Text by Anna Bates
Photo by Ilco Kemmere
Marcello De Simone and Bruce Wayland presented their design label Little Owl Design at the Milan Design Week 2015 in Lambrate.
How did you get started in the industry?
Bruce Wayland: I was working as a chef in the US, and had an opportunity to work with an American designer here in Amsterdam. I’d always been interested in design. The placement went well, and I stayed in The Netherlands and met Marcello, who was working for a Dutch menswear designer, in 2009.
Where did the name Little Owl come from?
BW: Having always liked owls, and wanting a name for the company that was not tied to one specific thing, the moment I was asked while registering the company at the Dutch chamber of commerce, the name just popped into my head – we were lucky it wasn’t weirder.
What was your first project?
BW: We started with plates combined with paintings, splitting the image into several parts, and extending/adding to the subject with the décor of the plates. To quote Kurt Koffka, “The whole is other than the sum of the parts”. The plates reveal traces of their existing pattern, but this is layered with transfers of vintage paintings, pasted onto them.
Would you say your work is nostalgic?
Marcello De Simone: I don’t think it’s nostalgic – both of us studied art history and we like working with images from the 18th & 19th century, and then layering them, to remove the images a series of degrees from what they were.
This process is evident throughout your work. Your Dutch Sky wallpaper for example follows a similar process.
BW: I was living in a rooftop apartment and I started keeping a photographic album of the sky shot from the roof, and this became the inspiration point – the beauty of the ever changing sky here in The Netherlands. We saw a story that we could tell using the modern (digital) photographs, but in a different way.
MDS: You can look at Dutch art going back centuries – the sky has always been an inspiration, and we wanted to pay homage to that. Some of the photographs were from a trip in the north of Holland, and then we layered them with antique Dutch etchings of skies. We like that the result is both modern, and yet is layered with the history of the place that inspired it.
Is this the project that best encapsulates your design process?
MDS: In a way yes. Every new project becomes that project.
BW: …Marcello’s mother has a collection of old textiles. We started experimenting, and cast a positive relief of the textile into antique forms of ceramics. The forms and the textiles combine to make something totally new, which is very exciting to us. Now we’re 100% into ceramics.
Information from Little Owl Design of their presentation with during the Milan Design Week 2015: