Interview by Federica Marie Carenini
Françoise Oostwegel is a product designer based in Maastricht. She will be presenting her ZUID Lamp series at the International Interior Show in Cologne.
Federica Marie Carenini: What inspired you in the designing of the Zuid Lamp?
Françoise Oostwegel: In Dutch, Zuid means ‘south’. The Zuid Lamp tells the story of the southern most province of the Netherlands: Limburg. I took inspiration from the typical half-timber houses in this are and from its strong mining tradition. The Zuid Lamp combines the main materials used in these fields – oak and copper – and reinterprets the characteristic miner’s lamp creating a timeless design object.
AMC: When you designed the lamp, did you focus on the product design itself or on the effect the light could create?
FO: In the design process, I was completely focused on the shape and use of the materials. The Zuid Lamp was my graduation project, and I was in such a rush that I definitely had no time to experiment with the light. I thought that using copper on the inside could create a nice lighting effect, but it was only when I hung the lamp that I discovered how pleasantly impressive the light reflections on the ceiling were. I was already sure I had created a nice object, but this last-minute surprise excited me even more because it somehow completed my graduation project. Now that I am working on new lamps, I also consider the effect of the light because I do believe it gives my works added value.
AMC: You graduated with the first version of the Zuid Lamp. How did you expand the series?
FO: Just after graduation, I put Zuid Lamp into production in the three different sizes of my initial project. When they all sold in just a few months, I decided to work on a new model. I wanted to experiment with colours, playing with a combination of warm and cold hues – dark walnut wood on the outside and shiny silver on the inside. The Zuid Lamp 2.0 worked out very well, the public appreciated it and started asking for the addition of their personal preference to the product – changing the external colour, for instance. This led to Zuid Lamps Color.
AMC: How did you react to these requests from the public?
FO: In the very beginning, I was a bit annoyed hearing random people telling me how to change my own product. But then I began thinking of it not as changing my design, but rather as adapting my product to what surrounded me. I designed my first Zuid Lamp three years ago. At the time, both wood and copper where very trendy. Now, I believe it is important to stay up-to-date on fads and trends, and also to try to incorporate customers’ wishes.
AMC: What do you believe to be a fundamental feature in your works?
FO: My style is geometric and minimal, but its primary feature is definitely multi-functionality. I myself find it very useful when a single product has multiple functions – it becomes more practical, more attractive. In my opinion, it is much more interesting when users deal with a multi-functional product. It makes them interact with it and think about other ways to use it according to their preference. This is what I wanted to offer with the Zuid Lamp. You can lay it on a table, hang it from the ceiling, or just hold it like a real miner’s lamp.
AMC: Does this attention to functionality stem from your training?
FO: Yes, in part. I graduated from the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and Design and there I was taught always to consider every single aspect of my work. They pushed us students to scratch the surface, to keep on questioning ourselves to see if we could improve our work, and how. They taught us that this additional effort would produce a far more exciting object.
AMC: Your work is inspired by your country. Do you see yourself as a Dutch Designer because of this? And if not, what makes a Dutch Designer?
FO: I do consider myself a Dutch Designer because of the connection with my country. I am Dutch and my products are always produced in Limburg – really made in The Netherlands. I also believe there are some particular characteristics that distinguish Dutch Designers all over the world: the focus on natural and recycled materials, for instance, and the storytelling behind the product in the sense of that extra attention to detail. But also a kind of playfulness – not taking things too seriously.
AMC: Do you admire the work or style of other designers?
FO: I appreciate two Dutch Designers in particular, even though they have completely different styles: Piet Hein Eek and Marcel Wanders. I admire Piet Hein Eek because he is down-to-earth despite the fact that he is very well known and respected in the design world. Moreover, I consider him to be a model for the use of simple designs and recycled materials – wood especially. However, I am also attracted to the style of Marcel Wanders, which is completely different. I like his daring ways with shapes, creating elaborated patterns and using disparate materials.
ZUID Lamp series are part of the exhibition Enlightened Design during imm Cologne, 15-21 January 2018 in the corridor between hall 2 and hall 3. Click here for more information.