Keep the birds on your roof: Bird’s house roofing tile by Klaas Kuiken.

Klaas Kuiken
The Modifier

Klaas Kuiken makes use of creative processes that leave their trace on the relevant object, but the Dutch designer also transforms existing products into objects of poetic beauty.

From Arnhem to the wider world – typically Dutch, you might say: Klaas Kuiken’s designs have already gone on show at Beijing Design Week, London Fashion Week, the ICFF in New York, the Salone del Mobile in Milan, the Maison & Objet in Paris and at the Skopje Design Week. His designs reveal an approach that is as creative as it is critical: Why come up with new ideas when you can actually put a new spin on older ones? This way, for one, the concepts of upcycling and recycling are incorporated into design, along with the idea of using familiar processes or materials in an entirely different way.

The objects that emerge from Klaas Kuiken’s workshop, since that is his studio in the truest sense of the word, are as useful as they are aesthetic – and sometimes amusing.  His “Bottles & Vases Collection” is one good example. “I asked myself,” Klaas Kuiken explains, “whether one might not be able to produce unique pieces from mass-produced bottles made of green glass. I looked more closely at their ‘defects’, points in the glass which, in spite of the mass production, differed in how thick or thin they were. I then developed a special procedure whereby the bottles are heated in the oven and then I use a compressor to gently blow air into them. The result? At the thinner points the glass bulges out more, and does so less at the thicker points.” Thus the bottles and vases ultimately get entirely new, unusual forms, and a formerly standard object of little value is transformed into a unique piece. Plus, the altered view of something familiar calls into question our way of looking at the things around us.

Klaas Kuiken

Another collection in which the manufacturing process determines the final look is “EPS”. This includes – believe it or not – stoves and clocks. It was a visit to a company that manufactures products using the iron casting technique that was the source of inspiration. Klaas Kuiken designed two different types of stoves and different models of clocks, which he produces in polystyrene molds. He places these objects in a container filled with sand into which hot cast iron is poured. What happens? The foam melts in the heat and the cast iron takes its place. What remains is an exact copy of the polystyrene design, cast in a single piece and with all the qualities of the foam material mold that was used. With projects like this, Kuiken, a graduate of Arnhem’s ArtEZ School of Arts, skillfully overturns traditional thinking and all too rigid design precepts. It is precisely there, where function takes a back seat and room is created for the idea, that the artistic element of the works gains ground – a bridge is created taking the usable object to an art object – whereby the ovens and clocks in the “EPS collection” function flawlessly!

Another object that continues to trigger a sense of “aha” or amusement in observers is the “Birdhouse”, a combination of roof tile and nesting box made of clay. With the aim of creating an ideal nesting place for birds in cities or any built-up areas and thus protecting bird species, Klaas Kuiken contacted the Dutch bird protection organization Vogelbescherming Nederland. His nesting box is thoroughly archetypal and yet, in combination with the roof tile, forms an original innovation of an age-old model.

For Domotex too, the 32-year-old is focusing on change and the interaction between product and user: The “Living Materials” offer people a chance to leave their own trace… (ua)

Click here for a preview of Klaas Kuikens’s project for the Domotex.

One-off and the starting point: in Klaas Kuiken’s hands green glass bottles turn into excitingly shaped objects.