Now let’s be clear here, IKEA is one of the places I shop for furniture and I’m not ashamed to admit it. A low budget and rented accommodation make them the perfect pit stop, especially when meatballs are involved. However, times are changing and IKEA is really focusing on their brand awareness, with collaborations with Tom Dixon and Hay in the pipeline and a collection with fashion designer, Katie Eary released earlier this year.
The JASSA collection, in particular, caught my eye for its handcrafted techniques, unique outcomes and of course for the fact that the wonderful Piet Hein Eek is also involved in the design process. It really seems like a collection with a story and I’m not sure that’s something IKEA have pulled off completely before, although perhaps the Ilse Crawford collection marked the start of this new venture.
Inspired by Indonesian and South East Asian design traditions, JASSA’s handmade products are all created out of natural raw materials. Think beautiful curved lines, natural textures and wow-inducing patterns – a bohemian vibe for the eclectic household. The team behind the designs include IKEA in-house designers Nike Karlsson, Iina Vuorivirta and Paulin Machado, as well as the previously mentioned Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek, all guided and coordinated by Karin Gustavsson. Each designer has inputted a little something to the collection, meaning there’s diversity amongst the pieces but they all come together to bring about a fun, free-spirited range of products. They’re about kicking back and having fun while bringing a little spontaneity into your household via a vivacious floor cushion or a completely unique lounger.
I caught up with Piet to ask a few questions about the new collection and decipher exactly the process behind this new journey for the Swedish brand.
Having designed for a multitude of companies as well as your own studio previously, did you have to change your approach to designing at all or was the process for IKEA exactly the same?
In fact this wasn’t necessary. IKEA, like we do too, is a company which takes care of the whole process from design until the consumer. The only differences were the volumes and size of the two companies. If I were make something with 1% chance of a problem, it’s most likely that nothing will happen, but if IKEA were to experience a 1% chance of a problem, then they need to take it very seriously. The quantities are bigger so the developing costs are relatively low (which is more relaxed) but the standards, on many aspects of production such as safety and durability, are higher – IKEA needs to be certain that everything is OK.
How did the creative process work with the rest of the IKEA design team? Was it an experimental curation of ideas or a more structured brainstorm?
It was an unstructured process. The only thing we did was choose and then go on and choose again until the collection was complete. The process was very dynamic and it didn’t feel as if there were rules, except common sense inspired by practice from both sides. In fact the collection was designed on the spot in Indonesia; they were not able to produce the design I made so I had to make new designs inspired by the materials and skills available – which is very similar to the way usually work anyway!
The collection gives off quite a communal vibe with the low chairs, floor cushions and daybed. Do you think this is representative of how you all came together as designers, each giving your own take on a bohemian lifestyle?
Karin Gustavsson, the Creative Leader for the collection, selected the designers for the project and the brief we had made this process very simple. Everybody was happy to do what was asked of them and because of Karin, everything fitted together perfectly.
You’ve worked with reclaimed wood and materials a lot in the past. Can you tell us about how you’ve incorporated this into the JASSA collection?
As mentioned, materials and skills are most of the time the inspiration for my designs so when given the opportunity to work with those materials and crafts it seemed to be the perfect assignment for me.
Sustainability is obviously a key part of your design ethos. How did you become interested in this aspect of design and how important do you think it is for other brands/designers to take note?
The reason I love working with natural and sustainable materials is because they give you the opportunity to think about the how materials looked in the past but at the same time you can think about how it will be in the future. Past and future are represented in my work. In fact, my designs are not only focused on making something new but instead, I try to create from what’s available, what’s already there and create something new from that. The subtle difference is that if a designer or creative person only focuses on the ‘new’, it’s then a challenge to make the world realise those ‘new’ ideas afterwards – I think it’s more respectful to take the world and its actual needs as the starting point.
The JASSA collection shows a strong sense of narrative and exploration of traditional craft techniques, not traditionally associated with IKEA. Do you think the collection marks the start of a new era for the team and can we expect to see the same with your future contributions to IKEA collections?
The JASSA collection is the perfect first step-up, ahead of the next collection I’ve collaborated with IKEA on, that will hopefully launch in spring 2018. In this collection, the theme will be ‘hand-made’. Most of the products are designed in a way that they appear to be hand-made (the models and drawings actually are). Although the quantities are high the products feel gentle and each one special. This feeling is similar to the JASSA collection. I hope I’ll be able to design more for IKEA in the coming years. But first, let’s see how the designs and the JASSA collection is received; to me, JASSA is full of character and I hope everyone sees that.