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Milan: a drop in the ocean

April 9th, 2011

Filed under: ART & DESIGN


Curious Collections is based in an old school gym office

Her name? Mariëlle Leenders. Her company? Curious Collections. What drives her? Easy. That’s “nature”. Her discipline? Good question. She’s a product and experience designer (Design Academy Eindhoven alumni), an entrepreneur, and she is also a photographer and concept designer. Mariëlle needs timelines and the discipline of an assignment – because without it, her natural state is like water. First her creative energy starts to trickle, then it rushes, gathering momentum … and finally it floods every which way until she’s unstoppable. Her dam this time, will be Milan.

About six weeks ago, a tad late on in the piece, Mariëlle found out by chance that there was an available spot in Milan’s Ventura Lambrate for her to exhibit. There, alongside other talents from the Swedish school of textiles, London’s Royal College of Art and fellow countrymen such as Studio Dave Keune, and Pelidesign, Mariëlle has the chance to show a sample of her range of photodesigns. That is, photographs that have been taken, by her, and then reworked as designs, by her. Then the client decides what to do with them – they can be applied to wallpaper, soft furnishing fabrics, gift paper and greeting cards. Or … things we hadn’t thought of before. Maybe they could be printed onto plastic salad spoons, or maybe a car covered in a photodesign of seashells, by Mariëlle. Or imagine a heavenly scene of scented blossoms in some restful public space – thanks to Mariëlle! The product is the photodesign itself – not the thing on which it is stuck.

Some of these photodesigns have already taken off really well in countries like Japan, and now Mariëlle wants to test the waters in Italy.

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When it comes to setting up for an exhibition in Milan, and you’re based in Eindhoven, you have to think of all sorts of things. She wasn’t completely inundated – thanks to help from friends: promotional material was designed by eMMy, who  operates out of Mariëlle’s office (which is a converted gym, by the way), text was written by Miss Qwerty (who also works in this office). But as for the rest, it’s a one-woman-show and Mariëlle has kept her own head well above water. Consider: Mariëlle has single-handedly produced the selected photodesigns as wallpaper, the transport, venue hire, hotel rental and coordinated the bump in and bump out of the exhibition. At the end of it all, Mariëlle can look forward to being present at her stand for 12 hours a day for four days. This too, she’ll do alone.

“Oh, that’s fine,” says Mariëlle airly. “I have a switch that goes off in my head when it comes to exhibitions. I’ll be working, so I’m prepared for it. Luckily, my photodesigns speak for themselves. I just have to be there.” Well, with the amount of work she’s already done, the exhibition itself will be like water off a duck’s back.

Mariëlle is hoping that architects in particular will come to visit her stand. She believes that her photo-real imagery of predominantly natural textures and patterns will suit the interiors of businesses and institutions.

“Oh, you’re right! I hadn’t realised that all the designs are quite natural. Gosh, it must just be automatic,” she says, delighted when I point out to her the organic-ness of the designs she’s shown me. She had just been telling me how nature has always been her driver. “Nature is part of us. Humans and nature are intricately interconnected. My job as a designer is not to meddle with nature, but to reveal it. I’m always inspired by nature, always.”

Curious Collections: pretty florals are a hit in Japan

I ask Mariëlle what on earth she’ll do once she gets back from the stress and excitement of Milan.

“Right now it’s the perfect time to take more photos and create more photodesigns,” she says, gazing outside the window into the spring sunlight. Ever enthusiastic about her work, and inspired by nature, Mariëlle will continue on with her photodesign inspiration. That is, until she meanders onto the next thing. Will it be a natural material bank? Or new designs for the park of the future? Or maybe a film documentary study for a new experience design research project? Who knows? We don’t, and neither does Mariëlle. She just goes with the flow.

Milan – to some the Salone is the mecca of the design year. To Mariëlle, it’s a drop in a massive ocean of possibilities and experimentation. With her energy, faith in the natural order of things, and her flexibility to experiment and try new things, Milan will just be one of many more experiences in Mariëlle’s ever-changing, exciting, nature-inspired design career.

Curious Collection flyer, by eMMy

Curious Collections text by Miss Qwerty

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