Our partners at Aesop officially launch their Brass Oil Burner on September 24. To celebrate our collaboration and this occasion, we interviewed the designer Henry Wilson on his understanding of material, architecture, space and concept.
VC: How did your experience living and working in Europe inform your design style?
Moving to Europe for a masters was a big moment for me. Product and industrial design are very small industries in Australia. Many of my ‘heros’ when I was a student were Italian designers from the post war period. What was so revealing to me when I lived in Europe was discovering how much of the design language was built otop of existing industrial stories. It was inspiring to see how products followed a linear growth, evolving from one idea to another and sharing a kind of common language. True design identity and innovation can only happen where there is a collaboration between designer and manufacturer.
What role does research play in your design process?
I am always researching. Following on from my point above, one of my most fertile research activities is to visit flea markets of industrialised European cities. It is fascinating to see how problems have been resolved in seemingly unrelated fields and then reapply them to new scenarios. I am also fascinated by manufacturing process and reproducibility – I like to imbue the story of production into the product in the hope there is a logic to the user
In your work, you often draw reference to found objects and architectural details in order to retro-fit and appropriate past forms. Do you also collect/buy art or design objects? If so, which ones and why?
As above. I do collect design of the Italian post war period and have a ongoing, studio collection, of unauthored industrial objects.
What is the importance of materiality in your work?
Material is a very important aspect to my work. In the case of the Aesop Brass Oil Burner it was crucial to select a material that could transfer and retain heat.
Apart from the aesthetic qualities of the materials you choose to work with, what other factors influence your material choices?
Material should be fit for purpose and used for their inherent qualities. I feel that the honest use of materials imbues an object with a sort of logic that will carry over to the end user.
What is your relationship with “imperfection” and how do you confront it during your production process?
I like to work with materials that are inherently textured and have characteristics of wear. The process of casting will always result in imperfections and we have designed the shape of the object to compliment these. The organic form of the Brass Oil Burner harmonises with the imperfections.
Architecture and space
How do you address the histories of the AESOP spaces you work with?
Aesop has always approached design with a respect for the existing or inherent, be it heritage spaces, neighbourhood culture or construction materials. I am not a trained Architect or interior designer, the spaces I worked on for Aesop came from an industrial design process. The Balmain store is in a heritage suburb of Sydney and has a strong working class history. Striping back the layers of the space revealed stories, which we have kept. I inserted shelving and furniture to the space with the idea that these don’t distract from the original structure.
How do you usually pair-up built environments with your objects?
I like to feel that my objects would feel at home in any environment. The Brass Oil Burner in particular had to complement most interiors. I drew inspiration from the many stores around the world and imagined how it would work in these spaces.
Why did you decide that you wanted everything to be bought at Bunnings Warehouse for the AESOP store in Balmain, Sydney?
Bunnings is a chain of bulk hardware stores in Australia. The honesty of the materials and products that can be found in Bunnings appealed to me and many of the pieces are unauthored and utilitarian which was a logical fit for the site.
In your talk at Frost*, you spoke about the importance of sensitivity, community and sustainability in design. How are these crucial yet over-used terms reflected in the design of the AESOP Brass Oil Burner or in the AESOP stores?
With regards to the Brass Oil Burner, our approach was focused on longevity and single source manufacturing. Brass, as a material, is very tough and an object with a specific function and utility, made from a resilient material will out last any owner.
How did you reference AESOP’s philosophy that is based on utility in the design of the Brass Oil Burner?
Aesop has always approached design with utility in mind. The Brass Oil Burner had to feel poetic and utilitarian – much like the brass tap of an instore Aesop hand basin.
Under what design/art movement would you classify your work?
It might be something of a paradox in terms but I most liken it to industrial craft.
Save the Date
27 – 30 September 2018
Marx Halle Vienna