Introducing... Sabine Marcelis

In the last five years, interest in collectable design has boomed, spawning dedicated galleries, exhibitions and fairs. From this scene, a generation of designers have emerged who straddle the worlds of art and design, creating beautifully unique works. Sabine Marcelis is one of them.

Portrait4 sabinemarcelisc LEE WEI SWEE © Lee Wei Swee

Known for her thoughtful relationship to light and materials, the Aura Light from Established & Sons marks her first foray into mass-production. The collaboration challenged both designer and brand to find ways to translate Marcelis’ techniques into an accessible product that can transform almost any setting.

Est Journal joined Marcelis in Rotterdam via Zoom to discuss the Aura, her approach to design and how she almost ended up as a professional snowboarder.

crop - AURA-LIGHT-Sabine-Marcelis-c2020-EstablishedandSons-cPimTop-Studio-Shoot-Detail-Lit-01-300dpi.jpg © Pimp Top Studio

EST: What first drew you to the idea of being a designer?
Marcelis: I'm not one of those people that knew that they wanted to be a designer from a young age. But my parents encouraged both my sister and me to be creative. They used to sell flowers at a flower market, and I would make weird jewellery and bags, and try to sell these things in a makeshift stall next to them. I was super obsessed with snowboarding for a few years, between the age of 16 and 21. I was doing back-to-back winters between New Zealand and America. I was very passionate about it. I'm very black or white. If I do something, then I do it all out. But then I realised okay, maybe this is not a good career choice. I should probably study something useful.

EST: Your sister was already studying design...
Marcelis: I saw what she had been doing at Victoria Design School in Wellington and it looked amazing. I was like, "Oh, I want to do that too. That's really cool." But I have this tendency to get impatient. After two years I felt a bit trapped. It was very focused on hardcore industrial design, and I've always really been about exploring beautiful moments within materiality or nature. So I went to the Design Academy, where I could explore the more poetic side of design.

I can't imagine doing anything else now. It doesn't feel like a job – I get to pursue my passions and explore my fascinations through design. I'm very lucky.

EST: You've become known for a particular approach to materials – highlighting their unique qualities rather than using them as a means to an end. But Aura is the first time you've worked on something designed for mass production under your own name...
Marcelis: Usually, with mass production, you don't get as much room to create something really special, because you're always stuck with a price point. With one-off pieces, that doesn't matter. It just means that it becomes an expensive piece. But because Sebastian (Wrong, design director of Established & Sons) is the kind of designer he is, he takes production so seriously. And I enjoy being very close to the production process – usually, most of my production is done in-house or through very close collaborations.

I think another issue with a lot of brands at the moment is that their designs are interchangeable. You don't really read the signature of a designer in a lot of the products, because they need to be accessible to everyone. With Established & Sons, you do see an identity in each of the pieces, which is so strong. The collection is very outspoken, which I think is very special.

EST: Has the process of creating a design with Established & Sons changed your view on mass production or how you approach design?
Marcelis: One thing that is quite a signature to a lot of my work is this element of translucency and playing with how light moves through a material. With my gallery pieces, it's a lot of cast resins. But I don't think that resins have a place within mass production – that would be irresponsible towards the planet. So, we did a lot of research into finding bio-resins that are of a high enough quality for this kind of work. I've been able to take that research back and use the same biomaterial in the gallery pieces. So it's made our entire range of projects more sustainable. Resin lends itself to so many possibilities. I'm not done with it yet. But we all have a responsibility towards the environment as well.

AURA LIGHT S1 rose Sabine Marcelis c2020 Establishedand Sons c Rory Gardiner c Pim Top The Stratford London Insitu 300dpi © Rory Gardiner + Pim Top Studio

EST: The colours you've chosen really support the name Aura.
Marcelis: Warm colours work well with the resin, which lights up itself a little bit when you combine it with a light source. With Aura, you get these warm, glowing sticks, which create a much nicer environment than a simple, cold light.

EST: I think everyone is interested in bringing a bit more warmth into their space right now, especially with so many of us stuck at home. Has the coronavirus had a big impact on your studio?
Marcelis: My work needs to be experienced in person so that you can understand the tactility and the materiality of it. So that has been a challenge. But we've become more efficient. I had my baby the month before everyone went into lockdown in the Netherlands, so I was already a little bit prepared to be working from home, and we have found a different groove for communicating with each other. Before, we were running from deadline to deadline related to these major, international moments where everyone presents their work physically. Life has become a lot more local. I think people are appreciating how they experience their home a lot more, which luckily balanced things out a bit for my studio with pieces like the Aura.

Words by Anna Winston

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Take this live guided tour by Sebastian Wrong of our London HQ to get a closer look at 2020 New Designs.

AURA LIGHT Sabine Marcelis c2020 Establishedand Sons c Pim Top Studio Shoot Detail Lit 01 300dpi

2020 New Designs

This year, Established & Sons present exceptional new designs by Sabine Marcelis and Pauline Deltour, alongside an exciting addition to the Lucio product family by Sebastian Wrong.

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