“I relinquish control to the material.” – Juliana Maurer on material explorations and design process
Juliana Maurer is a multidisciplinary artist and designer based in Berlin, originally a graphic designer, she now focuses on unconventional interactions with materials. Her work was shown at this year's Milan Design Week.
iF: You started as a graphic designer, rather two-dimensional and digital. How did you come to experiment with physical materials?
Juliana Maurer (JM): The starting point for me was when I moved to Amsterdam in 2017 to take up the temporary Fine Arts and Design master's program “Radical Cut-up” at the Sandberg Instituut directed by Lukas Feireiss. It was a programme with a focus on collaboration, experimental forms of creative production and interdisciplinarity.
iF: On your website you write that you create space for unexpected results with a mixture of controlled and uncontrolled processes. How do you find room for uncontrolled processes?
JM: What interests me are unconventional interactions with materials, leading to unexpected outcomes. Outcomes that I could not have planned for. I like to work in a naive process, to make results emerge which I could not have expected beforehand. Sometimes mistakes happen while working with a material, and from these mistakes I draw new exciting moments.
Another approach of mine is to focus on the material as the main actor and guide. When I combine glass and ceramics in one sculpture, I can only control the outcome to a certain point. The magic happens during the firing process, when the glass melts and connects with the ceramic. The aggregate states of the materials are exchanged in the process and the glass starts flowing. For me, these are moments when really interesting things happen. I relinquish control to the material.
Juliana Maurer, Designer & Artist
“I relinquish control to the material.”
iF: As you gain more experience, your knowledge of materials is bound to grow. How do you maintain a playful naiveté?
JM: I try to go ways that I haven't gone before. It can be really small details: I use a technique that I've used before, but with a different material. The expertise I've acquired only applies to one material or technique, meaning I can just replace the known material or technique with something unknown.
iF: Your work "Stena" addresses the alienation of people from nature. You describe the work as allowing people to bring a part of nature home. What role does sustainability play in your practice?
JM: Sustainability is very important to me. It shows in my choice of materials. For example, I work a lot with ceramics, which is a material where nothing is wasted. The pieces that are not fired can always be recycled by dissolving them in water. After that, they can be reused.
Glazes are a problem for the recycling process. For this reason, I rarely work with glazes, so even the finished piece can be reused. Working with glass and stone, like with "Stena", I wanted to use basic materials. The stone remains in its natural state, and the glass is just melted sand, which can be recycled again without losing the material properties. My works are a mixture of art and design objects. I am often not interested in producing a mass product but consciously choose small editions and unique pieces.
AWitF (A Walk in the Forest) | Stena
AWitF (A Walk in the Forest)
A Walk in the Forest is a series of ceramic sculptures which can be used as vases. Every piece is handmade and unique.
Stena is a hand-blown glass carafe which makes use of the thermal function of natural soapstone. Every piece is handmade and unique.
iF: What trends are you observing in the field of innovative materials? How will this develop in the future?
JM: More and more attention is being paid to alternative materials, such as , and how they can be used in mass production. We need materials that are easily manufactured, conserve resources and work at scale. Also, the responsibility for materials will lie much more with designers in terms of making . When we look at conventional industrial or product design, we have to ask ourselves: are the products made in such a way that they can be easily repaired?
I think these questions will become more and more important and the responsibility can't lie solely with the consumer, but mainly with the people who make and develop the products. Meaning designers and manufacturers.