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Five Minutes With … Carole Baijings

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    Five Minutes With … Carole Baijings

    For us, it is so important to consider the human aspect: how can we keep the culture of craftsmanship alive, how can we continue to support craftsman communities, and how can we keep promoting the inherent value of the human hand in design?”

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    Sustainability has rightfully taken a place at the forefront of so many industry conversations, but in the effort to share the important story of the environment around us, we all too often overlook ourselves. It is odd that the topic of human sustainability sadly doesn’t receive much airtime in the design world – odder, still, given it remains one industry that sees a direct relationship between craft and hand.

    “In terms of how we work,” says Carole Baijings of Scholten and Baijings, “we always think along with the clients, but also really push to improve how sustainably we produce. For us, it is so important to consider the human aspect of this: how can we keep the culture of craftsmanship alive, how can we continue to support craftsman communities, and how can we keep promoting the inherent value of the human hand in design?”

    Covering everything from human sustainability, the momentum-building resurgence of handicrafts and traditional processes, and the new human-centric values of today’s workplace designs, we sat down with Baijings to learn more about how this globally recognised practice is pushing new boundaries in design.

    Every brand, designer and studio in the global design industry is focusing on improving their sustainability credentials. But I wanted to ask you what sustainability considerations you have in front of mind at Scholten and Baijings?

    Well, it’s not exactly a consideration, but we are very excited about it at the moment since w only just started using it in the design process. It’s a 3D printer that we use in the prototyping phase, printing materials with corn! Over time, the end result disappears, with textiles in general only lasting 9 months. It makes sure that we can harness a renewable material for one of the most waste-producing periods in the design process. But I also think that this is a very narrow-minded view of sustainability, as it also needs to include the more human aspect too.

    For me, when I look at the local crafts traditions of so many communities around the world, I am renewed in my conviction to help retain the value in human craft (from a design perspective) and to invest well (from a consumer perspective). 

    Do you think that this type of thinking is becoming more and more prevalent?

    Absolutely – you need only look as far as the big luxury brands to see how much this way of thinking has entered both the designer-end and consumer-end of the industry. Hermes Handcraft is a great case in point, making craft the new luxury. We are always privileged to work with the best craftsmen in the world who also have the same philosophy. One of my favourite examples would be Porcelain Arita – a collection that was 400 years in the making, borrowing from the rich history of porcelain master-craftsmen for generations and generations. But in Arita, the collaboration helped to revive the area’s local economy. It helped, that is, remind consumers that Porcelain Arita products can be used everyday, made with the very same techniques that traditional craftsmen have been honing for centuries.

    I like to surround myself with examples such as these because they remind that, even at the smallest scale of a single teacup or even a silk handkerchief, design performs the important work of community building. 

    And do you display this collection of reminders in your studio space too?

    Yes, and it is very useful to be surrounded by them all the time – they’ve been great springboards for our imagination in the design process. I think it is important that we bring this mentality to our workspace because not only do we spend so much time there, but it is a space that needs to energise a team, keep us all motivated and ignite creativity. Entering the space, you immediately get a sense for what we do and what Scholten and Baijings is all about – this is the human side we’ve been talking about – so it’s great that we can showcase the heart and soul of the studio in this small but significant way. 

    We live and work alongside our inspirations and our prototypes, and this is a vital part of the process that helps us learn about our products and projects in new ways each day. Collections of objects are displayed all over the place, from everyday items to design objects, curated in a purposeful way that indicates each object tells a very human story.

    But overall, how would you characterise the design of this space?

    [Laughs] We are minimalists, so I guess I would say ‘minimal’. But in truth, one of the things that I derive a lot of joy from is trying to keep as many original details of a space as possible. The building that contains our studio – 1925 Monument – is located next to a museum, and so we have tried to keep as many details as possible to bring about that museum-like feeling of calm and stillness, putting us space in our minds to create new products that have all the richness and human depth of a museum artefact. 

    And what would you say is your very favourite feature in this space?

    Well for all of us, I think that this is an easy question to answer. It’s the 670-suare-metre garden designed by Peter  who designed the Highline In New York City. You can imagine that this is a very poetic space – one we are lucky to have, bringing the beauty of nature right onto our doorstep. For me, a lot of beautiful flowers give inspiration to my work, and the colours throughout the year remain in perfect balance with so many of our own designs and tonal schemes. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s this garden that is feeding our imagination! With the bees and butterflies in summer, and full of inspiration wherever you look, it’s such a wonderful place to have tea in and collaborate over lunch. I find this so special as this is quite rare in Amsterdam to have a secret garden.

    We’ve spoken a lot about what informs and inspires your practice, but do you have a philosophy that has always stayed with you?

    Well we work as a female and male team – it’s a pretty small team actually. But as a result, it is really important for us to feel a love for the product or design. If we don't like it, then why would anyone else want to buy this from us? It’s so important for us to design something that we, ourselves, would want. 


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