Craftsmanship & Design
Salone Satellite, ever young
Apr 4, 2013
Jewellery box "Ö” by Mark Braun, photo © Inka Recke

In 2008, three young designers from Tyrol made it onto the Austrian evening news with their stand at the Milan Furniture Fair, yet they still initially struggled to find a manufacturer for their first three prototypes. It wasn’t until a year later that “Pudelskern” managed to find one: Nina Mair, Georg Öhler and Horst Philip decided to give the fair’s talent show “Salone Satellite” another shot and it certainly paid off, for this time someone scouted their luminaire “Granny”. And “Casamania” has been manufacturing the lamp with its cozy lampshade made of pure new wool from Tyrolean mountain sheep (just like something knitted by grandma) ever since.

A year later, in 2010, the young designers from Innsbruck (no longer all so young at this point) once again – for the third and final time – made their way to the curated event on the fairgrounds in Rho at the gates of the Lombard capital. “We wanted to show what we were capable of just one more time, and show just how wide our spectrum had become,” says Georg Öhler, who studied Architecture in Innsbruck and Madrid and today has his own studio (Georg Œhler Design) in London. He spent six years as part of “Pudelskern”. As a trio, they really grabbed the bull by the horns. Öhler describes the three years at Salone Satellite as a big adventure and “the basis for the rest of his professional career.” But how do you get into Salone Satellite? “With an email.”

Just how many emails are received by the team behind the Milan Furniture Fair each and every year from every corner of the globe is rather a difficult figure to fathom. Only at its very beginnings, 15 years ago when Marva Griffin organized the first Salone Satellite, did the organizers have to vie for participants for the event, still completely unknown at the time. After this, the number of participant applications rose year on year of their own accord, as did the number of participants.

And once again this year, around 750 young designers (600 of which will be coming from beyond Italy’s borders) will be taking part in the largest and most eminent show of young talent in the world. They will be joined by 17 design universities from eleven countries, whereby “Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle” and “Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design” will be flying the flag for Germany. Around 150 stands were up for grabs – the sheer popularity of the event among audiences certainly warranting the 3,000 square meters of space allocated. In 2012, it attracted almost 60,000 visitors. But what’s so special about it? The area of young, up-and-coming design has something for everyone and is not only accessible to paying fair guests, but to the general public too.

From the very outset, Marva Griffin took it upon herself to draw the largest audience possible for young design talent. She also wanted to create a space where up-and-coming designers could establish contacts to manufacturers, and directly on the fairground at that, for this was the only place they had any chance of being noticed. Each and every year the curator works on further strengthening the bridges she has built between these two worlds. This year, Marva Griffin will be uniting craftsmanship and design, a rather delightful combination, especially given that the trend toward more traditional craftsmanship in design has been visible for quite some time now. As such, the overarching theme at the Salone Satellite’s 17th edition will be “Craftsmanship & Design: Together for Industry”. Workshops will also form a key part of the show, presenting designers working with glass, metal and wood and showing videos depicting production processes for plastic and textiles – an addition that is sure to attract even more curious visitors.

Over the years, the Salone Satellite has become surrounded by myths and legends, such as the persistent rumor that it was at the Milanese talent show that Giulio Cappellini scouted the Bouroullecs and turned them into instant design stars. But that is not actually the case: The Breton brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec had already presented “Disintegrated Kitchen” in 1997, a year before Marva Griffin came up with this wonderful new concept, and that wasn’t even in Milan but at the Salon du Meuble in Paris, where fate had Cappellini and the Bouroullecs cross paths for the first time.

However, there are a number of now very well-known design greats who have the Salone Satellite to thank for their rise to fame, including Bavarian designer Stefan Diez. One of the chosen ones in 2002, he presented products on a joint stand together with Luxembourg-born Christophe de la Fontaine, under the name “La Strada”. Having met at the Stuttgart Academy of Art and Design, where they both attended Richard Sapper’s classes, the duo stole the show in Milan, all the more so after winning the “Design Report Award”. The jury honored Stefan Diez’s “Big Bin”, a storage box, which thanks to sloping sides and handles can be easily stacked to create a shelving unit. The product has now been part of the portfolio at Authentics since 2003.

