Piet Hein Eek × Ikea.


Ikea’s new “In­dus­triell” col­lec­tion was de­si­gned by Piet Hein Eek. The com­pa­ny’s col­la­bo­ra­tion with this Dutch de­si­gner, who is a past mas­ter in using re­clai­med wood and crea­ting unique pieces, aims to make crafts­man­ship more wi­de­ly ac­ces­sible.

People are in­crea­sin­gly ex­pres­sing a pre­fe­rence for hand­made items. “Ever since the in­dus­trial re­vo­lu­tion, pro­ducts

have been per­fect, more than per­fect in fact, but now consu­mers are get­ting bo­red. They want so­me­thing dif­ferent, which ex­plains why crafts­man­ship is ma­king

such a come- back… even at Ikea!”, Piet Hein Eek ex­plains. For their se­cond col­la­bo­ra­tion, the king of up­cy­cling and the huge Swe­dish group pay tri­bute to the work of crafts­men in a col­lec­tion that puts the spot­light on im­per­fec­tions and op­ti­mi­sing the use of ma­te­rials. We met Piet Hein Eek to find out more.

Did you he­si­tate be­fore ac­cep­ting to work with Ikea, af­ter all their whole ap­proach seems the exact op­po­site of yours?

No, not at all. It’s quite sim­ply the sto­ry of people who want to work to­ge­ther and try to achieve so­me­thing. The idea of pro­du­cing ar­ti­sa­nal pro­ducts in large se­ries made for an in­ter­es­ting project and the no­tion of af­for­dable prices, as well as the tech­ni­cal and bu­si­ness-re­la­ted constraints were a first for me. I had to work out­side my com­fort zone, but so did Ikea. They had to change their way of thin­king and ac­cept that the fi­nal pro­duct wouldn’t go through all the usual qua­li­ty controls and would have cer­tain im­per­fec­tions ma­king each piece tru­ly unique.

How did you ma­nage to com­bine crafts­man­ship and in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion?

Des­pite the ap­pea­rances, I rea­li­sed that Ikea and I do the same thing: we de­si­gn pro­ducts that we hope to sell. It’s on­ly the scale and the me­thods that are dif­ferent and that is exact­ly what was so in­ter­es­ting for both of us. I would love it if eve­ryone could af­ford to buy my work, but it’s dif­fi­cult when you make things by hand. This project ho­we­ver gave me the chance to pro­duce my small se­ries in large se­ries! The first stage was ma­nual (dra­wings, moulds etc) and then my ar­ti­sa­nal pro­to­types were pro­du­ced using in­dus­trial tech­niques.

What was the big­gest chal­lenge you had to face? In fact there were se­ve­ral and that’s what we li­ked about the project! Stran­ge­ly we were hap­py at being confron­ted with constraints, be­cause it meant we were going to learn as we tried to un­ders­tand and solve pro­blems we had ne­ver en­coun­te­red be­fore. The big­gest chal­lenge was with the lit­tle im­per­fec­tions, the ir­re­gu­la­ri­ties in the fi­ni­shed pro­ducts. It was what we wan­ted, but it was dif­fi­cult to convince Ikea’s sup­pliers that these fea­tures were not mis­takes and ac­tual­ly the ve­ry es­sence of the col­lec­tion. The cus­to­mer al­so had to change his/her ex­pec­ta­tions and rea­lise that the usual­ly flaw­less pro­duct didn’t have a de­fect, but was sim­ply a unique item. Do you have a par­ti­cu­lar anec­dote to share about wor­king with Ikea? My grea­test re­ward was the day when I pre­sen­ted my col­lec­tion’s shel­ving units, which were made from scrap wood left af­ter pro­du­cing the pre­vious mo­del. In this way, we avoi­ded waste as much as pos­sible. I was wor­ried about Ikea’s reac­tion, but they lo­ved the idea be­cause sus­tai­nable de­ve­lop­ment is al­so a key part of how they work on a dai­ly ba­sis and with their sup­pliers. I was ve­ry hap­py that a com­pa­ny like Ikea ca­red so much about this cause.

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