In addition to the exhibition of their work in Cologne, the A&W Designer of the Year crown also allows the recipient to select one young designer for the so-called A&W Mentor Prize: essentially a chance to invite a young designer whose work they admire to share the spotlight with them. Previous mentees have included Stefan Diez, selected in 2005 by Richard Sapper, Oskar Zieta, selected in 2011 by Tokujin Yoshioka, and the very first mentee, Konstantin Grcic, selected by Achille Castiglioni in 1997. 2016’s A&W Designer of the Year Jasper Morrison choose Swiss designer Michel Charlot, a designer he knows, and has already “mentored” during Michel’s tenure in Japser Morrison’s office, however, and somewhat obviously, we wanted to know, why had Jasper Morrison chosen Michel Charlot, what does he like about Michel’s work?
“I like his approach, it’s not just a formal approach, rather, as for example with the waste bin, its about taking a material and finding a way of working it to create something new and which has advantages over what is currently available”
And do you see your influence in his works?
“No, when he came to me he was already stubborn as hell. He’s got his own ideas, and that’s the way it should be.”
Thus, and suitably armed, we approached Michel Charlot.
Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, Michel Charlot studied at the city’s Ecole Cantonale d‘Art, ECAL, graduating in 2009. Following his graduation Michel spent some 18 months working with and for Jasper Morrison before establishing his own studio, originally in Basel but currently based in Porto, Portugal, and through which he has completed projects with firms such as Nava Design, Belux and Vitra, for whom he designed the Davy Table as a companion piece to the 1939 Landi Chair by Hans Coray, a commission which raises the obvious question of where does one start when developing an object to accompany such a well known and widely admired classic?
Michel Charlot: I started with the material because what makes the Landi Chair so fascinating is the anodized aluminium, so it was a fairly easy decision to keep the material and then try to develop a table. Which then proved less straight forward because through the anodization one has lots of restrictions, restrictions which when combined with Vitra’s demands in terms of weight and strength meant I had to play around quite a bit to find a solution. And then obviously I had to find a form that complimented the chair, and all that in a fairly tight time frame because the date for the re-launch of the Landi Chair was fixed and we had to have the table ready by then.
smow blog: We know that you’ve been in contact with Vitra for a few years, but how did the Davy Table commission arise?
Michel Charlot: Belux belong to Vitra and during the development of U-Turn I got to know Eckart Maise, Vitra’s Chief Design Officer, and he approached me after the lamp was finished and asked if I would be interested in developing a table for the Landi Chair. I think Vitra liked the idea of a Swiss designer developing a new product to accompany a Swiss design classic.
smow blog: A partner of a slightly different scale is Berlin based L&Z. We remember being somewhat surprised, as is in positively surprised, when we saw your first cooperation with L&Z, how did the cooperation with arise, did you approach them, or……?
Michel Charlot: Daniel [Lorch, co founder of L&Z] contacted me after seeing U-Turn, and asked if I’d be interested in working with them….
smow blog: He just phoned up, or……..
Michel Charlot: ….yes, he’d seen U-Turn, liked it, phoned me up and asked if I’d like to meet. We then met in Basel, got on well on a personal level, everything was very easy and familiar, and as a company I considered them serious, professional and could see that they were working on realising their idea of design and not following any trends or trying to fit in with any particular market or group. And so I said yes…..
smow blog: The first project was then the paper bin Roll-Up, what was the background thinking, where did that begin?
Michel Charlot: L&Z wanted a paper bin, but couldn’t afford injection moulding and so I had to find an alternative solution. At that time I was working on bag project and so thought maybe we could try and do something similar and so together with a partner we developed a polyurethane according to our requirements for stiffness, weight, colour etc. Initially the plan was just to do one size but because it has proved a successful product we have released it in other sizes that can be used in different situations, and not just as a bin but also as a general basket or storage object.
smow blog: And we can see from the couple of prototypes in the exhibition that you are developing other projects for L&Z, can we take it that you enjoy the cooperation…
Michel Charlot: Very much so. Design is largely about the relationship between designer and manufacturer and with L&Z it is very easy, relaxed and works on a very informal, uncomplicated level which I like and with which I feel comfortable.
smow blog: “Relationships” is a good keyword. When we we spoke with Jasper Morrison he said you were “stubborn as hell”, how would you describe Jasper Morrison?
Michel Charlot: He’s clever, he’s very clever. The way he designs and the way he manages the office its fascinating to watch and to see how he manages all that.
smow blog: He may claim you didn’t learn anything from your time with him, but did you?
Michel Charlot: Every day. The good thing is that you are working with nice products and working with Jasper Morrison you learn that the most important thing is to be self-critical, even if you spend a lot of time working on a project, you must always maintain a critical distance. Sometimes it is really painful to say “No, that’s not good”, but it is really important that you can do that, and that you do do that.
More information on Michel Charlot and his work can be found at www.michelcharlot.com and in the smow blog archive you can read our interview from Orgatec 2012 with Michel Charlot abot U-Turn and his general approach to design.
Tagged with: cologne, Davy Table, köln, L&Z, Landi Chair, Michel Charlot, U-Turn, Vitra