The “Design Report Award”, which comes with a cash prize of EUR 7,500, has been awarded annually at the Salone Satellite since 2000. The jury is made up of renowned design personalities from across the globe and the list of past jurors boasts the likes of Werner Aisslinger, Nitzan Cohen, Konstantin Grcic, Ross Lovegrove, Patricia Urquiola and Hannes Wettstein. Last year, one-time recipient of the prize Christophe de la Fontaine, who today runs his own studio in Milan, was also called to sit on the jury. On the lookout for the greatest talent among all the young blood that takes part, they select winners based on the idea: “A well thought-out concept is more important than perfect execution.” This is how Lars Quadejacob, Editor-in-Chef of the “Design Report”, described what the jurors are looking for.

In 2009, the jurors struck gold with Mark Braun. The trained carpenter, who studied Design at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences and now has his own studio in Berlin, may not have won first prize, but did receive the “Special Mention Design Report Award”. It was Braun’s pendant lamp “Pyrus” with its large shade made of papier-mâché that swung the jury’s decision. Even though it was in fact only intended as an aid to present a number of other much more valuable prototypes in a good light – namely, the range of small porcelain jewelry cases called “Ö”. Opening up one of these trinket boxes, which look like pebbles, reveals an interior coated in gold – they have now been in production at “Raumgestalt” since 2010. “Pyrus” was also discovered at the fair and later incorporated into the range at the Karena Schüssler Gallery in Berlin.

Mark Braun, born in 1975, used the Salone Satellite as a “brand-building tool”, as he himself puts it. He also took part in the talent show three years in a row (the maximum allowed) from 2007 through 2009 in order to demonstrate the full range of his ability and the diversity of his portfolio. And successfully at that: Not only did his name become imprinted on the design world’s consciousness as a brand in itself, but almost all of the prototypes he presented in Milan subsequently went into serial production, which alone attests to the quality of his work. And also says a lot for the team of curators around Marva Griffin, who all work to fish out the best young talent from the sea of applications and invite them to Milan (this year they snapped up Carlo Colombo and Beppe Finessi, among others).

Furthermore, the Salone Satellite also bestows an award for young designers that includes a cash prize of EUR 10,000, as well as two additional prizes of EUR 5,000 for other talented designers selected by the jury. These awards seek to honor the three best products that make reference to the trade fairs that accompany Salone Satellite; in 2013 this will focus on the Euroluce in particular.

This year’s Euroluce will also feature a design by Mark Braun. His series of porcelain luminaires, “Bell”, will adorn the stand by Norwegian manufacturer Northern Lighting in a new yellow color variation. For the 37-year-old, the Salone Satellite was more than worth it: “I got unbelievably good press.” And he was also able to establish some important contacts, which turned into concrete projects such as that with Northern Lighting. Even financially, Braun says he always ended up in the black, but only because he stayed on a camping site during his first year at the Milan fair and in comparatively cheap hotels in subsequent years.

Salone Satellite sure isn’t cheap, especially for students from overseas, who bravely venture the trip to Italy with their prototypes in tow. Georg Öhler says that the experience was no different for “Pudelskern” from Austria, which is comparatively close. The trio from Tyrol had only been together for a few months when they made their first trip to Milan in 2007, curious to see the largest furniture fair in the world. Naturally, they stumbled across the exhibition space for new designers during their visit. Barely had they set foot back in Austria, and “Pudelskern” had sent the abovementioned email to Cosmit, organizers of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, to find out about eligibility requirements. “Luckily, we had three unpublished prototypes ready and waiting for use in the application,” explains Öhler.

