On the occasion of the exhibition "Design, Brittany stopovers", the editorial staff of Muuuz had the chance to meet Ronan Bouroullec (born 1976), famous Breton designer, who has worked for more than twenty years with his younger brother Erwan Bouroullec.
Muuuz: What influence does your native Brittany have on your creations?
Ronan Bouroullec: The question of influences is always very complicated. The imagination is the result of many things, my youth, my meetings, my travels ... I am deeply attached to Brittany, which is a territory that I adore. I am almost in spite of myself extremely bound to it. I often need to come all the time, I miss it a lot. The exact influence is difficult to define. There is perhaps a rural family context in which there is a certain simplicity, an obviousness, an almost practical relation to things. There is an imagination which would be at the same time of simplicity and of relation with nature. It is very difficult, object after object, to find exactly what makes the memory of a reflection. The work of design is long work. It is not enough to have an idea. It is more complex than that.
Is the organic dimension of your objects inspired by the landscapes in which you grew up?
Today, we are in a world where the references are probably more international. I feel much closer to Japanese, English, or Scandinavian designers than to French designers. I'm not sure where it came from. What I particularly like in landscapes is the relationship between things. The organic connection of things between them particularly fascinates me. This is what I like in architecture and in objects. It is likely that the environment in which I grew up inspires me, but I am always very careful with the notion of inspiration. The sources are not always so obvious. I come from a world where there was no internet. I think a certain imagination has taken place before, but I am fascinated because of the images broadcast on the internet. It's an inspiration that matters to me. I am lucky to travel a lot, so to see different cultures. I am inspired by Japan, by Italy too. Italy made us known very young in the design sector. The work of a seamstress in a workshop in Milan, for example, fascinates me. Design is a context discipline, not just a discipline of ideas. Design is a discipline that requires finding the right answers in specific contexts. Our work is very extensive, since it ranges from a television for Samsung to a collaboration with master Japanese craftsmen. These varied projects are not approached in the same way. Empathy is an important quality for a designer. You have to understand the craftsmen and the way they work. Each project really has its story. My fear is to repeat myself. When thinking about a new project, it's always an opportunity to question yourself.
What relationship do you have with crafts?
I am a designer, but I prefer to work with specialists and favor the exact know-how. As a designer, I am a generalist. I love spending time with seamstresses to understand how to simplify the gesture, how this seam would be easier to pass, or how the detail becomes extraordinary. Go visit a workshop and see the prototype, this is when things are revealed. Each time, there are a lot of parameters to take into account in a project. A “fair” object is a synthesis of different challenges. What materials to use? What recycling should be favored? Which language to choose? The questions of ecology and sustainability also arise. Depending on the projects, there is a way of considering and anticipating the issues.
How do you plan to create a duet?
To create in duet, that exists for a very long time, in music, in the cinema… I do not envisage to create in duet, I do it. With Erwan, we have been working together for over twenty years. I was lucky to have success very young, but penniless. Erwan came to help me. He was already the forerunner of quite exceptional digital knowledge at the time, which greatly changed our working methodology and our way of thinking. After a few years, we started signing together. We had the same work table for a long time, then two separate tables. Today, we each have our place, but we discuss daily to find solutions for two.
How would you define the dialogue between your creativity and that of your brother?
There are no rules. Creativity can be built very simply, and sometimes not. When we do not agree, we do not seek understanding. There is always a question of making the best possible project. The dialogue takes place between Erwan and me, but also between us and assistants, craftsmen or companies.
What project do you dream of carrying out?
There is no hierarchy in the projects carried out. I really like the simple generic objects found on the terrace of a cafe, like a well-made table, a delicate stackable chair. I love everyday life. Everything interests me, from small considerations to larger projects. Town planning interests me more and more because it is a way of addressing a wider audience.
What are your news?
We are working on many projects. Digital projects in Korea, an invitation from the Japanese Ministry of Culture to develop unique projects in Japan, new urban developments, especially in Paris with the Pinault Foundation, for which we produce all the objects that we will find there.
To learn more, visit Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec's website.
Photographs: © Studio Bouroullec