“In these times of quick changes, I find it important to still stand by the everyday object that is made with love.”
“I choose to work not only with sustainable materials, but also with products that have an everlasting and timeless image.”
“Let’s make things more personal!”
Kiki van Eijk
In the design world, where the male presence keeps on be leading, the womanhood of Kiki van Eijk shines of a discreet, but absolutely charismatic light, whose comes straight from her heart. The van Eijk’s design it’s an outcome of a charming agreement between the consistency of the material and the lightness of an almost childish imagination. She loves stories. Her early sketches could easily have served to illustrate the imaginative stories of “Mary Poppins” or “Alice in Wonderland”. Her world -her website name’s kikiworld- it’s a world where every problem can be solved, a free world; maybe with surreal proportion and mutation… but an enchanted world nevertheless… of which her creations are just a little statement.
She finds great joy in, and gives importance, to “making things” by hand. The manufacture handcrafted, focal point of every project, are an opportunity of research and experimentation. Where the pleasure of play meets the innovative attitude signature of the Dutch philosophy, they take form furniture that escapes light heartedness the ordinary rules. Like the charming series “Soft Shade”, where the ceramic is treating like draped fabric.
Kiki van Eijk finds her inspiration in everyday beautiful objects and details and becomes a collector of them, mainly in her head. She doesn’t search for them… she just finds them… she meets them, as it were. Every creation has been made with love and care. Her hope is that people fall as much in love with her designs, as she did when found the original objects. A really emotional approach… Van Eijk’s work has often a strong sense of the personal and poetic, inspired by nostalgia and handicraft. Her designs are primarily unique or limited editions. Her nostalgic approach combined with her poetic and personal style come to life in a wide range of work, such as carpets, lighting, furniture, ceramics, glassware, luxurious textiles, even shop windows for the more biggest international brands. She embodied several of the feature on which the Dutch design aim for his identity, from more than a decade: research, experimentation and independent business. Today she works mainly on her own collection, which has been presented in galleries and museums worldwide: London, Paris, New York, Milan, Cologne, Venice, Kuwait, Tokyo, Montreal, Rome, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels, and Moscow.
Kiki van Eijk was born in 1978 and graduated “Cum Laude” in 2000 from the “Design Academy Eindhoven“. Her graduation project, the embroidery-inspired, cross-stitch “Kiki Carpet” –presented also at the “Dutch Design Week” 2001- garnered great attention in the design arena and it was the beginning of her career. This carpet is inspired on the strange proportions that 19th century doll houses had at those time. The technique used looks like a giant embroidery stitch and is developed by Kiki herself.
And that’s the most important point: where her works might look very soft and playful, it can be really hard and serious the manufacturing process behind. She has a great love for material and its layers within. This result, in new and surprising techniques based on real craftsmanship, which she applies on an unexpected object, Herewith she not only surprises the viewers of her work, but also the manufacturers and craftsmen that make her designs. In 2001, she opened her studio in Eindhoven, which she continues to share with designer Joost van Bleiswijk, though they work almost exclusively independently. With the time, her design process has become more and more intuitive and she starts more and more from a complete “white canvas”.
