December 10, 2023

Interview: Tim Leclabart on Transforming Experiences into Objects

Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: Design / Interview Category: magazine

Interview: Tim Leclabart on Transforming Experiences into Objects

Designer Tim Leclabart creates furniture pieces that “oscillate between sculpture and art”. His approach combines his knowledge in art, design, architecture, decorative arts, as well as his personal life experiences, to create unique and striking objects. Tim’s work for esteemed historical and contemporary design galleries like Mouvements Modernes and Atelier Jespers, producing exclusive limited-edition pieces, blurs the lines between utility and art. His latest collection, New Space, embodies this boundary-defying approach. Recently, however, the French designer has also ventured into the world of mass-production with the Boo Collection developed for this year’s Maison&Objet. We interviewed the designer to find out more about these projects, his professional trajectory to date and the influences behind his unique approach to designing furniture bordering on sculpture.

Canne armchair © Studio Heraut

A self-taught designer with a foundation in art history and curatorship, Tim maintains a deep connection between his professional experiences and his creations. “In galleries, I learnt how to set up pieces, talk with clients, as well as packing artworks or bring items for restauration. I found in antique dealers I worked with, new mentors.” he reveals. They shared with him their passion for objects spanning various periods and materials—inspirations that reverberate in his work today. “When I design an object, try to include these historical and technical aspects in my work, to make a bridge with contemporary issues. For example, the Canné armchair has many references, but the aim was to promote weaving savoir-faire and combine it with a comfortable and sleek structure that could be easily repaired.”

Besides his background in art, Tim’s life experiences also heavily influence the concepts for his designs, visible since his first furniture collection, Curved. “I define this concept of a ‘design souvenir’ because it embodies all my eclectic creation. The Curved coffee table is a postcard I sent to myself when I lived in Rio de Janeiro, preserving this experience for ever while also paying homage to Oscar Niemeyer’s architecture.”

Curved coffee table © Tim Leclabart

As we delved into the foundations of his design approach, Tim explained his creative process and the relationship between form and function in his designs. “Materials, souvenirs/experiences and techniques come first when I develop a project. Function is important but not the starting point. The Totem Axis 2.0 is a sculptural lighting piece, but it is not necessarily what you’re looking for when you buy a lamp.”

Tim Leclabart’s work is firmly guided by Mies Van der Rohe’s ‘less is more’ mantra, an approach he also inspirational in the work of Dutch artist and designer Aldo Bakker. “Bakker’s works give that sentence a new meaning: his minimal design pieces are highly seductive and interactive, but people can choose their function. The possibilities and interpretations of his artworks mean more.” Tim underscored his desire to add interactive elements to his own sculptural designs, by defining the form and allowing “function to be hijacked by users.” The rotatable resin blocks of the Totem Axis, for example, reflect this quest.

Totem Axis 2.0 © Tim Leclabart

It becomes evident that for Tim, design emerges from his experiences and artistic determinations, and rarely functional requirements, undoubtedly influenced by the gallery context of his making as a designer. However, his new collection presented at this year’s Maison&Objet marks a step towards design that resonates with a broader audience. Tim reflects on the new challenge and opportunity he faced in preparation for the major Parisian trade fair.  "When I designed my booth with some of my works such as the Canné armchair or the Curved coffee table, I knew something was wrong. I love these designs and I’m very proud of them but what’s the point of doing M&O with (not that old) limited objects? The theme of the year was Enjoy!, and I had the perfect project for it, although they were just drawings at that point."

Boo Invader and Lady Boo of the Boo collection © Tim Leclabart

With determination, Tim managed to defy time constraints, creating the Boo Collection—a range of “interior companions” as he calls them—in a mere four months. "It was challenging but definitely rewarding. The booth was eye-catching and visitors were enchanted by the colours and simplicity of this collection." he shared. While the collection marks a shift from the exclusive gallery realm Tim is accustomed to working in, it is no less illustrative of his design approach. The outcome of mixing souvenirs from his childhood—cartoons like Shadocks and Barbapapa along with video games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders—with post-modern Memphis influences, Tim dedicates the collection to both his daughter and his inner child.

Reflecting on his most significant project to date, Tim directs our attention to his latest project, New Space. Presented in his first solo show in October, the collection represents the culmination of his creative journey. “It combines natural materials such as wood, stone and paper with simple shapes to tell a story, in this case our fascination for space and cosmos. In my opinion, space is our new Eldorado.” Tim explains, “It's still a place where dreams and possibilities seem infinite. I could easily make a historical link with the space age movement that occurred at the end of the sixties. But with a new era come new paradigms. This is a blank page and I can navigate and create my own celestial objects, and hope others can identify themselves in them.”

Constellation Table and Chair, Squaring Space wall lamp of the New Space collection © Tim Leclabart

Regarding industry trends, the Parisian designer shared a refreshing perspective. "I try to avoid trends. As designers, we are urged to be actors of a sustainable and responsible world. That should be our only trend, using new technologies, and new materials to achieve this goal.” To this end, Tim suggests that designers should try to make these green proposals not only efficient, but also seductive.

December 10, 2023 Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: Design / Interview Category: magazine

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