Margaux Keller // Thoroughly modern design
"Elegant, imaginative and off-beat" is how Margaux Keller likes to describe her creative universe. This young designer from Marseilles creates simple sophisticated objects, which perfectly suit our modern habits and lifestyles. She fiercely defends her vision, which is to create designs that can be interpreted in several ways as well as multiplying and mixing their functions. So, no question of trying to pigeon hole her work.
An interview with this young virtuoso who we certainly haven't heard the last of!
How did you come to set up your own design studio?
I studied design at ESAAMA Olivier de Serres and then at the Ecole Boulle followed by an internship at Starck working with the designer Eugeni Quittlet. After I graduated (product design and interior design), I joined the design team at Fabrica, Benetton's research and communication centre headed up by Sam Baron. 2011 was a key year for me in terms of gaining recognition. Imagine getting calls from professionals and then signing a contract with Saint-Laurent to design a perfume bottle at the tender age of 24!
You say that design is not a style but a practice?
The term 'style' is overused and it annoys me; I teach at a graphic design school and I tell my students that design is a practice i.e. an exercise to achieve a result - an object, a logo or a space for example – it follows a thought process, and codes and constraints which are unique to everyone.
How would you describe yourself in terms of today's design scene?
I like my pieces to provoke questions, emotions or a smile. I first focus on the function and then on the artistic side. It's important to get rid of archetypes that pollute our collective memory in order to come up with multiple uses for a single product. Take a bed for example, we lie on it, have breakfast in it, look at our tablets in it... Well, I want to consider all these uses in order to propose relevant and practical solutions.
How did you come up with the idea for the Baryton vases, which you created for Habitat?
The idea was to produce a really affordable and decorative object. I thought of a vase because it is an easy subject, it can go anywhere, you can buy it for yourself or offer it as a gift. So I decided to reinterpret this classic decorative item while questioning its status - "with or without flowers". I came up with the idea of three bud vases, which, when they are turned around, resemble Russian dolls. The vase becomes sculptural and can be used as a decorative item.
If you were asked to design another piece for Habitat, what would you choose?
A small piece of furniture, something practical that can provide several uses: a small desk or an occasional table incorporating a light, or a piece of furniture with an inlaid an mirror ...
What are your views on design today?
I'm excited because the young design scene in France is really booming! I am particularly interested in expertise and materials such as wood, glass and ceramics - I attended the Ecole Boulle and worked with glass-blowers in Italy at the Fabrica. Today, we are witnessing the return of beautiful, well-designed and well-made objects. Although traditional skills and expertise are essential in certain contexts, industrial production fulfils an important role. And I applaud this. We have a different perspective on how we consume. The passing on of skills is making a comeback and the glut of ugly designs is coming to an end.
What does affordable design mean to you?
It's the dream of the future but also the future of design. For me, design must serve a practical purpose and not a style. It must serve a function - multiple functions - and change as our lifestyles change; it must give objects a soul and other perspectives.
What are you up to now?
I'm working on a new concept for a hair salon in Marseilles, and in line with my approach, I am trying to do away with all the clichés inherent in this type of place - do we really need to be in a clinical, glossy white goldfish bowl just because we're getting our hair cut? I'm changing how we see these places, I want to create intimacy and atmosphere. It will be a surprise - completion is set for May 2014! Next January at the Playtime Fair, I'm going to present a child's toy. It's a cork elephant which can go anywhere... I'm also working on a whole host of other projects and collaborations!
What inspires and guides you?
I don't have a mentor and I'm not interested in trends. However, I am inspired by contemporary art! I'm also interested in the way we live today, I like to study how we behave and how we use objects and furniture and then I try to create something truly modern. Take a stool, it can be used as a bedside table, an occasional table, a TV tray and who knows what else!
You've chosen to live in Marseilles, do you think its atmosphere encourages creativity?
It's my hometown, I live quietly and enjoy the legacy of a city which was named European Capital of Culture in 2013! I had an exhibition at the Villa Noailles with my pétanque balls "Oh les beaux jours" curated by PAM!, and at the MuCEM with my collection of glass bottles - Les Pescadous. Marseilles is really on the up and I'm delighted to be able to take advantage of its fantastic energy and atmosphere. I see it as a strength, a way for me to stand out from the crowd and not be restricted in my designs whether I'm working alone or with other designers (PAM!). Besides it's not so far from the hustle and bustle of Paris - only three hours by high speed train!