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Interview with Elena Kapompasopoulou

Home > Designer Interviews > Elena Kapompasopoulou

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Elena Kapompasopoulou (EK) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Elena Kapompasopoulou by clicking here.

Interview with Elena Kapompasopoulou at Thursday 3rd of May 2018

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?
EK: I am an architect, working and living in New York since 2010. I currently work at SLCE as a project designer and I have practiced architecture in Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and China. In 2014, driven by the extensive use of concrete in construction, I employed innovative design and fabrication techniques to bring to life aesthetic qualities of materials that until now were perceived as only useful for building design. My jewelry designs aim to disrupt the conventional bond between concrete and architecture, and familiarize the human body with mainstream construction materials.As an employee at the University of Patras, Department of Architecture, my mother was encouraging me from a young age to attend lectures, or any sort of events, organized by the Department. I believe the exposure in such creative environment was what triggered me to study and eventually become an architect. Though, I have to admit, architecture was not my passion originally. Car mechanics was what I wanted to orient myself into. The idea of working in the car industry still excites me.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
EK: In 2014, I established a jewelry brand under the name “Cement Chemistry”. For the first three years, I was running it by myself on the side, whenever I had some time to spare, as my primary occupation was, and still is, being an architect. I quickly realized that if I wanted the brand to grow and become something concrete, I needed a team of specialists to provide their services and help me build up the foundation. Therefore in August 2017, I established a team consisted of a marketing & communication manager, a business planner, a photographer/instagrammer and an artist who helps with production.

FS: What is "design" for you?
EK: I honestly don’t know what to answer here.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
EK: Small scale jewelry and objects. I love having a final result in my hands quickly and at the same time be able to store it and easily transport it - especially in a city like New York, where space is expensive and therefore, limited.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
EK: It’s a neckpiece I designed this year for an exhibition at El. Marneri Gallery in Athens, Greece. The gallery is celebrating 30 years since its foundation and requested a new unique piece from the each of the participants. I created a piece from concrete particles that are mounted on leather, named ‘The Silent Siren’ and it represents the rocky coasts of the Aegean.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
EK: It was a black exhibition cube, freestanding in the middle of a gallery - a project I worked as an architectural intern at the ‘Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’ on Frank Gehry’s Abu Dhabi Project.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
EK: It depends on different factors (including my mood and the weather conditions). From materials, I love concrete, marble, gold but also cashmere and leather. Regarding platform, I would pick ‘google search engine’ and definitely car technology but also the one used for sustainable living.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
EK: When I run out of time.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
EK: First on the form. Then, the function follows.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
EK: All kinds of emotions. Usually with the following sequence; At the beginning is excitement, then disappointment, then doubt. Frustration. Excitement again. Then, the deadline is approaching, therefore panic kicks in. And at the very end pure love.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
EK: Love and excitement.

FS: What makes a design successful?
EK: I think it depends on the approach of what success is for you. A design can be successful if it gets an award or if it makes it to a museum/ gallery exhibition. A different approach is if it sells because it proves that other people (other than yourself) like it and want to own it.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
EK: For me, it would be: form, materiality and functionality.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
EK: As an architect and designer, I feel obligated to create spaces or design objects that serve and improve the quality of life, but also support and complete my own personality. Currently, I work on affordable housing projects in the NYC area, and my contribution to improving the living conditions for both low income families and former homeless people brings great satisfaction in my life. As a designer, I feel like my jewelry play a supportive role in creating a unique holistic image, that particular clientele dare to wear.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
EK: I think technology pushed the design to another level over the past decade. Computation and new software technologies became tools for designers and opened the gates to further exploration. Endless possibilities rised and we have to carefully select the design that fulfills most of the requirements that we set up. The future is unknown, but I believe that there will always be people to break the rules and push it further. That itself is already exciting.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
EK: I exhibited a unique neckpiece at El. Marneri Galerie in Athens between January and February 2018. The galerie celebrated 30 years in the jewelry scene and hosted three exhibitions, bringing together unique works from 68 designers. My piece ‘The Silence of the Siren’ was exhibited at the last one, named ‘Contemporary Stories’. I would like to exhibit again in New York. London and Paris come right after.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
EK: Inspiration mainly grows from the environment I live in. The more I explore what surrounds me, the more creative I feel. Travelling and museum hoping is another great spring of resourcefulness.

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?
EK: I would describe my style as ‘architectural’ and I owe this to my professional background as an architect. I don’t think I have a particular design approach. What intrigues me more is to break the rules and go against what is already established and considered ‘default’.

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?
EK: I live and work in New York since 2010, but originally I am from Greece. The cultural heritage and the history of my country absolutely play a significant role, mostly in the conception of the idea. Then, I challenge myself and try to break the rules in order to design something unique, supported by a strong concept.

