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Making Talents: Marie Radke

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Fresh young talent is the elixir of life, so to speak, for an industry to which attractive design is so essential. But how does one actually become an up-and-coming designer? And what drives young talent on? In this series, TOP FAIR presents up-and-coming designers from various product segments and asks them about their careers and projects. All the designers interviewed presented their designs and products at Ambiente 2020 in the context of the Talents special exhibition.

In the second interview in the series, we spoke to Marie Radke, who completed her Product Design studies at the UdK Berlin in April 2019 and has worked for various designers such as Martha Schwindlig and bartmann berlin. In addition to this, she works on creative concepts and visualisations for various brands and also as a set designer. In her work, she combines both humour and innovation.

: Is there such a thing as an individual design philosophy? What makes for good design in your view?
For me, formal language, functionality, use of colours and the question ‘what is strictly necessary?’ are important considerations in the design process. Take, for example, an object with a dome that you keep thinking you have to press down on, or a water carafe with a lid that everyone wants to unscrew. The carafe does not tell you: “Hey, all you need to do is pour. You can leave the lid on” but if you have to tell people that several times in the course of a barbecue, the object will soon cease to bring you any pleasure.
By the same token, I simply cannot understand why in 2020 capsule coffee machines are still being brought onto the market. From the environmental standpoint, they represent a step backwards in comparison to earlier solutions such as filter coffee or the cafetière. I just think it’s crazy.
Naturally, products should in principle be practical and functional, but they ought to be fun too. I really loved the Sowden kettle for Hay. Finally, a kettle that is beautiful! So it’s high on my wish list. Even though there are thousands of kettles on the market, this was what was missing. The kitchen is increasingly doubling as a living room, as apartments are getting smaller and often no longer have a dedicated living room. So beautiful objects that bring pleasure now also have their place there too.

: Do you have any design models, in the sense of people or individual designs that you regard as particularly successful?
The Hamburg studio Besau Maguerre is a great inspiration to me because it is so versatile and interdisciplinary. Since my own interests are very broad and I am constantly looking for ways to engage with them it is reassuring to see that something like that works. But, aside from that, I do, of course, have a number of role models such as Hella Jongerius, Ineke Hans, India Mahdavi and Martha Schwindling. I am inspired and impressed, too, by my fellow students and friends who are designers. That’s why I love competitions where there’s a get together at some stage. The cancellation of the one&twenty competition due to the coronavirus was a blow to me. I would have liked to have met the other winners at the exhibition. At the end of 2019, I was in Dubai at the Global Grad Show with my Familie Hempel furniture collection and what I enjoyed most about the exhibition was getting to know other young designers from other parts of the world and seeing proof that design is not all white. You have some of the best conversations while you are waiting for hours at the airport – it’s an experience that forges bonds.

: Do you have a favourite among your own designs – one, for instance, that turned out particularly well or that met some particularly challenging requirement?
The Familie Hempel, naturally, which is a homage to the ‘clothes chair’ – the chair you pile with clothes that you have worn but which do not yet need to be washed. Whilst typically regarded as a manifestation of chaos, the Familie Hempel collection recognizes that this chair actually brings order, the only problem being that you can no longer sit on it. With the Familie Hempel, the ‘clothes chair’ is rescued from the grey area. Furthermore, by storing the clothes, it avoids unnecessary washing, fostering a fresh appreciation of one’s own clothes in a world of fast fashion. Familie Hempel is a collection consisting of a stool, a pouf, a bench and a high chair. I like the fact that, on the one hand, you can use the furniture as intuitively as you do your ‘clothes chair’, but on the other hand, you can also just sit on it. I have focussed on various common gestures such as ‘hang’, ‘stow’ and ‘put down’, which, although somewhat lazy, are nonetheless gestures I found exciting. When you come home after a day at work, you have the right to be a little lazy sometimes. It is no longer obligatory to fold up the clothes you have just been wearing and put them back in the wardrobe. Perhaps that is the reason the idea was so well received: a lot of people can identify with this approach. 

: How do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
I do a lot of research at the inception of an idea. Sometimes I just begin with a single theme or function; then I sit down at the computer for a few hours (sometimes days) and do research. After that I draw a little – always in colour. I invariably think in images and sometimes I already know which colours I want to work with or how the set should look during the shooting even though the design is not even finished yet. The next step is to build the first models with cardboard and hot glue, often 1:1, and finally the whole thing is transferred to the digital domain.

: What projects are you working on currently?
I’m very concerned with themes such as living space and utility. Of course, everything required to furnish a home is already available on the market, but circumstances and habits are also changing. The dining table perhaps doubles as a desk. In these times more so than ever, of course.
I have just completed a huge private project. I extended my old monster fitted kitchen dating from 1993, completely renovated the room (including the floor and the walls) and finally built my own kitchen – and all for less than 1000 euro. That’s when I realised that I simply love interior design! I adore completely redesigning a room.
During the coronavirus lockdown I began work on a carpet collection. It’s a rather lyrical project in which I address the themes of home and security. The production is taking forever but it is fun. In October, I will start my master’s degree in Berlin and doubtless a new furniture collection will come out of that.

: What challenges were you faced with as a newcomer after graduating?
The big question once I’d finished my bachelor’s was: “What next?” I was very lucky that my Familie Hempel collection was well received and featured in many exhibitions and trade fairs. That also gave me the requisite self-confidence. Trade fairs and competitions are cost intensive. So the biggest challenge is the financial one.
Being active as an artistic assistant gave me the financial security to be able to present my work at trade fairs. For the Talents booth at Ambiente, I was awarded a Green Card by the German Design Graduates, but of course there are also transport, travel and accommodation costs to be considered. Nonetheless, it was well worth it. Ambiente was really great!
Participation in competitions is also a cost factor. For the Hessian State Prize, I had to submit A2 presentation charts. Of course, I wondered whether, in the spirit of the coronavirus era, it might not be possible to do it all online… The place at the university also motivated me to do a master’s, as I can see myself working in teaching in a few years’ time. 

Marie Radke / Instagram

Website of Marie Radke

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