Karen Chekerdjian – ‘Industrial Handicrafts’ Design
Karen Chekerdjian is an object and product designer. She graduated from Domus Academy in 1997, where she studied under Massimo Morozzi, a founding member of the legendary 1960’s design studio, Archizoom. In 2001, Karen Chekerdjian returned to Beirut and opened her own atelier, which is divided into two parts: the Studio and the Store. Her work has also been displayed at a number of international exhibitions, amongst them Utopi (Copenhagen), Beyond the Myth (a pan-European show), Salone del Mobile, Lights (Tokyo) and ECHO (Beirut) and The Issey Miyake Foundation (Tokyo) and Spazio Orlandi Gallery and Nilufar Gallery (Milan) and Sfeir-Semler Gallery (Beirut).
Karen’s catalogue continues to grow. Karen’s work was described as ‘Industrial Handicrafts’.
Creative Mapping discussed with Karen Chekerdjian the design approach and her creative process.
“There is no creativity without creative blocks! With me anyway, you have to accept it and time will just fix things if you keep on working at them with insistence.” Karen Chekerdjian
ABOUT KAREN CHEKERDJIAN
CM: Karen, tell us a bit about your background.
I am a little bit of an autodidact, I dropped university very quickly to work at Leo Burnett as a copywriter and film director.
Than i quit Leo Burnett to do’ Mind the gap’, one of the 1st graphic design company in Beirut.
CM: Where do you live? What and where did you study?
I lived mainly in Beirut during the civil war, I had to go to boarding school in Switzerland for sometime because of the war situation in west Beirut. I studied a little bit at ALBA, USJ, AUB, and in Paris at ESRA, but I was not very good at studying. I loved learning from real work, until I went to Italy in 1997 to do a master in industrial design at the Domus Academy.
CM: So what inspired you to start working as a product and furniture designer?
I was always looking for 3 dimensional design. In After war-Beirut we did not even know about industrial design studies, I had never heard about it, until I went to italy for a visit. And there I found this school that my friend was attending, and it was a revelation.
CM: What was the journey to becoming an established creative?
The journey is very long, especially when I decided to come back to Beirut and to be established here as a designer.
CM: Do you ever work from a brief? How do you begin developing your ideas?
We work very little from a brief, we are a design Studio but we only develop our own products unfortunately. I never had the chance to be asked to develop a product for a company.
CM: Who are your clients?
My clients are usually people who wants a special furniture for their home. I once had the chance to work for a company to create an object for them, but we very seldom have these kind of request in Lebanon. Unfortunately the market is not ready yet to pay for design.
CM: What tools do you use in your work? How do you document these ideas? Sketchbooks, models, computer programs?
I personally use sketchbooks and my team helps me go further in doing a model or a 3D drawing on the computer.
CM: What materials do you use? What attracted you to working with these?
I always like to use natural materials (wood, metal, fabric,leather), so I avoid plastics.
CM: What are the time frames involved in making a piece, from concept to completion? Do you have a particular style that you’ve established in you ‘industrial handicrafts’?
I have no “STYLE”, I am just very much inspired from the material.
My design is straight forward, it is important to be honest in what you are drawing, never try to copy or try to follow a style.
CM: What do you feel creates a good working environment?
You need to read, to go to museums, to be always looking at things with another eye…
CM: What’s your ideal place to work?
I like my new studio, but I would love to have more time to go and design in a café on the seaside!
CM: Do you ever encounter creative blocks, how do you deal with this?
Always!!! There is no creativity without creative blocks! With me anyway, you have to accept it and time will just fix things if you keep on working at them with insistence.
CM: When do you know your project is finished? Do you get a sense of completion when you finish a piece?
Yes absolutely, but this is something new that I did not have 10 years ago. I feel when an object is ready or not ready.
CM: When are you at your most creative?
After holidays like now! Or when I need to create, I will need to have space and no stress.
CM: Tell us more about the team you work with.
My team is like a family for me. It is important that everybody is happy and I like working with people who are happy to work with me.
CM: How do you approach working with a client?
This is something I am still learning a lot about. It is a mystery for me, I really do not understand very much the clients, they come to me but they do not always trust me! It is very difficult. I would like more trust.
CM: What inspire your creativity in your city?
My city is very chaotic and that is maybe inspiring. I would like to live in a beautiful place but I live in a very ugly environment. But maybe I still can find a way, will see for how long I can still be inspired.
CM: What is your philosophy as a designer? What are you trying to create with your products and furniture?
Nothing…I have no philosophy. I believe in nothing but the process of creating something we really believe in. Does it make sense?
CM: Do you collaborate much in your work?
Yes sure with my team, a lot! They inspire me a lot! It is a team work!
CM: How do you deal with the marketing and promoting side of your work?
I work with a PR company (Almaz communication) in Paris that helps me to promote my name, and I work a lot on it myself too.
CM: Which industry events do you like to attend?
I always attend the Milan Fiera del Mobile since 15 years every year. And I also can attend sometime NYC design fair, London design week or also Cologne Mobelmesse in January.
CM: Do you read magazines and blogs? If so, which are your favourite?
Not a lot anymore…I can read wallpaper magazine, Monocle, Elle Deco Lab, Dezeen website a little…but that’s it. I stopped reading magazines a few years ago.
CM: Your biggest achievement/pride to-date?
I don’t know…I tend to forget these things.
CM: Does sustainability affect your work?
Not really, I am not very interested in sustainability in furniture design. I think sustainability is very important but in other forms of design.
CM: Who would you love to collaborate with in the future? What does the future hold?
I would love to collaborate with a Master craftman in Murano or in Carrara with marble.
Creative Mapping © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Photography © Copyright: Karen Chekerdjian