After having lived in Barcelona, Paris and his hometown of Aix-en-Provence, French designer Sebastien Cordoleani continues to strive for innovation in his designs. His experimental pieces are characterized by a pureness of material, producing a world where concept meets unescapable beauty. We were eager to talk with the designer and pick his brain about topics such as design, symbolism and the creative process.
You’ve been working on your own since 2010 but before that you had worked with Studio Putman and Frank Fontana. Tell me a bit more about those experiences.
Working with Andree Putman was really interesting. It was about understanding her and trying to think and sketch from her perspective; evaluating every material to see what it can give; to be free and liberated of luxury logic.
Working with Frank was another adventure. We worked together on a number of projects for clients that we loved like Ricard, Audi, Tolix and we started the project 'Matière à Penser' (Food for Thought) in which we focused on the properties of materials and the potential of workshops. We had a great time discovering Barcelona and France- showing our work in Villa Noailles and meeting the people there. We also spent a lot of time developing our craft; we finished with a residency in Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto where we discovered the local craftsmen’s way.
Nowadays, do you prefer working on your own or do you sometimes miss working for other studios? What are the biggest differences between the two?
For me, working with someone else is never easy but it can be surprising- there is less drama when it comes to making choices and you can be more distant and critical with your creation.
I definitely enjoy discussing the strategy and the concept with a team but what I really love is to be at work, directly sketching the object.Nowadays, I spend more time with the craftsmen. The workshop is an inspiring place and I am constantly fascinated by the more traditional skill and craftsmanship of different corporations.
You have lived in such capitals of design as Barcelona and Paris, where do you find yourself based now?
Good question, I lived in Barcelona for 4 years, fleeting between Aix en Provence (my hometown) and Paris to meet clients. Last June I finally moved out of Barcelona to begin a new project in Corsica about local wood.
There is a definite perfection to your designs and I can see how the shapes become the main character of your work. Can you explain the creation process in a little more detail?
I have a complicated relationship with the production process- I am guilty of producing items that have no purpose. I also work hard to find a balance between concept and shape.
Also, there appears to be a poetic aspect to your designs: the plan vase for "Moustache", or the amazing fishbowl for instance. Do you consider yourself as a poet of objects?
I like to play with symbolism and I try to work closely with the object’s story. To be honest, the vase is generally a vertical, round shape so I’ve decided to propose the opposite. It’s just a projection of shadow. Of course, it’s not a vase that you can use for just any type of flower; you have to choose the correct silhouette that will compose a nice reflection in the water.
I see that the same concept is applied to the use of materials. The purity of the shape blends perfectly with the surface and edges. What process do you undertake before finding the perfect material?
I don’t work around the shape and think of the material after. In fact it’s quite the opposite, I start with the material which then inspires the idea. Take the aquarium for example, I started with the glass. I had already decided to disregard the fish and focus on the fluidity and plastic-like motion of the water fixed within the glass. It was quite hard for the craftsman, Vincent Breed, to create. He used an old glass-blowing technique.
There is a dreamy atmosphere surrounding your work which also serves to create a strong aesthetic. What’s more important to you in design, functionality or beauty?
I like the object to express its true identity and its formation. The concept of beauty is a more difficult one and it’s quite blurry. I just think we recognise certain shapes as beautiful, the shapes that my mind recognises as "lovely" may not always be the most interesting. The works of Konstantin Grcic for example, can be disturbing at first-sight because it is fresh and innovative but with time it becomes classic.
You have also worked on projects dealing with space, the Glass Scene exhibition for example. How have your experiences with collaborators been?
I really like to work on exhibition projects because the process is a lot quicker than developing an object from scratch. The Glass Scene project was especially exciting because we only had a very small budget (1000€ for materials) so I used a simple block to construct the space directly into the swimming pool of the Villa Noailles…
What does it mean to you to be a designer? I know this is a very open-ended question but is there some specific methodology that identifies you as a designer?
I am a very detail-orientated person, especially when it comes to taking photographs. There are some photos that I never even look at as my focus is on the landscape.
Out of your most recent projects, which are you most proud of?
It might be my last project which I produced with the Corsican craftsmen and presented in an exhibition named “A toutes les sauces” at the Biennale de Saint Etienne. It consisted of three knives, three tables and three fruit supports.
What about new designers? Are there any that have caught your attention?
Nobody in particular comes to mind. I am really pleased to see so much and up-and-coming talent with new approaches to natural materials.
And finally, what will your next move be? Maybe back to Barcelona again?
I’m looking for a good place, today it’s Corsica and Paris. Tomorrow, it could be a southern place, depending on the project…