The 2008 jurors must have been impressed by the photos of floral-patterned lounge chairs by the name of “Calla” that can be used inside or out; of “Flip”, a modular furniture system made of Swiss pine and aluminum; and the inflatable room divider called “Blow Job”. “Pudelskern” did indeed receive their tickets for Milan, but they had to pay for them themselves. And not only that, says Öhler. The organizers may have placed a stand at their disposal – they even had a choice of three sizes – but they would have to pay for it: 16, 32 or 64 square meters for a current price of EUR 2,500, 4,400 and 9,000 (plus 21% VAT). The young designers had to finance the “stand rental” themselves. This is of course a huge amount for students, which is joined by the cost of spending a week in Milan at trade-fair rates.

In the first year, “Pudelskern” spent eight nights in a trailer in one of the fairground’s parking lots. But this also provided them with an opportunity to make contacts, not only with other Satellite participants but with the former parking lot occupant and furniture manufacturer Nils Holger Moormann from Aschau in Chiemgau. Nonetheless, spending a week in a trailer was of course extremely strenuous, says Öhler. “We had to spend the days on the stand trying to convince people of our abilities and our products.” A good shower definitely would have helped.

However, this isn’t the only reason that the second year in Milan proved much more successful for the trio – though they did spend that week in a real hostel with a proper bed and shower. Their wool collection, including the luminaires “Granny” and “Feeler”, the “Fat Sheep” rug and the “Morse Table” was reported on by various international media outlets. Three of the four prototypes went into production, Flos did show an interest in the “Feeler” luminaires too, but in the end the collaboration never took off. And “Pudelskern” will be making another appearance in Milan this year, albeit quasi posthumously: Their furniture series “Auí – alpine living” will be exhibited as part of the special exhibition organized by the Austrian furniture industry entitled “Austrian Design Details” and held in the former Salone di Tessuti textile factory close to Piazza della Repubblica.

Former student of the Offenbach University of Art and Design, Sebastian Herkner, also made his fortune at the Salone Satellite. Three times he went to Milan and three times he used the chance offered to him by Cosmit and above all Marva Griffin. By his third visit to Hall 22 of the Satellite, not only had he made a name for himself; he was also able to boast a product that had already gone into serial production – his “Clip Chair”. The sleek chair made of light ash wood certainly won over Dutch company “De Vorm”. As such, on the 16-square-meter stand he shared with two other former students of the Offenbach University of Art and Design in 2011 (“It would have just been too expensive on my own”), Herkner was able to present a successful serial product alongside his other prototypes. A product that certainly earns its name: Herkner placed two PVC caps on the chair’s two extended back legs that enable the user to attach the backrest using a series of studs – almost like press studs on a shirt.

The 30-year-old’s new designs include a number of simple metal baskets, with the equally austere name “Bask”, featuring wickerwork in strands of tear-proof paper. The designer tells how he discovered the material during a trip to Spain. “I was so fascinated by it that I just had to make something with it.” This is what won him the Young Designers Award as part of the German Design Award competition, which comes with a cash prize of EUR 8,000 financed by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and is bestowed by the German Design Council in Frankfurt.

And he even grabbed the attention of one of the most prominent international designers around, namely Patricia Urquiola, who has been designing for Moroso for quite some time now. Patricia Urquiola herself together with Patrizia Moroso passed by the three Offenbach students’ stand and stopped to take a look at Herkner’s prototypes. She was bowled over – and just a year later, Herkner found himself in Hall 16 of the main fair alongside Patricia Urquiola, presenting his “Coat” armchair, produced by Moroso. (pps)

The lamps "Bell" and "Pyrus", both designed by Mark Braun, photos © Northern Lighting (left), Inka Recke (right)
"Coat" and "Bask" by Sebastian Herkner for Moroso, photo © Moroso
The chair series "Clip" of De Vorm, designed by Sebastian Herkner, photo © De Vorm
"Big Bin" by Stefan Diez, photo © Authentics
"Bent" by Stefan Diez and Christophe de la Fontaine, photo © Moroso
Lamp "Granny", designed by Pudelskern, photo © Casamania
Collection "Auí" by Pudelskern, photo © Markus Bstieler