Van Eijk’s work is easily recognizable by her mild and playful designs. By this way, the brand of the young Dutch designer has growth in the years; she has never stopped playing with the most peculiar materials and recycled objects. But all this mildness and spontaneity, so characteristically living and quivering in every creation, they required a lot of research work, experimentation and care for an emotional design that brings everyone to the domestic coziness, to the bedtime stories… as in all her works, also the colored skeleton like clocks for “Floating Frame” realized in tangled stein steel or the “Bijoux”, fine blown-glass cloches for “Secondome Gallery”, they remember sketches, to which magically she gave life. For “Floating Frame” the idea underneath the project was the will of the designer to create objects, which appear the skeletons of themselves, for doing that, she realized merely their outlines, like sketches
“One More Time” it’s a project based on the same ideas: it’s a series of fourteen mantle clocks, each made from a different metal wire or finish touch. They comprise a ceramic face and metal wires twisted into the frame of a clock case. Each clock has exactly the same shape, but a totally different appearance because of its finish touch. It tells a story about time; how we look at objects, judge them, how we feel about them and how our vision towards them changes within time. An object that shows only the skeleton of what it could be, yet representing a function in full state; these objects exist between fiction and reality, it is ultra transparent and seems to float in space by almost getting absorbed by its surroundings. In this work the construction looks like a tiny ink drawing. The added ceramic part determines a function: a clock. Finishes touch: Brass, Brass sandblasted, Copper, Copper sandblasted, Copper oxidized, Copper sulphur, Copper sandblasted nickel plated, Copper 24K gold plated, Copper nickel plated, Copper oxidized copper plated, Aluminum, Aluminum blue anodized, Aluminum red anodized, Aluminum black anodized.
The pieces in the “Cut and Paste Collection” look as if just pulled out of a magician’s hat; this is the soul of this collection born by the collaboration between Kiki Van Eijk and “Secondome” director Claudia Pignatale. The project is all about the personality and emotion found within an object. By first making hundreds of sketches, seven final objects have just “appeared” with various references such as wheel, cart, high clock, bird cage, niche, farm, bourgeois, primitive, complicated, rich, poor; they almost transformed into seven curiosities. Each curiosity becomes much more than just an object; it creates its own imaginary and personal world; very autonomous. Each object is an assembly of colors, forms and materials such as solid wood, brass, copper, ceramics, textiles, mirror, and steel. It represents the joy and importance of “making things” by hand. An imaginary world in which everything is mixed, combined and questioned: small & big scale… farm and bourgeois… simple and luxurious materials… basic and complicated… sketch and final result… inspirations and processes… different techniques and personal fascinations… old and new projects… reflections and impulses… like an enormous patchwork of ideas, collection of thoughts and curiosities.
The butter-like ceramic “Soft Series”
or the “Wallhangings series” for the project “Weaving Traditions” presented by “Plusdesign Gallery”, in collaboration with “Secondome Gallery” , with the contribution of “Nodus“, Milan and Bernhardt Design, North Carolina (also part of the project “Talking Textiles” by the trend forecaster Li Edelkoort), features her stylistic cipher, a glimpse, a reflection of Kiki herself within the work she’s been making throughout the years and tells us, of the direction she will go from here. These are “home tapestries” made for everyday use and not just to hang on the wall and be looked at. They illustrate several living types, a farmhouse and provincial and city houses, making clear reference to domestic warmth, the joy in familiar things and the poetry of simple decoration that have always driven and marked the world of Kiki van Eijk. She likes to call them “home fabrics” because they produce security, warmth and coziness. These are the feelings she wants to instill in her tapestries. The secret lies in their manufacture, the execution of the yarns and the sophisticated weaving technique that increases their softness. “The Savage Flowers” carpet, from the 2012 “Nodus” collection, with its refined knotting of natural banana, bamboo, silk and linen fibers, inspired by wild flowers found near her studio it’s an example.
The same thing is undeniable, for her approach applied to a sofa in the project “Workshop”, made for “Bernhardt Design” in her first – and only – joint effort with her partner is only another proof of her ideas. The five textile patterns for the interchangeable seat pads, cushions and bolsters were inspired by configurations of timber off cuts, thread, paper and tape lying around the studio and workshop. The chaise comes in a right or left version with a metal base in antique copper or brushed nickel. Much of Kiki’s and Joost’s work is based on the traditions of the workshop and a respect of craft. Their personal studio became the inspiration and starting point for their aptly titled collection, consisting of forty textiles, the project made its international debut at the 2011 “London Design Festival”. Although they have worked side-by-side in their studio since 2001 and often create exhibits together, Kiki and Joost have received considerable attention by focusing on their solo careers. The “Workshop Textile Collection” is comprised of five distinctive patterns in eight different color ways: Connect, Stitch, Block, Score, and Brush. When viewing the textiles, they are quite simple to identify as each name corresponds to the method in which it was created. Using distinctive weaving techniques and a variety of different yarns, each textile is purposeful and markedly different. Connect a very playful pattern that appears to be random sticks in different sizes, was inspired by an arrangement of wood bars in their workshop. Stitch is a very sophisticated pattern with rather humble origins consisting of lines of paper tape on a worktop with an overlay of string. The intensity of the pattern Block was created by combining wooden bars and squares, then coating with a light mist of spray paint and adding a final layer of paper tape. Score was conceived very spontaneously by engraving score lines through multiple layers of paint on wood. And lastly, Brush is a blurry and artistic pattern composed by using thin strips of tape to create a surface that appears to be painted with a brush.
