nature to hunt the unknown and solve mysteries so the world becomes understandable.Therefore, we created language to make sense of things.
But the question that interests us is: do those words, symbols phrases and signs really capture the things that surround us? Or are they just a metaphor for something greater. Maybe words don't capture what things mean. Do we all observe objects and events on a different level? This interest challenges us to rethink, invent and create our own language in both word and image. Using everyday knowledge in fields of science, philosophy, and archaeology as a reference and starting point. This is the concept behind the digital archive we created.

In your collection OCTA you transform waste materials and foundlings into precious hand- made pieces. Tell us more about this collection.

OCTA consists out of eight wearable objects. These are the result of material research, through which we wanted to reconnect non-valuable materials of everyday objects and construct new forms out of them that present themselves in a new context
For example, we used rubber bands from vacuum cleaners, heating tubes, iron wire, biking locks, heat shrinks, industrial cords and other materials found on construction sites. With the use of loose connections as a technique, we combined those materials to make limited edition, handmade pieces.

Could you tell us more about AEIOUY, which you define as the result of extensive research on symbols and semiotics”?

AEIOUY is the first result of our collaboration. In October 2013, we went to Berlin for a short but intense working period and started giving form to our vision. Through material research and experimentation, we created a play field of elements to explore the field of expertise. By classifying found footage from aesthetics to form, we created a new order.
From this moment on we started working with materials which caught our eye, yet which aren’t that valuable in everyday circumstances. By experimenting with form and function, the materials gained new value, which resulted in new imagery.
As we mentioned before, language is at the base of our shared interest. We used this as a starting point for creating a tool to design our own projects and to classify them. From the very beginning we practically started to define our ideas and fascinations on paper and ordered them. After a year, a physical folder structure arose which resulted in a tangible archive that we later translated into an online format.

Where do you find inspiration and what influences you?

Fascinated by form and meaning, we explore topics that go beyond the surface. We get excited about the in-between states of things and through a process driven approach we aim to create a play field of cross-disciplinary tools to research the unknown.

What is your attitude towards fashion? Is there any fashion designer you particularly appreciate?

What we think is remarkable are the shifts in society that are directly readable through fashion. The fashion industry evolves very rapidly because it is tied to seasons and therefore always up to date. The fashion designers that we are most interested in are the ones that go beyond the surface; for them fashion functions as a medium for their thought messages. For example Melitta Baumeister, Nadine Goepfert, Stéphanie Baechler, Minju Kim, Rejna Pyo, Mint Designs.

What is your relationship with the internet and social media? Is there any connection between this relationship and Vowel?

Interesting question! We can say that the use of it almost doesn’t amaze us anymore. It has become natural. As Vowel, we would like to explore the fields of this contemporary digital space so it can be a valuable addition to our work.

What are your plans for the future?

The form of our digital archive allows us to fill it with all kinds of projects. It is important to us that we work on a multidisciplinary level where form is not the starting point and ideas can be translated in different dimensions. This is part of a growing entity which relates to the origin of language and perception.


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