Maarten Baas

He has already changed the course of design history
(Wawa Carpenter)

He considers his design “spontaneous”. He doesn’t aspire to mass production – it is enough to present one project in a year with a new concept or technique. He doesn’t want to give definitions to things, as well as to describe or to explain something. He does what he wants to do. Who is he? A talented designer, “enfant terrible” from Eindhoven, “Burning Baas” – Maarten Baas.

Maarten Baas
When he was a student, the less he was interested in opinion of other people. He just followed his own direction: this was a time of searching certain “measure of beauty”, his own style and the ways of expression all these things in design. He was not resistance to his teachers. It was not a vector of some creative “rebellion”. “But because I wanted to do my own thing” – he said.

Knuckle candleholders by Maarten Baas

Knuckle candleholders by Maarten Baas

During the years at the Design Academy he has created “Knuckle” candleholders. Design of these objects was based on the main concept: “a candle has to stay upright”.

Knuckle candleholders by Maarten Baas
“Knuckle” candleholders by Maarten Baas

And he created something very simple but uncommon and universal at the same time. Its design was inspired by a “caltrop”, or “the sharp object used in car chases that is thrown out of the fleeing vehicle to disable its pursuers with punctures”. This object has a perfect structure for being a candleholder, because “one of four elements is always pointing heavenwards”. Knuckle candleholder is useful for different types of candles – we can put “different types of candles into a one-size-fits-all holders. So, this is one holder for candles with various diameter, but a candle will be always stay upright”.

Smoke Collection by Maarten Baas

Smoke Collection by Maarten Baas

Smoke Collection by Maarten Baas was created in 2002. It was a “culmination” of designer’s ideas he had during his time at the Eindhoven Academy. This collection attracted the whole world attention. A brutal aesthetics, unprecedented style à la “an elegant noir” with barocco elements – became a sensation. It is still being sensation.

They say, Baas was trying to find some “perfect” way of the deformation. They say, he was scratching, wetting and throwing down the furniture. But only fire became a “congenial” way for a perfect furniture deformation. Maarten Baas was the first who has set on fire the furniture, revealing its unique aesthetics and “new beauty”.

Smoke Collection by Maarten Baas
Some objects are so burned that they might seem to be uncompleted and asymmetric: for example, there is no a “piece” of candelabrum or part of the chair back is fallen off.

Smoke Collection by Maarten Baas

A realistic burned black colour of all details creates an amazing visual effect. Such a design is spontaneous, ultimate and impudent, but each Smoke object has its own charm and a unique aesthetics. Due to a special coating (the surfaces are carbonized and finished with a transparent epoxy resin) this “furniture” has a glossy finishing and it seems to be lacquered in deep black colour. All these nuances complete each object with a true elegancy in the most unexpected way.

Smoke Collection by Maarten Baas
Smoke Collection by Maarten Baas

Burned furniture by Maarten Baas

Burned furniture by Maarten Baas has been noticed at once by Murray Moss. So, Smoke Collection was completed with some antiquarian pieces, products from IKEA and copies of the famous design icons. Soon Maarten Baas was invited in New York gallery for “burning up” 25 objects (including world design icons reproductions) – for ICEF exhibition. These unique objects were acquired by collectors and museums from the whole world (Phillipe Starck, Lidewij Edelkoort and others). Burned furniture by Maarten Baas was presented in “Nest” exposition in Stenderlijk Museum (Amsterdam).

Burned furniture by Maarten Baas

“Smoke Collection” has been noticed immediately by Marcel Wanders, and today some burned armchairs and candelabrums are presented in Moooi Collections. Burned furniture made a great success in Milan, London, Paris and a designer is often called as “Burning Baas”. In 2009 he has been named a Designer of the Year by Design Miami, and Wava Carpenter said about Baas that “he has already changed the course of design history”.

Smoke Collection Philosophy

I took care that the chair was still a chair

In addition to the unprecedented “external” aesthetics Smoke collection has certain philosophy. Such a design became a culmination of designer’s conceptual searching, reflections about beauty and aspiration for perception in certain “exchange between a man and nature”. Proceeding from the prevailing view that “people tend to hold on to what they have, without waiting things to change”. While “time is regarded as a tedious factor and no an extra dimension”. So, “we don’t often see any value in the process of change”.

Smoke Collection Philosophy
Smoke Collection Philosophy

Baas has found a conceptual difference between the human and natural sense of “perfection”. For human “damage has to be repaired to maintain the original concept: symmetrical, shiny and tight”. But “nature, generally regarded as perfect, has a much more fluid approach to such irregularities”. All natural changes or “imperfections” created by time keep an initial image of perfection. The idea of various responses of human and nature to the unintentional changes was conceptual for designer. And he decided to turn upside down the “oppressive idea that things have to remain the same”. “The same” in spite of all the natural changes that could be a result of time (including also a deformation). These reflections became the beginning of Smoke Collection philosophy. “Instead of keeping a piece of furniture as it was, or trying to restore it to its original state, I burnt it. The shape and asymmetry were altered and the surface carbonized. I took care that the chair was still a chair”.

Smoke Collection Philosophy

Clay furniture by Maarten Baas

“Clay furniture” is one more unique art-furniture collection by Maarten Baas. There is no some special story for this – “it was just a matter of working the clay until the chair appeared”. Clay furniture by Maarten Baas differs by an experimental aesthetics and some fancy childish simplicity. Quite often these objects seem to be simple handmade articles of plasticine. A special synthetic clay and metal structure were used for creating these objects. Clay modeling is handmade, without using ready-made models and other templates. So, each object from this collection is unique. Eight basic colours are used for creating a vivid design: these are black, white, red, yellow, brown, blue, green and orange colours. Conception by Clay Furniture by Baas could be defined as “less the thought, the more the joy”. In the view of its external aesthetics it could be described as follows: “beautiful” shapes, asymmetry and there are no proportions.

