Friday, February 24, 2012

Designer of the Month: Hella Jongerius

Week 4: color

Porcelain Color Research, 2006. Porcelain, coloured porcelain, glaze. Design: Hella Jongerius. Commission: Royal Tichelaar Makkum (NL). Courtesy of Jongeriuslab.

As you've probably already noticed, color is an incredibly important element of Hella Jongerius' designs. While much of her decisions about color are based on intuition, they are also informed by meticulous research; she's worked on projects reviewing the colors at Vitra and Camper and has developed new experimental shades for Maharam and Royal Tichelaar Makkum.[1] In addition to refining her own palette through this process, Jongerius has encouraged other designers to do so as well, even going so far as to create a color laboratory in the VitraHaus - the Vitra Home Collection's production house in Germany - where the public can play with color themselves as well as test her theories.[2]
Color Lab "Color Scheme," 2010. Design: Hella Jongerius. Commission: Vitra. Courtesy of Jongeriuslab.

Jongerius refers to her color experiments and research as "colour cooking," especially with regards to the relationships that she creates both between two colors and between colors and material surfaces.[3] This is an important process for Jongerius because she believes that the unchanging nature of industrial colors is a problem for manufacturers and designers alike.[4] Industrial colors need to meet specific standards, such as a retention of consistency and resistance to UV light, scratches, and wear and tear, but Jongerius believes that this depth of color and artistry shouldn't be sacrificed as a result.[5] As Jongerius explains:
As soon as we open our eyes, we see a palette of colours through which we subsequently recognize people, objects and landscapes. Colour determines how we see things and how we feel. It therefore deserves the kind of attention that I recognize most of all in painting. Look at paintings by Paul C├ęzanne, Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman. Every tone, every nuance and every colour combination is the result of endless experiments with pigments, compositions and layers...Then, you immediately understand that industrial colour selections show only a small fraction of what is actually possible. I see it as a challenge to bring that artistic standard into the industrial production process.[6]
Coloured Vases (series 3), 2010. Porcelain, 300 self-made colours through a process of mixing old and new glazes. Design: Hella Jongerius. Production: Royal Tichelaar Makkum. Courtesy of Jongeriuslab.

One of Jongerius' most long-lived explorations of color can be seen through her Coloured Vases series, which began with the Red White Vase in 1997 and has so far culminated with the third Coloured Vase series, which was created in 2010. Developed in conjunction with the new color palettes that she was designing for Vitra, in addition to her research at Royal Tichelaar Makkum, these vases illustrate both her findings, and the path she took to get there.[7] For Coloured Vase (series 1), in 2003, Jongerius created 40 vases, selecting their tones from the RAL color chart - the coding system that most architects and designers work with.[8] The second, in 2007, was a series of 42 vases based on the NCS color range, which is directly linked to the Vitra color palette.[9] For the third, in 2010 (above), the number of vases grew to 300, with the resulting colors based on old mineral recipies and color transfers, serving as an investigation into the perception of colors that optically merge.[10] "Each vase is unique in its combination of mixed and unmixed surfaces, traditional and industrial glazes, and as a result demonstrates that there are choices," explains Jongerius of Coloured Vases (series 3). "As a whole, the vases form a personal colour palette of intense, multi-layered colours. This not only reflects my own ideas about colour, but also my quest to find them."[11]


[1] Alice Rawsthorn, "The Human Factor," from Hella Jongerius: Misfit, ed. Louise Schouwenberg, Alice Rawsthorn and Paola Antonelli, (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2010), 76.


[2] Ibid., 76.


[3] Jongeriuslab online, "Color Lab," http://www.jongeriuslab.com/site/html/work/colour_lab/09/, (accessed February 23, 2012).


[4] Hella Jongerius and Louise Schouwenberg, "A conversation that might have taken place: Colour Cooking," from Hella Jongerius: Misfit, ed. Louise Schouwenberg, Alice Rawsthorn and Paola Antonelli, (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2010), 270.

[5] Ibid., 272

[6] Hella Jongerius, "A conversation that might have taken place: Colour Cooking," from Hella Jongerius: Misfit, ed. Louise Schouwenberg, Alice Rawsthorn and Paola Antonelli, (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2010), 270.

[7] Ibid., 274.


[8] Ibid., 274.


[9] Jongeriuslab online, "Coloured Vases (series 2)," http://www.jongeriuslab.com/site/html/work/coloured_vases_series_2/, (accessed February 23, 2012).

[10] Jongeriuslab online, "Coloured Vases (series 3)," http://www.jongeriuslab.com/site/html/work/coloured_vases_series_3/, (accessed February 23, 2012).


[11] Hella Jongerius and Louise Schouwenberg, "A conversation that might have taken place: Colour Cooking," from Hella Jongerius: Misfit, ed. Louise Schouwenberg, Alice Rawsthorn and Paola Antonelli, (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2010), 279.

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