Like “Studio Job”, van Eijk designs starting from everyday objects, redraw them in precious and classic materials such as glass, or magnifies them, unexpectedly leaving them identical in proportions. The designer, with the “Dutch touch”, is dry and ironic, borrows all the tools from surrealism and dada to decontestualize banal objects and amaze the viewers with “coup de theatre” that does not get unnoticed. For instance, the “Sewing Box Cabinet” is the same as that used by our grandmother; the interesting thing is that it is pretty functional; it pops up like a fan with the same mechanism as the real one. The cabinet was made of Elm by a carpenter in Arnhem and features knobs cast in solid brass. The mechanism is supported by springs so that pulling on one side opens up the whole structure, despite its weight, without motor or electronic components. An engineering that required van Eijk’s two years of research!
The humor and the pragmatism of the “Dutch touch” is very special, they have a predilection for the daily life that distinguishes them. Some examples? If somebody see spades and pickaxes made of cast bronze, huge cups and teapots, giants sewing boxes, you are definitely in front of a work of a Dutch designer, unless you had drunk from a bottle labeled “Drink Me!” and had become tiny like Alice in the Wonderland (from the Venice Project “Glass Skin”)! “Glass Skin” is a series of sculptural glass objects that symbolize the most important yet basic things in life. Murano’s finest crafts in glass are fully represented in this series. It shows a very honest and pure craft which fits perfectly with the story of the objects.
This attitude also influences her more industrial projects. Her nostalgic approach combined with her poetic and personal style come to life in a wide range of work. With “Textile Sketch”, which looks like it’s made of textiles but is in fact fashioned from solid metal. The Eindhoven designer used laser-cutting, welding and blow-torching plus gold and nickel-coated thread to give the illusion of lace, piping, fringing and crochet. The “Textile Sketch” range includes a dining table, high table, low table, lamp, chair and room-divider. It’s an exceptional furniture collection that brings, flat and mobile textile, shapes to life in solid heavy metal; the different techniques were discovered by the designer in a metal workshop, which also inspired her to capture the delicate nature of fabrics by laser-cutting lace, 3D laser-cutting piping, welding and blow-torching fringe, coating gold and nickel thread… a really incredible list of techniques for a really incredible result!
“Bottled Stories”… Lamps inspired on the beautiful glass bottles of medieval times. These bottles were mainly used to store herbs and liquor. The subtle contrast of the matter and clear glass gives a magic appearance, but also shows patterns inspired on the scenery around the table and kitchen in medieval times. Herbs, kitchen tools, sugar-tongs and cups form a neat play of light. Every lamp in the series is different and therefore unique.