Clay furniture by Maarten Baas

The Plain Collection by Maarten Baas

A short time later clay furniture has outgrown in “The Plain Collection”, which was presented at first in Spazio Rossana Orlandi. The full range of clay furniture (including the lamps and even a fan) was presented in this new collection. Interestingly, that the initial clay handmade molding is still visible, but there is no a lacquered glossy finishing (as it was used in “Clay Furniture” collection). All objects in “The Plain Collection” by Maarten Baas have more natural colour shades: these are black and red basic colours and an additional natural shade revealed due to the clay pigment. Clay furniture from The Plain Collection was used for creating an interior of restaurant in the Groninger Museum.

The Plain Collection by Maarten Baas

The Plain Collection by Maarten Baas
The Plain Collection by Maarten Baas in Groninger Museum

Furniture by Maarten Baas

Hey, chair, be a bookshelf!

Baas has very original vision even of the eclecticism. A unique combination of the various elements and experimental shapes became an artistic realization of a spontaneous fusion of the objects which find their new function. Furniture by Maarten Baas changes our vision of the furniture on the whole.

Furniture by Maarten Baas
“Hey, chair, be a bookshelf!”

According to his conception chair becomes a useful bookshelf, a lampshade could be an original vase, and a violin is used as a delicate rack. Conception of the art-object “Hey, chair, be a bookshelf!” is based on the idea of design freedom and “ability to improvise”. “A lot of people perceive nature as harmonious, united and symmetrical”, but it is about “the symmetry never really symmetrical and the harmony disturbed by a tolerance of deviations”. It was a try “to find harmony in diversity”… “I forgot all about acquired senses of logic and aesthetics, and picked up the pieces one by one, discovering how they could have a function in my bookshelf”. Stuff with the most various origin was used for creating this composition. For example, Maarten Baas cooperated with some second-hand stores and took the things that were not liquid for sale in the shops. Each composition “Hey, chair, be a bookshelf” is unique because all these “precious treasures” have no copies. For creating a quite strong inner structure all objects were reinforced by a special polyester coating and covered with polyurethane.

Treasure furniture by Maarten Baas

An ironic “Treasure Furniture” collection personifies conception of what could be the furniture-treasure. Waste from the furniture factory was used for creating these objects: “since they reproduce their furniture, they also reproduce the same kinds of waste”. It was possible to create chairs with the same design as long as the furniture factories “keep on reproducing the same waste”. This a unique “material” was enough for creating 58 dinningchairs and 23 armchairs. So, Treasure Furniture by Maarten Baas became a limited edition. “The starting point for Treasure was to conceive a chair as I had built a hut as a child: with a hammer, nails and found boards. When the boards were too long or short I improvised”.

Treasure furniture by Maarten Baas

In fact, an external “shape” of these objects seems to be clumsy. It is similar to the primitive childish huts. Such a design is spontaneous, without a pedantic purity of details, delicate aesthetics or technical perfection. Aesthetics of the treasure furniture is rather “the pure beauty of inanity” that “is devalued and often lost after a lengthy process of reflection”. Or it could be just a “foolishness” – such a deep irony has a special significant for Treasure Furniture by Maarten Baas.

Sculpt Furniture by Maarten Baas

Sculpt Collection by Maarten Baas was based on the idea of creating furniture, which design would reproduce an initial sketch. So, these objects appeared from the quick sketches, which were enlarged to the “monumental” sizes.  As we can see in the primitive drawings, all these objects are marked with curved lines, bent surfaces and asymmetrical shapes. These grotesque, irreal figures turn into fancy furniture, or even into the “furniture sculptures”. The main structure of these objects is made of metal and finished with a walnut veneer, sandblasted finish or powder coating.

Sculpt Furniture by Maarten Baas

China Collection by Maarten Baas

“China Collection” became one more significant project for Maarten Baas. In 2008 Pearl Leam, founder of Contrasts Gallery in Shanghai, asked Baas to create a line of products in collaboration with Chinese producers. Wood became the main material for this project. This concept was based on some challenge to woodcarvers from Shanghai in creating extraordinary objects using their techniques but creating “a cross-over between western design” and cultural traditions. So, two uncommon works became a result of this collaboration.

hina Collection by Maarten Baas

“Plastic Chair in Wood” is a chair, which design was made in a manner of the usual plastic chairs, which became a great example of Chinese mass production. We can see these plastic chairs anywhere. But design of this object by Maarten Baas differs by a true elegance because it is made of wood entirely in spite of its spread around prototype. Each its curve is regenerated in absolutely new image. “Chinese Object Object” is the second art-object in “China” line by Maarten Baas. This is an original and eclectic composition made of the gathering Chinese mass products. Such a design transforms these objects into some “monument” of Chinese industry.

China Collection by Maarten Baas
“Chinese Object Object” by Maarten Baas
Real Time by Maarten Baas

How is Baas’ vision of time? For reproducing a dynamics of the time movement in “real-time” conditions designer proposed us 2 films. A scene of “Sweepers clock” is based on actions of some people moving huge hands of a clock made of the garbage. They do it all day. “Grandfather clock” – “is a film of a man, drawing the hands of a clock”. Have a nice viewing :)

Author: Marina Schultz

Source of photos: BAAS

quotes – Interview with Maarten Baas // BehindTheDesigns