FS: How do you work with companies?
EK: I have worked so far with individuals and the collaborations have been very successful and prosperous. Looking forward to collaborating with companies too in the future, as I would like to explore and experience work and production in a different scale.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
EK: I think collaborators should identify and establish the respective design and marketing goals from the very beginning, so that both ends have a clear understanding of their role. There is a great range of criteria for a company to select a good designer. Behind the obvious, which are the design skills and style, I believe the personality, experience and background of the designer is what matters most. For me, there is no specific formula to follow in the selection of a good designer, but unique design in combination with a great story is the key.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
EK: For the production of a jewel, a seven-step process is being followed. First, the object is designed in 2D plans, elevations, sections and in 3D. Then, is being tested digitally (for its comfort, functionality, tolerance etc.) As soon as the model meets the standard criteria, it is sent for 3D printing. The third step includes the cast of a silicon mold, and the fourth the metalwork (or as a reinforcement or as part of the design). As soon as those two components are ready, we proceed with the casting of the concrete. The last two steps include sanding and polishing/sealing.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
EK: Herman Miller Eames Molded Plywood Lounge Chair.‘Seeds Mill’, a ceramic piece from the artist Xi Nan.A bag painted from Peter Reginato.A handmade rug from goat hair.An abstract engraved foam piece made by my husband.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
EK: It depends if you want to know about my weekdays or my weekends. A typical weekday includes an 8-hour shift at the architecture firm I work at, a visit at the studio to coordinate the team or produce jewelry. Then, dinner (usually it occurs at home) and a glass of wine or a cocktail accompanied by a movie (or series), before heading to bed. Days that I don’t go to the studio, I work out or hang out with friends. Lectures, museum visits and excursions happen mostly over the weekend, when I am free from my architectural obligation.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
EK: Believe in yourself.Study and absorb as much as you can from your school and environment. Save money and travel- It’s a sort of investment that pays off.Do not copy work of others. Be unique and have your own signature.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
EK: I believe the most exciting part is that your own creativity turns nothing into something. And that this ‘something’ might have a small or big impact to people around you. No matter what you create, there will always be someone who is going to use it, stare it, love it, or even hate it. That is truly exciting, if you think about it, only because you initiate a dialogue, a body interaction, an engaging conversation with people who don’t even know you. On the other hand, being a designer is also a torture. Mostly because of the long hours and the design phases you have to go through, in order to achieve what you want. It takes a lot of effort, patience, and courage to bring your vision in life, but (almost always) it does worth it in the end.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
EK: Use my time efficiently. If for whatever reason, something doesn’t work, let it go for a while. The idea will still be there, waiting for you. It won’t go anywhere. Focus on something different and give yourself space and time to think. Avoid burning yourself without being productive. Today might not be your day to create it, so accept it and move on.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
EK: For what I do, definitely computer and design skills. Communication and graphics are also critical factors.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
EK: Starting point is the computer. I use software like Rhino (for 2D and 3D design), Adobe Suite (for graphics) to design and communicate my ideas with my team. Then, I have a box of tools and custom molds that I use for casting, polishing and finishing the jewelry. Sources of inspiration could come from internet, or a walk or a museum visit, or a trip.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
EK: I try to use my time as efficiently as possible. If the design doesn’t seem right and I cannot make it work, I have to leave it on the side for a while. I focus on something different and I try not to burn my head. The following day the design will still be there for me. If nothing works for a while, I ask others people opinion.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
EK: That really depends. I have designs that I created within an hour and were complete within a week. I have though some other, locked in drawers for 2 or 3 years and I know that I am not going to challenge myself with them in the near future.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
EK: What is this made of?How did you make this?

FS: What was your most important job experience?
EK: I think importance is somehow linked with a level of responsibility. The most important job is what I currently have at the architecture firm I work at. The years of experience come along with liability and that is a critical factor. Also, the projects I work on - affordable housing - have a significant role in society and culture and this is an additional agent.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
EK: I would like to keep these information discreet.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
EK: Jewelry design is the most joyful for me. Mainly because of the small scale, the quick process of production (in comparison with larger scale objects or buildings), the small volume and the easy transportation.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
EK: I would like to collaborate with other artists and companies. Enrich my expertise in the field, learn from others and achieve a steady, healthy growth of the brand.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
EK: Both. There are designs that I developed exclusively by myself and there are some that I assisted experts from different fields to solve technical issues.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
EK: I currently work on a unique piece that will donate to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens for their annual Gala. A silent auction will take place during that night and the money raised from my piece will directly support research, archaeological exploration and education.

FS: How can people contact you?
EK: The most preferable way is by email: elena@cement-chemistry.com

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
EK: I am fully covered.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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