At “Object Rotterdam”, for the “Total Table Design project”, Kiki van Eijk and “Studio Scholten&Baijings” have presented their visions for the art of dining. Kiki van Eijk exhibited a table laid with the pieces she has created for Dutch glassware company “Royal Leerdam Crystal”, cutlery manufacturers “Koninklijke Van Kempen&Begeer” and the “Audax Textile Museum Tilburg”. Called “Table-Palette”, the installation included table linen based on a series of sketches and water-colors of fish, plants and vegetables by van Eijk, stainless steel cutlery with scalloped handles, a series of glassware and a collection of crockery with raised imagery applied to the surface. To realize the designs, “the Audax Textile Museum Tilburg” (table linen), “Royal Leerdam Crystal” (glassware) and “Koninklijke van Kempen & Begeer” (cutlery) joined forces. These Dutch institutions and businesses share a passion for traditional craftsmanship. For the crockery, the designer developed a project at “Cor Unum” and at the “European Ceramic Work Centre” (EKWC) in Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch). The warm, earthy tones of table linen and crockery like caramel, ochre and siena red arouse a feeling of homeliness, sharing diner and conversation. A clarification: “The Audax Textile Museum Tilburg” presents itself as a unique and creative “working museum’”, in the “TextileLab”, an integral part of the museum, artists and designers can have their designs realized on computer-controlled machinery under the supervision of textile specialists.
In van Eijk’s work one can distinguish a thoughtful deconstruction of textures and materials. Moreover, themes and materials that she uses in a design series will go on to influence future creations. At the “Milan Design Week” 2008, the designer with Joost van Bleiswijk presented “re-Collections”. Van Eijk exhibited her projects “Stamped and Sealed”, “Domestic Jewels” and “Soft series”. “Domestic Jewels” is a collection of everyday beauties, like antique cups and plates, handwritten recipes, beautiful silverware and playful teapots, which were the inspiration for this luxurious textile used on a cubistic construction. An homage to everyday domestic objects from the past that still surround us, which were made with a lot of love, crafts and detail. “The Chaise-Longue”, “The Room Divider”, which pattern on a luxurious textile was inspired by a collection of medieval kitchen tools and herbs and became a true “Garden of Eden” with its combinations of different materials: a luxurious and layered jacquard fabric used on this cubistic frame became homage to those precious kitchen tools. The style of all of these pieces reminds of the 18th century Louis XVI furniture, but it’s very modern and cubistic at the same time. The fabric is developed in corporation with the “Dutch textile museum”. “The High Bench” is like a throne for the art of handwriting and cooking. The designer used a recipe of her great grandmother in beautiful handwriting. From her book that was filled with recipes, written in Old Dutch style, she chooses her favorite; a celebration cake that the Dutch eat with New Year. With all these seals forming a kind of polka dot it’s almost as if it’s stamped and sealed, emphasizing the quality and beauty of this forgotten craft of handwriting. With not only its luxurious textile, but also its secluded form one will feel like a real king once sitting in it! “The Blanket” is inspired on grandma’s soft napkin with its beautiful and subtle damask, the mohair makes it extremely soft and feminine and the glossy scissors remind of an engraving in historical silverwork.
With the collection “Stamped and Sealed”, we can admire, for example, a vase inspired on medieval glass bottles “Vase01” or the “Jewels” derived from the beauty of medieval seals which were used on glass bottles. “The Stamped & Sealed Jewels”, made of porcelain depicting seals are like a frame around the culinary relief. These relief’s show medieval and Victorian kitchen tools which were also as beautiful as a jewel. All the ceramic seals tell a story about what could be found around the kitchen table, in medieval times, with the same colors based on those used in glasswork at these times.
”The Soft Series” is simply gorgeous and pure poetry. This collection of ceramic items made to look like cushiony textiles inspires harmony and peace. ”The Soft Shelves” a ceramic shelves with all the details and feelings of a soft shelf made of textile, like a cushion made to function as an altar for ones most precious belongings; “The Soft Teapot”, a teapot that looks soft, as made of textile, in a giant size perfect for every tea-time! “The Soft Table Lamp” with all the details and feelings of a soft lamp created in ceramics… and “The Soft Cabinets” cabinets with all the details and feelings of a soft drawer made of textile. All the drawers are completely made of ceramics and the front of each drawer looks padded and buttoned. They’re all handmade, even the handles/buttons glazing with real gold. The drawers are designed by a matrix system, so any object can be made on request: a desk, sideboard, different sizes etc.
