STUDIO TALK with
We consider what we make to be functional sculpture.
The sculpture is where it begins, where it first and most importantly exists. The utilitarian function is the challenge, an extension of its core and history.
In anticipation of the release of the first ever collection from zuckerhosen this coming fall, NS sits down with the duo - Elizabeth Leah Born and Mario Francois Isenmann to see what drives their studio practice and why they love what they do...
NS: zuckerhosen is a duo, how would you describe your partnership?
z: Our partnership is collaborative, challenging, and constantly engaging. There is an unspoken understanding and knowing between us which fosters trust and brutal honesty—it enables experimentation and allows us to challenge each other and what we think we know.
Our dialogue is never-ending, filled with humor and a ridiculous amount of research.
NS: How did the two of you meet and then how did that turn into the creation of zuckerhosen?
z: We first met while working at the Cranbrook Art Museum as preparators. A mutual respect was quickly gained for both professional and personal work. We teamed up on a commission piece and then it was off to the races.
NS: Why do you make furniture? What makes furniture important for you?
z: We consider what we make to be functional sculpture.
The sculpture is where it begins, where it first and most importantly exists. The utilitarian function is the challenge, an extension of its core and history. This presents the possiblities for our work to exist between realms, floating and detached, but grounded and purposeful. An amorphic puddle of art, design, and craft that moves within, between, and outside of the historical/traditional templates of sculpture and the utilitarian.
NS: What informs your practice? And how would you describe your approach to creating work?
z: A constant exchange: the push and pull of our individual knowledge, skill sets, history, aesthetics, and ideas. We react to where they each blend, overlap, and battle. It is a weaving in and out, a building of a channel that the work flows out of, leading us to the next thing we are going to be obsessed with.
Our approach is one of inquiry and problem-solving, to challenge ourselves and to force an evolution in the way that we use materials and activate form.
NS: What are some of your most significant influences?
z: The folk, the untrained, the self-taught. The undefined, the remnant, the incomplete, the museum mounted fragment, the archaeologists layout table. Small objects that we can hold, handmade tools, fossils, trees, literature, forts, phenomena, science, and the spiritual.
Archived moments of motion. Accidental hand-knotted rope and string. Haptics. The movement and evolution of light and shadow. Acoustics/sound/music.
zuckerhosen has an ever-expanding library of influential objects/materials/colors. A collection that ranges from pieces of found metal, amateur ceramics, homemade utilitarian items and tools, retrofitted vacuums, medical/science lab equipment, antique writing utensils and smoking stands to family heirlooms and precious photographs.
NS: How does the place in which you work affect your design processes and outcomes?
z: This area possesses a beautiful unapologetic truth in both its environment and its aesthetic. It is constantly transforming and reforming, referencing the past while simutaneously looking to the future. Our work embodies that spirit and we embrace what it has imprinted on and within us, as it continues to inform us.
NS: What are some of your favorite materials to work with?
z: Materials whose applications are experimental, opening the chance for unforseen accidental invention and reactions.
NS: What is each of your favorite pieces that you have made?
z: The pieces we are currently working on. The materials and aesthetic evolution feels correct, exciting, and honest.
NS: Do you have any ideal settings for your furniture? Any specific 'ultimate destinations' you hope for?
z: A place of longevity, where it gathers personal value through memories and use, providing a familiar/familial presence through generational exchange.
NS: What do you think is the future of furniture? Meaning, how do you see the functions, aesthetics and/or cultural values shifting in the coming generations?
z: It's always a pendulum or circular movement. The current generations taste, aesthetics, and values are in direct reaction to the generation before. It is an exciting moment in design as artists are redefining the concept of the utilatarian object and rebelling against the mass-production model. Whether it's a collective uplifting of the authentic, considered, one-of-a-kind object or the forging of a new aesthetic by a few, it is a reaction.
NS: Do each of you have a favorite color? Which and why?
ELB: Color is incredibly context and surface specific. It depends on what the color is on, or in, or next to. What is the environment? Who and what is the color conversing with? Is the colors' material a soft textile or hard surface? Is it stretchy? Is it reflecting or optically mixing with other colors? Does it refract light?...
MFI: You're cruel. I'm colorblind.
NS:How would you describe your first collection?
z: Modern partial artifacts. Placing the viewer in a situation of the unknown but familiar, like an archeologist unearthing an object from a lost culture not quite knowing its intended use or meaning.