The Dutch woman has a background in Industrial Design at Eindhoven Design Academy, first studying and then teaching. For Misfit, a book about her work, the publisher calls her a ‘maverick product designer’. Her work seems chaotic but is actually the result of an exciting playfulness. It combines traditional with contemporary; the industrial and craft; hi-tech and lo-tech; and criss-crosses areas of design from furniture to accessories.
I still have the same preoccupations I had in the beginning of my career: unique/industrial, high/low tech, 2050/1700 etc. But my work is also less sober than it was in the beginning. It’s richer. There’s more celebration of the materials, more decoration, more colour, more comfort and more sex.
Over the years, she has developed a 5-point “design mentality” through which she works whatever project she happens to be involved in.
- wherever possible, design your own materials or recycle from existing ones
- use hands-on ways of working, models, material samples, as well as computers and the digital
- “perfection kills everything” so mess around with processes to include and create imperfections
- never start with an empty sheet of paper, use a classic or head to an archive and use designs that already exist
- make work recognisable as your own, develop a signature
Her clients are few in number because she prefers to build stronger and long-term relationships with them. These include IKEA, Vitra, Droog Design and formed part of the Dutch design team charged with completely updating the North Delegates’ Lounge in the UN Building in New York. Jongerius worked on the seating and enormous beaded curtain in particular.
Working with KLM has been important for both parties. A large airline has specific demands of its business partners but can also afford to collaborate with unconventional characters like Jongerius.
The people speak a language that was new to me, and I spoke a language that was new to them. …we now really know where to go, where to steer and what the main problems are. We can make larger plans over ten years, things that really make sense and are not marketing tricks – a really slow revolution.”
More than anything, she is fascinated by materials and their potential applications. Chicle is a weird kind of rubber that is harvested from the Mexican rainforest. It is one of the materials she has experimented with extensively and can be worked in different physical states, from a ground powder to a clay texture to a stretchy consistency like chewing gum and all at different temperatures. She said she loves “the difficulties and the strangeness of chicle…it’s like having an alien in your house”.
Gemstone Tables (2013) for Galerie Kreo in Paris
More recent work has been for the textile firm, Danskina, combining cork with felt and is brought together in hard-wearing rugs. Colour and touch are strong features in many of her collections.