The doll houses that inspired “Kiki Carpet”, recurred once again in her designs for the “Hermès” display windows. Van Eijk conceived five different vitrines for the luxury brand, on view within the windows of high-end department store Bijenkorf, Amsterdam. Having “carte blanche” to express the Hermès line, in the manner that she wanted, the designer decided to express her vision through the brand’s 2012 theme “The gift of time”. Each of the individual showcases represents a different way of interpreting time. The windows draw on the philosophy and history of Hermès, the backdrops of each display, along with the two-dimensional figures, have been finished in a painterly, watercolor effect, exhibiting a fantastical and surreal aesthetic reminiscent of “Alice in Wonderland”, in contrast to the classic forms and shapes of the Hermès line.
Also the “Hermès Dubai Flagship Store” has been touched by a beautiful magic wand. The sense of marvel and magic that has been captured is quite exquisite. Kiki van Eijk has embraced the playful, fun and exceptional qualities of Hermes and personified them into a wonderland of imagination. The bursting colors and elegance behind each story gives the onlooker a sense of joy and childlike emotion. Kiki van Eijk and Hermès have highlighted the importance and savoir faire of how color, detail and fantasy can truly make all the difference…
Kiki van Eijk presents a collection of wooden furniture with ceramic drawers for the “Zuiderzee Museum” at the “Ventura Lambrate district” in Milan. Called “Zuiderzee Settings”, the objects combine seats, dressers, counters and a trolley. The products are based on the history of the Dutch museum and its applied art collection. The designer created also containers and blankets for the project, for totally seven installations. She has designed new objects referring to everyday domestic customs and crafts. The furniture, the ceramics and the fabrics have been manufactured by the most reputable Dutch firms using traditional methods. To cling on the spirit of the museum, Kiki van Eijk paid several visits to the depot and stayed in the Museum Park for a brief period.
Besides her own collection, which she exhibits in galleries, museums and at fairs across the world, Kiki van Eijk works on projects for companies and institutes such as: “Studio Edelkoort Paris“, “MOOOI“, “Royal Leerdam Crystal”, “Haans”, “Royal VKB”, “Audax Textile Museum” and many others. For “Saint Louis” Kiki van Eijk has created the « Matrice Lamps Collection ». In her life as in her work, the Dutch designer loves to celebrate the kind of freedom that is enjoyed by children or by those who dare to return to their childhood. But the flip side, of this approach, is that van Eijk’s ideas are never easy to turn into reality. It was while looking at the huge supply of moulds in the Saint-Louis warehouse that van Eijk had a flash of inspiration. She would make a crystal lamp in the shape of a mould. Opening it up by hand would liberate the light inside, softened by a Japanese paper screen.
For two years, she has been even the art director of the Design Academy restaurant “deWitte Tafel”! Her works are now sold world-wide and have appeared in various publications as “Wallpaper*”, “Elle Deco”, “Harper’s Bazaar”, “Vogue”, “De Architect”, “Icon Magazine“, “Glamour” and “The International Design Year Book”.
So, the question is: a new all-inclusive sensitivity is it producing hybrid figurative expression capable to go beyond the traditional distinction between art and design? Admittedly, design products, in very limited edition, have been presented both at the latest “Milan design Week” and at the “Venice Art Biennial” where, in the last one especially, various collection of handcrafted artifact was hugely present… that’s maybe a little or initial proof. And the trend is always more strong: the “Spazio Rossana Orlandi”, for example, had host the “furniture” by Mauro Mori artist designer, with a big passion for handicrafts and, of course, thr creations of Kiki van Eijk and his partner Joost van Bleiswijk, which are years that work on the boundary lines between art, design and handcrafted.
- Iron Board Cabinet and Pin Stool by Kiki van Eijk (mocoloco.com)
- Wrong Colour Furniture System by Minale-Maeda (dezeen.com)
- When the emotional and narrative aspect of the objects became as important like their function: Maarten De Ceulaer… (design4dreaming.net)
- The world according to Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk :”for my free work I don’t listen to audience, I follow my intuition.” (madamebusiness.com)