For Laurids Gallée, a creative career has been written in the stars. He comes from a family of artists and, although he rebelled against their influences for most of his childhood, he now focuses on designing objects that have a distinctly artistic side.
In 2015, he left his native Austria for the Netherlands, taking a place at the Design Academy Eindhoven. The school is known for pushing boundaries and encouraging its students to think about design and its context – guiding the careers of some of the most impressive designers of the time, from Formafantasma to Martin Baas. It seems that it was planned that for Gallée too, who made the decision to go into design, it was after a brief period of study in anthropology. You could say the two are more closely related than you might think at first glance. Anthropology, after all, is the study of humans and their behaviors, while design creates the world in which humans live. Although for Gallée, it was a desire to work in a practical sense rather than having his “head in the books” that inspired the change. After graduating, he honed his skills in numerous manufacturing techniques and crafts, before founding his own studio in 2017. Now, from Rotterdam, he creates works that explore the possibility of traditional techniques when combined with modern materials and manufacturing processes – but always with a sense of refinement, and never without a concept.
His most recent works (pictured above) are collectively titled “Empyrean” and arrive in the form of slightly glowing lamps. “Empyrean was considered a celestial place in the highest heaven, occupied by the element of fire,” he explains. “The warm glow of the Empyrean Suspended Ceiling Light 01 pays homage to this antiquated concept.” At the launch, we caught up with Gallée to learn about his design journey, his plans for the future and how he came to create the Empyrean pieces.
Can you tell me about the process of creating Empyrean light?
I worked in resin production for about 4 years making art and design pieces for many well known contemporary designers working with this material. My interest in resin dates back to my years as a Design Academy student, but I always felt that the designers who dabbled in it were only scratching the surface of what these materials had to offer. Casting resins are incredibly versatile since you control everything; color, translucency, surface finish, all the feel of an object can easily be dictated.
It’s the ultimate tool if you’re interested in shaping an object from scratch and don’t want to rely on the aesthetic properties of natural materials. For years I would go to the studio to observe how matter behaves under different lighting conditions, and more specifically how form interacts with internal reflections.
What was your earliest memory of exploring creativity and what path did you take to get to where you are now?
Almost everyone in my immediate family is an artist. From my grandfather to my parents, including my aunt and uncle, they are all artists. I was exposed very early to their creative practices. Even though I rejected creative practices for most of my childhood, this influence from my family is arguably what ultimately paved the way in this direction. Like so many others, all it took was a little nudge to get me going.
For me, it was the study of anthropology that made me realize that I was not going to put my head in books for the rest of my life. Then I looked at what creative study I could do. Design seemed most accessible to me at this point in my life, so I applied to the Design Academy, and when I arrived in Eindhoven, I immediately felt I was in the right place.
“Almost all of my work is a direct result of exploring different materials and manufacturing processes”
Was there a point where you felt like you found yourself as a designer, in terms of aesthetics or process?
I don’t know if I’ve found my own aesthetic yet and chances are I never will. What I think is really good is being interested in the process itself. Almost all of my work is a direct result of exploring different materials and manufacturing processes.
You could say it’s a certain type of game until it gets really interesting and then it turns into work during the brief production period of a piece. And after that, the process repeats again. I would, however, classify my work into two different categories; there is all the work based on the material, and then there are my drawings, some of them also made on the objects that I make. As playful as they are, the drawings feel a lot more like hard work to me. I’m incredibly critical of them and often have to chew through dozens of attempts until I’m only marginally satisfied.
What inspires you and what influences your work?
I don’t look too much at what other designers are doing, I can find more inspiration by looking at the history of applied arts. It could be anything from typical Austrian ‘Bemalte Bauernmöbel’ farmer’s furniture to Japanese woodblock printing, but I’d say most of it is work that involves some sort of figurative illustration. For my resin works, I don’t look at existing work at all, I try to let the material dictate the process.
What does it mean to be a designer in 2022? What do you want to achieve through your work and what are you focusing on?
My work relies entirely on personal fascination, but it’s definitely important to me to convey a sense of surprise or wonder through my work. I think it is important that my wooden works remind someone of traditional craftsmanship, that it is clearly visible what this work is built on, while undoubtedly being placed in the contemporary. Ideally, it should act as a sort of bridge, a traditional/contemporary hybrid, embracing both the future and the past.
Resin pieces can also have this effect, but in a very different way, where materiality, light and color become the defining element. In the near future I would like to do something like large scale installations, maybe something more interactive. I really don’t see my practice being confined to the world of furniture design alone. This has turned out to be my gateway to doing stuff so far.