Interview with Lukas Peet
While Vancouver is a recognized centre for contemporary art, its contributions to the world of design are typically less well known and tend to be overshadowed by the visual arts. With Emily Carr University adding a Master’s of Design degree to its curriculum, it seems like the emphasis on art over design is beginning to shift, largely in response to a slew of young designers who have recently set up shop in the city and are attracting the interest of the international community. Lukas Peet, a multi-disciplinary designer who studied in Eindhoven and worked at the prestigious Studioilse in London before returning to Canada, has been featured in such arbiters of contemporary taste as Wallpaper*, dwell and Surface, and has exhibited his work at Vitra Milan. His deceptively simple and elegant objects that integrate an interest in the materiality of design processes with the item’s functional purpose, have garnered the attention of both the local and international communities. We met up with Lukas to discuss his design practice and the origins of his striking objects:
Here and Elsewhere: We’re always interested to learn where designers got their start. Can you talk a bit about your background? How did you get into design and what inspired you to work in the field?
Lukas Peet: My entry into design was influenced most by my father Rudi Peet. He is a very talented jewellery designer and all-round creative guy. Some of the first objects I made were in silver at his studio, probably at the age of 8. From a young age I was always drawing, painting or making something.
HE: What are your major influences?
LP: My influences can come from anywhere: materials, shape, form or techniques and processes. These are the widest and most influential, though I also find inspiration in all things creative: music, film, photography, art and of course design.
HE: Can you talk a bit more about how music and film affect your creative process?
LP: Music, film and art affect my creative process by being stimulants. They allow my mind to wander as well as encourage me to ask new questions with regards to design.
HE: You studied at the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven – is your work influenced by the design aesthetic that you encountered in the Netherlands?
LP: Yes and no. I grew up in Canada for 18 years and then went to Europe for four years so you could argue that I was more influenced by Canada because I spent most of my time here. I think everything in your life can be an influence. I wouldn’t say that my aesthetic is specifically Dutch. I would say that my time in the Netherlands and Europe refined my “Canadian” aesthetic.
HE: As a designer, how do you find living and working in Vancouver after spending time in Europe?
LP: I like the quietness of Vancouver ‒ how you can just do your own thing. When I was living in London especially, the studio that I worked for was very well known and when we went to events during Design Week no one would pay us any attention until they found out where we worked and then all of a sudden they were interested. It’s all about who you know and dropping names. I’d rather be more isolated and not overly influenced by going to all the design shows and seeing what’s happening somewhere else. I prefer to be influenced by everyday experiences.
HE: We’re quite interested in your use of materials – your pieces often appear minimalist upon an initial glance yet with closer inspection reveal surprising details. How do you select your materials? Do you first come up with the idea for the shape and function of the object or do you select a particular material and the form emerges from that decision?
LP: As I mentioned earlier, I can be inspired by a material or process among other things. In this case the material can be the starting point or even a certain process which could be applied to a specific material.
When this is not the deciding factor, I choose the material based on what I am trying to communicate to the user: the function of the piece or the environment where it will be used. Price, weight and strength are also major factors.
Though as a general rule I choose the material based on what I believe is best for the communication of the design.
HE: Your practice is quite diverse running the gamut from lighting to furniture to graphic design – what unites your varied interests? Do you have a cohesive aesthetic sensibility?
LP: I’d like to believe I have my own aesthetic which I arrive at from my choices with regards to function, shape/form, material, colour and scale. And most importantly by constantly questioning myself throughout the designing process, determining what I am trying to communicate with the final object or piece.
I strongly believe that the “aesthetic” should only emerge through the development of the design by putting what you are trying to achieve first. There will always be limitations with any design and even more when you work with a client; the more limitations you can free yourself from the better chance you have of making something unique or new.
One of the things I learned in school was identifying my “Personal Rules of Design”: the things that determine how I make choices in shape/form, material or colour and scale etc. These “rules” can be applied to any medium, both 2D and 3D. In my opinion these choices differentiate me from other designers as well as determine my aesthetic by defining both my work and my identity as a designer.
In the end, as any type of creative person, what we have is the opportunity to create something new. And that should never be forgotten.
HE: Can you talk a bit about the cutlery you designed while you were in school?
LP: It was completely process-based. I just took pieces of wood and sketched a side and top profile and whittled away to create a spoon, a fork and a knife individually, but all at the same time. They have to be interesting objects on their own but also relate to each other. So it was an evolution to get to the final pieces. The fork was the hardest – it was 21 pieces and the spoon was 11 and the knife was 15. I didn’t do any technical drawings or even sketches on paper, it was all just purely done by hand. How I deal with shape and form in creating an object is what differentiates me as a designer; I translate the idea in my head into the object through my hands and eyes.
HE: We love your “Hanging Clock” piece – it’s such an elegant, simple object yet somehow is unlike anything we’ve seen before. How did you come up with the design?
LP: Thanks. The idea for the clock came from searching for an alternative to changing the time for daylight savings, which can easily be done by rotating the clock left or right one hour or 30 degrees.
HE: Your “Bureau Table” creates a really compelling juxtaposition between the surface and the support. What were you trying to achieve with this piece?
LP: I broke the idea of a table into its most basic parts: the table top and the legs. I wanted to create a table that clearly communicated these two elements, and in doing so convey how they are both dependent on each other to be of any use, as well as both being completely useless on their own. The design of the table shows the relationship between these two elements as if they are in a perfect state of balance when combined together to become a table.
HE: Are many of your works in production?
LP: A lot of the pieces are prototypes. There are three “Rudi” lights that are in production with Roll & Hill, which is a New York based company. The production model is a bit different than the original design; it was based on a prototype and I designed two other lights with slight changes for production. The Hanging Clock is currently being developed for production – we are planning to release two versions: one all in wood and one in painted MDF.
HE: What’s up next? What are you working on now?
LP: I am currently working on setting up my new studio in Vancouver. With this there are a number of new projects on the horizon, lights as well as some design proposals for a few different producers. My “Hanging Clock” and “Hanging Mirror” are in the final stages of development and should be available soon. While my “Rudi” light series for Roll & Hill is now available in stores in Vancouver, in Canada through LightForm, and around the world in numerous retailers and online at Rollandhill.com. Roll & Hill will be launching a smaller version of the “Rudi” in New York during ICFF in May. As well I am designing four lights for a new Vancouver-based lighting company which will hopefully be launched in the next three months, and some candle holders that I am currently working on will be launched in September.
So it should be an exciting year!
HE: Thanks, Lukas, for sharing your thoughts with us!