Sylvain Willenz: an introduction

October 08

Torch is a lighting family that consists of several independant units (pendant, table, chandelier) coated in tactile PVC with a textured polycarbonate diffuser, that can either be used together or singularly.

EST: How long have you been designing?
: Since I graduated from The Royal College of Art in 2003 I suppose. I set up my Design Studio then. I was really inexperienced and had lots to learn. But I always had this energy to make things, and to show them. And I’m quite impatient, I like to see things happen quickly.

EST: Why did you become a designer?
As a teenage I dreamed of doing something creative. I was drawing, painting and making stuff. At 17 I read a book on Philippe Stark: It struck me. This had to be my job. It was the time to put two interests together, making and drawing. My love for objects, shapes and things grew from there.

EST: What inspires you?
Things around me; normal functional stuff and clever details, shapes and simple graphics. I usually find ideas start when it ís most unlikely, when my brain is relaxed and not actually designing. Back in the studio I start putting elements together. Shape, details, colours, materials. On Sundays I go to flee markets in Brussels, a great source of non-pretentious design inspiration.

TORCH LIGHT BUNCH S20 red Sylvain Willenz c2008 Establishedand Sons c James Champion Grey Background Detail 01 72dpi

EST: Are there any distinct characteristics or motivation in your work?
I like soft-plastics. But I also love working with many materials, like glass or wood. What I find interesting is when you really change a material. I think it ís important to be close to the process. Stylistically, I did go though a more experimental and organic phase with some early projects, but today I'm interested in keeping the process and the object simple. I’m much more interested in industrial design now.

EST: How would you describe your method of working?
There are two ways of working I think. One is a brief for a client, and here we have to work within clear parameters, whilst attempting to place a subtle twist to the design. The second is personal projects, it's for pleasure. I usually have a list of things which are what I call idea starters. We brainstorm these in the studio from time to time. When we have an idea we make models or test the process if possible. Every project requires a different approach. I try to regularly visit some factories.

EST: Do you find the most pleasure in the process or the final product?
Both: Two different pleasures, really. The process can be painful and usually time consuming. But you learn so much from it. Usually you see a few prototypes, which have not exactly worked out right. But when you see the final one and you know it works, this is pleasing. Torch is a good example, both the process and the outcome, with Established & Sons, the new versions we made together, were amazing.