I recently stumbled upon the awe-inspiring design duo, Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves of Swine Studio. The pair’s pieces are the perfect blend of material innovation and aesthetic mastery. Lucky for us, Alexander agreed to chat with me about Swine Studio and the beautifully designed pieces the duo creates.
David Stark: Tell me a little about your background. How did you get into doing what you do?
Alexander Groves: Azusa studied Architecture and always wanted to bring her designs off the page into the real world. I studied Fine Art and increasingly found myself drawn to designing the bars for art exhibitions. We met on Design Products course at RCA where we formed Studio Swine. I think the fact we have both come from different disciplines has really helped with our design, we have pooled our references and skills and design still feels very new to us.
DS: How does being a duo transfer into your process? Where do ideas come from? Where do you find inspiration? Do you make drawings? Models? Experiments?
AG: We get inspiration from all kinds of places, but more often from reading current affairs, science articles, materials and design history. We split up our tasks, Azusa does most of the drawing and model making, I tend to do the material experiments, construction and research into process.
DS: Sounds like you’re the perfect pair! Many of your pieces are made from discarded materials. What comes first? The idea? Or does the found material lead to the idea? Can you give me an example?
AG: Generally the material comes first, when we first read about plastic in the Ocean we really wanted to make something with it at sea, I recalled in Moby Dick a whaler who made a stool from narwhale tusks.
With other projects we have an idea of what we want to make and we try to find a sustainable material, such as Hologram Cabinet.
DS: You have studios in both London and Sao Paulo. How do the two cities inform your creative output?
AG: London is great for design history, we love to visit national trust houses and all the museums in London, also the design scene is very active and narrative design is strong. Sao Paulo has an incredible modern design history from the 1930’s onwards; it’s a city of constant change and enormous energy. The design scene overlaps with art and with social activism more and that makes the potential of design very exciting. We make very different works in both.
DS: Agreed, I always benefit creatively from a change in scenery. As a design duo, do you ever disagree on your work and how to you resolve the disagreement in the work?
AG: Yes we disagree as much as we agree, we find the conflict a creative one, it’s useful to change and not get hooked on one way of thinking. I think it makes the design stronger if you have to really make a case for it’s qualities.
DS: If money, time, and the law were not an issue, what would your dream project be?
AG: We are really lucky to be working on our dream projects right now. For me Sea Chair was a dream project and we started out with no funding but as the project grew we have had more support. I think dream projects also start out with no money, which can lead to a lot of innovation, time though is essential.
DS: What artists inspire you? Whose work do you admire?
AG: So many, but to highlight a few Eames for their constant innovation and diversity, Warhol for his wit and the culture he created around the factory, Jean Michel Frank for his chic elegant interiors, but we also really admire vernacular design, everyday problem solving design you see on the street. You need a little austerity to really appreciate luxury.
DS: What’s next for you?
AG: We are preparing to move to Shanghai in November, where we will be starting lots of new projects to exhibit in 2014.
DS: I can’t wait to see what Shanghai inspires!