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Under the Sign of Design
He receives his guests at his gallery in the heart of Paris: he talks about his jewellery, his female-oriented creations, his work at the Elysée Palace. A chat all about design with Hervé Van der Straeten…
<b> Under the Sign of Design Published on Thursday, April 14th, 2011
It can be said that you have faced many types of design throughout your career, ranging from furniture to clothing , including perfume and even lipstick cases. What does the concept of design convey for Hervé Van Der Straeten?
My work has many facets: I started as a jewellery maker 25 years ago after having obtained a diploma at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. I studied in the painting section and I started my job by making small objects; it was a real workshop for me, a time when I had the chance to experience all types of forms and volumes. Later I began to develop a number of metal objects. About twelve years ago I opened my personal gallery and it’s there that I started to create objects on a large scale, adding new materials, skills and knowledge to the composition of my pieces. In effect, I deal with jewellery, lighting, furniture and cosmetic containers. Every type of design becomes an opportunity to put my ideas into a new context. As a consequence I can use my imagination by shifting all the fields in which I operate. In my opinion the idea of design relies primarily on the concept of survey: each piece is a new challenge and I am always looking for new forms, original materials, modern directions. I work well by using basic structures that are reinforced with materials and colours. When it comes to the planning of my work I always start from my sketches: that's where my instinct and creativity reside. I am completely free with regards to the choice of my co-workers as much as with the time schedule, since I'm self-employed and this works to my own advantage.

Your personal style, reminiscent of craftsmanship, is also detectable in your mass-produced creations…
Availing myself of my laboratory, I've always been able to follow all the steps regarding the creation of my pieces very closely. Nevertheless I take a lot of care when working with outside companies, demanding in fact, the feeling of craftsmanship to be transmitted to the public. Our drafts are full of irregularities and we would like to keep them in the final rendering of the product after being transferred in 3D format. Here's what makes the difference.

Your creations linked to the world of cosmetics, play an important role in the well-being of women.
How did you grow to know the female world so well? Surely the fact of having my own line of jewellery helps a lot, plus I work on the runways with internationally renowned designers and we have combined together our creativity. When in the creation phase, I always try to have very precisely in mind the idea that women should enjoy the product they buy with all their senses. It’s not only about taking into account one aspect, the whole process of definition of the woman is at stake. For example, when I had to draw a lipstick box for a well-known brand, I first conducted a market survey and realized that many of the products on the market were poorly made, with sharp forms, which could injure a woman’s fingers. I considered it a crucial element to correct: we have to turn tools of beauty into soft and enveloping objects that naturally follow the body.

Miroir Solaire Bleu - Courtesy of Hervé Van Der Straeten

Observing your creations, they appear to be based on daydreaming. What are the oneiric sources to which you draw when selecting the objects that decorate your gallery?
I put on an exhibition every year and a half in collaboration with another artist, I usually prepare a group of pieces that follow the general concept, but then I also work with pieces that speak, contrast and balance with each other. For example, I put together something very gentle with something very solid; I work a lot with the affiliation of several pieces. In a certain way, I am inspired by music; somehow in my creations there is always an element of surprise.
It shows your lighting work. Recently you were given a commission for the Élysée Palace?
There are several pieces at the Élysée that the Ministry of Culture, all part of the national collection of furniture: my contribution involved candelabra and lamps. For me light is a basic condition for any type of environment and if I can say so, I’ve made some quite spectacular light sculptures.

The variety of products signed Hervé Van der Straeten is decidedly democratic, from jewelry worth $200 to fragments of limited-series furniture with very high prices. Is this lack of discrimination also applicable in your creativity?
I never think in terms of wealth of my clientele. I try to make pieces for all budgets, this is my kind of professionalism. It somehow reflects my personality: I first work to please me, so I'm very strict with myself, and there are always new directions about which I am naturally curious. That is why I end up pleasing others.

Galerie Hervé Van Der Straeten, Paris
You recently did a gallery swap with a famous gallery in St. Moritz. What did this involve?
It is the Karsten Grave in Saint Moritz and we found ourselves together because we share a similar philosophy, the works of our galleries interact with each other, we both adore the work of Xavier Vielhan. But I've also just been at TEFAF Maastricht, host of the Flore de Brantes with a bronze-patina black candelabra.

Lately there has been a huge protest called by a group of monarchists against the display of Murakami's work in the palace of Versailles. How would you respond if asked to conceive a work of art to be inserted in the middle of historical Paris?
I would be pleased. I find it such public outcry about these operations rather curious. Especially in a place like Versailles: it is known that the King was a great supporter of his contemporaries, interested in innovation and was always looking for new trends. This is simply a mode of operation on the same line. If asked to do an intervention at the Ville Lumière, I would do something with the edge of the Seine. The lapping of the water would dialogue with the motion inherent in my creation. TEFAF with the Flore Gallery.

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