Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Johanna Jonsson Abchee (JJ) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Johanna Jonsson Abchee by clicking here.
Interview with Johanna Jonsson Abchee at Saturday 5th of March 2016
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
JJ: After our firstborn, I stopped working and spent some time at home. I felt the urge to redecorate ever so often and when I got to the walls, I decided to get some mirrors. To my surprise I found the market limiting: It was either mass market or very niche. I started designing my own mirrors and frames and got really good feedback. It encouraged me to develop it further. It’s very intense as I get to be philosophical in developing the characters of the collections, logical for the form of the designs and in touch with beauty for the aesthetics of the piece.
FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
JJ: The company consists of myself in my atelje, but I take a lot of help from craftsmen and industrial people to complete my work . I conceptualize my designs alone, sketch it and explain it to hard-working craftsmen and finally put the pieces together with the story.
FS: What is "design" for you?
JJ: function and aesthetics and bridging a profounder understanding between the design and the user.
FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
JJ: I recently created all the mirrors for a state-of-the art playground. To live a project intensely through the eyes of an architect or interior designer is fascinating for a certain period of time. And very liberating to move onto your next destination. I’d like to do more of that.
FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
JJ: Every collection and each design requires that I live a story, create a character and find a beauty that will correspond to that character. The Nomad was my “firstborn” so I put so much love and soul into that piece. Lately I’ve fallen completely in love with the more playful collections, The Impressionist and The Illusionist. The Backgammon (Impressionist Collection) is my favorite piece for now. It’s such a heritage of Lebanese culture, mixing all generations through a simple game. It’s a mix of vintage and fresh in colors.
FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
JJ: About 8 years ago. Lighting for a restaurant. I used about 40 bottles for each lighting piece with a circle rounded, rusty looking steel fixture to hold the bottles together.
FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
JJ: I like to use new metals and other techniques that are not expensive but that give a value. I have a new favourite material, ZINCOR, that i perforate with a design and paint in bright colours. I like working closely with the knowledgeable craftsmen and industries to provide the most interesting solutions.
FS: When do you feel the most creative?
JJ: When I find a thread to a potential solution. I will follow it till the end like an intriqued student discovering the secrets of life. And this is the feeling I always try to obtain. The energy flows so elegantly here.
FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
JJ: I enjoy the conceptualization, between finding the right aesthetics and corresponding story to it. And of course when seeing the first results in concrete.
FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
JJ: Happy and alive. As if the world is large but yet so attainable.
FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
JJ: Proud. happily surprised. I've put so much effort in the conceptualisation and thoughts before proceeding that somewhere I forget that it was thoroughly thought of and planned. As time passes I forget the wholeness of the product as I'm in the details of the materials and any obstacles that occur. When the results finally show up it's such a great relief.
FS: What makes a design successful?
JJ: Function and aesthetics, but I believe it's mostly about being understood fully.
FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
JJ: Quality. Does it look flawed in any way? that appears strongest as a first impression.
FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
JJ: To find a purpose with your work, and that usually comes through self reflection. In order to give back, you need to feel what you have to offer.
FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
JJ: I think there is potential for accessibility, meaning middle range. With the Chinese industrial revolution vs the very high end furniture brands, I believe in a good piece at an affordable price. People are becoming more knowledgeable and that includes understanding for good design and value but equally as much for accessible prices.
FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
JJ: It is still on-going until May 2016. I would very much like to have another beginning of next year. For the rest of this year, I'd like to focus more on the stores I'd like to approach in Europe as well as projects to be involved with with architects and interior designers.
FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
JJ: Like most of us, travel: new fashions, new streets, new people are the essentials, but what really captures me profoundly is true connections. It starts with being truly in touch with yourself. Your genuine self meeting other authentic people.
FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
JJ: My style is often a mix between two elements. Vintage revamped, modern arabesque or classical pop. It's like an old soul that finds a new environment to express its new findings.I think it comes a bit from boredom. Too much of the same style becomes a bit itchy for me....there's a big need to break it.
FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
JJ: Definitely. My father is Swedish and my mother is Iraqi. I grew up between Stockholm, Vientiane, Athens, Riyadh and living in Beirut. Beirut is already a good mix between Europe and the Arab world, a typical middle eastern culture. Due to the turmoils there has been a big freedom and feeling of expression of thought. A beautiful number of designers create the most interesting pieces and I think that comes from what is going on around us.
FS: How do you work with companies?
JJ: I work with department stores and concept stores in Lebanon and Dubai. We come up with the types of collections and price points that work best. Some take commission of the work and others buy my pieces before placing them in their stores.
FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
JJ: I think it's important to be clear on what you want. To prepare a good brief and know what to expect from the designer will make it easier to deliver a great job. And then chemistry is a big factor that you can feel from the first meeting.
FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
JJ: I live in a dream for a while when I take time to explore a new character and the aesthetics that will relate to that. That can take a few days and a lot of googling on my iPhone for psychological analysis of this character. Linking that character to a material or form takes another period of dreaming but here it's more tangible as the materials give reality to the dream. The realisation of the projects wakes you up from the bubble and into a more raw supplier and craftsman encounter to see the feasibility of the work. And the outcome is more often than rare like seeing your newborn child: Always more love than you can ever dream of prior to seeing your child and this sense of pride for what you feel you took part in accomplishing.
FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
JJ: My mirrors:), the coffee table designed by my husband, the bar that is a vintage piece, the Marshall head speakers and my kids drawings.
FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
JJ: I wake up to get the kids ready for school. Once they're off I start my day with a beautiful cup of coffee and go through the planning of the day. I visit a supplier to go through some details. I come back home to my office space and share some posts on social media and go through the office work. Usually 1 hr is given to dream a bit of the upcoming design.
FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
JJ: Enjoy a bit of play. And look within yourself for answers...you are wiser than you think.
FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
JJ: The beautiful feeling of creating and producing is the beauty. The negatives of office work, calculations and doing some work you may not like.
FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
JJ: Connect the story to the design to the execution to the user.
FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
JJ: Creativity is a must, but I think that goes without saying. An important skill is organisation. To know what you want, where to get it and how to pursue it needs proper organisation skills.
FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
JJ: I use my iPhone a lot for research, social media and writing notes. A notepad for sketching and I'm learning photoshop now so I don't have to be over the graphic designer all the time.
FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
JJ: With 3 kids and a happening social life, time is always hard to balance. I devote myself fully to work when they are in school. The hard part is when a strong inspiration comes during the weekend when it's time for the kids to have my time.
FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
JJ: It depends of course. But with The Illusionist it went pretty fast. For the concept of the design and story to execution more or less 45 days.
FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
JJ: How come you came up with the idea of designing mirrors?
FS: What was your most important job experience?
JJ: The combination of Advertising and marketing, Packaging, client servicing and luxury food retail all brought in a lot for me. But it's as if I took what I needed and left. Now I understand why.
FS: Who are some of your clients?
JJ: Les Galeries Lafayette Dubai. BHV Lebanon and soon Dubai. Sauce Concept Store. Orient 499. Trunk Concept Store
FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
JJ: The conceptualisation. You dream big, you live the dream
FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
JJ: I would very much like to work with an interior designer who's work I connect with. I have a few in mind I will be contacting next month.
FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
JJ: I work alone on the design and the conceptualisation, but I work closely with the craftsmen on execution.
FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
JJ: It's not finalised, but I may have a hotel as a project together with an interior designer. That would mean understanding the mood of the hotel and creating mirrors for each room.
FS: How can people contact you?
JJ: by e-mail is the most efficient.
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