From wild coral chairs to strikingly illuminated sculptures, Tadeas Podracky’s work is groundbreaking. Based in Prague, (Czech Republic) the experimental designer's work is a constant exploration of how people interact with materials and vice versa. Combining both art and design, his pieces are magnificent and eccentric. In this interview, he discusses the importance of questioning norms, his spontaneous process, and how he gives materials a new life.
Firstly, could you please introduce yourself to those who might not know you?
I am Tadeas Podracky, a designer. My practice is based on object-making, especially in a hands-on approach. I like to work directly with the forms of materials and experiment with them during the design process. I am interested in investigating the relationship of an object with a man and using crafting processes to question and explore the different aspects of the projects. It is an exploration through making, in which I often break down the barriers between my imaginary scenarios and the real world. Lately, I have been working in a certain creative direction that started with my collection, The Metamorphosis. This collection aims to challenge the stereotypes in our immediate environment and to strengthen a person's emotional bond to an object through materiality and expressiveness.
Your work seeks to challenge the preconceived notion of what a ‘good’ design is. Could you explain what is typically considered a ‘good’ design? Why is it important to break down this idea?
It is always important to question established customs. When something is too fixed, we stop paying attention, and we can easily begin to stagnate. The constant questioning makes us more vigilant. I am also interested in the individual's view and opinion; when something is marked with the word ‘good,’ it is often a compromise on which as many people as possible agree. I like to create things that touch an individual.
Before you create your pieces, you do extensive research on materials to find a way to repurpose them and represent them authentically. How do you go about choosing which materials to use for your projects?
The materials are mostly derived from the process of the project I'm currently working on. They either come out of the surrounding environment, or traditional processing techniques or they are already present in some form during the process. I think it is vital to use the material according to its character and thus enhance the impact of the object. It is also interesting to think about what kind of material evokes emotion.
Why do you think it’s important to do this intellectual work before you begin the physical work?
Intellectual and physical work should be in harmony. Personally, I lean more towards the physical side, and my interest often pushes me in a particular direction during research, but when I start working on the project physically, I usually find out different aspects that intrigue me.
Your pieces seem to blur the line between design and art. Where do you see your work being positioned?
I am using both design and art tools to research and express myself – sometimes I move more in the field of art and other times more in design. As a whole, I am interested in the human environment and our relationship with the object and my goal is to explore those topics freely without any boundaries.
Let’s talk about some specific works. Lost in Between explores the idea of displacement. You used three fragments, which were broken off from objects in Schloss Hollenegg, and created a new environment for them. What inspired you to explore this theme of displacement?
Schloss Hollenegg is a unique place. I was overwhelmed when I could explore all the chambers that seemed to have been trapped in time, but at that moment, I felt like someone was still living there. It is a different experience of the historical environment, very authentic and far away from the museum display that is often impersonal and staged. But still, I couldn't get emotionally close to many objects. I almost felt like the objects were extinct; they are so old that it is difficult for a person from the present to understand them – like when we look at fossils and don’t really comprehend how the prehistoric animal behaved. That's why when I saw these lost broken pieces, I decided to make an object that thematically returns them to this environment with a new purpose and identity. I recontextualised them.
One of your biggest projects is The Metamorphosis. Here, you’ve talked about our environment becoming less relatable as we live in prefabricated houses with mass-produced furniture. Why was it important for you to address this issue?
This is one of the most important topics I am still working on, and I think it is very relevant. The Metamorphosis collection started during the time of Covid-19 when we suddenly all found ourselves alone in our apartments and houses. It was difficult to establish connections with other people, and our environment began to play a significant role in our everyday life. I experienced for myself how important our immediate environment is and how much it can influence us.
And why do you think design is the best medium to address this issue?
I think that design, as a medium, is uniquely close to people. It directly explores the relationships that man establishes with their surroundings and deals with the demands and needs of the individual.
Some pieces in this collection, such as the amphora lamp and the chairs, feature very striking colours. How do you use colour to create meaning in your work?
I work with colour in the same way as with other materials. I often decide on the colour on the spot, which is usually a gestural act of expression. But in general, colour serves me as a medium that connects the whole object and helps to highlight details that I want to stand out.
For this project, your methodology was quite spontaneous. Instead of having a vision for what the final object would look like, you simply approached the design based on your emotional response. Could you elaborate on what that process looks like from start to finish?
At some point, I was tired of designing; I didn't want to just formally design objects or shapes or use things to illustrate a concept. These approaches seemed insincere to me and loaded with stereotypes. I craved to get further and see if it is possible to design directly so that the result is an authentic statement. I developed several methodologies to prevent me from knowing my next step. I imagined that the working techniques wouldn't be influenced by physics, so I started hanging objects and worked against downforce and with materials, I couldn't shape so well. Every step made my making more difficult but at the same time more sincere because I could not guess what kind of outcome I would get.
Does the uncertainty of not knowing what your final product will look like ever scare you?
It sets me free!
Lastly, it seems like much of your work is deeply connected with the environment and re-establishing our relationship with it. Why is it important to continuously explore our relationship with the environment? What can we learn from this experience?
I simply think that we are a reflection of our environment. We live in a world full of objects that we interact with every day, making our lives easier or harder. Some objects have become such a part of our subconscious and culture that they have become unquestionable, and we don't even notice them or think about what they are for. Because of objects, we change our habits; we can say that things shape us as much as we shape them. Take a simple spoon. If we didn't know this item, the whole dining process would be entirely different, and that brings a lot of questions. I like to imagine these unfulfilled speculative scenarios. There are an immense amount of things that touch each of us every day, and it is necessary to think about them because the fact that we do something traditionally does not somehow mean that we do it the best we can.