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.