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Bo Reudler Believes in Slow Design

This 29-year-old designer could be a movie-maker except he is a designer.  His limited-editions are about stories, they contain narratives and possess the sort of rare beauty that exists in the stillness of nature.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 21-05-2009

Bo Reudler, the undisputed star of this year’s Tuttobene exhibition in Milan, is still reeling from the attention that his serene “Slow White” series attracted.  “It was incredible,” he says.  “I think more people visited us in the first day and a half than in the whole week last year.”

“Slow White” is a move away from and even a protest against the over-produced, over-designed objects that cram the pages of magazines and exhibition spaces.  It is a lyrical and sensitive cry for more spontaneity and less technical precision.

“I think last year I just started to get so bored by design,” Reudler says.  “Nature has always been my inspiration, but I’d look for images on Google rather than in the forests.”

A limited edition series of eight, “Slow White” is a range of objects made out of pieces of birch, cherry and oak wood Reudler collected around the forests in Zaanstad near his workshop.  Each piece is constructed from collected branches that are fitted with conventional hinges and attached to flat shapes to create function.  The entire piece is then hand sprayed with linseed oil paint.

“The day I started collecting it was snowing,” Reudler says of his process, which started by noticing the expressive shapes of tree branches and imagining how objects could fit within their natural parameters. After archiving facts about wood type and dampness, he made fast sketches and started to build. “It was great to do a whole series without using a computer,” he says of this more intuitive approach to design.

The symbol of the “Slow White” series is a twig Reudler found that had grown into the shape of a wishbone.  He chiseled an old-fashioned pen nib into one end and a point into the other and then coated the whole implement with brass.  “It only makes one size circle,” he says, “which represents how all the pieces in this series were confined by the limits of nature.”

And on how “Slow White” turned out, Reudler’s facial expression softens into something almost transcendent.  “In Milan, many people looked at the work and smiled,” he says.  “And that is really very special; that a piece of furniture can elicit real emotion.”

Half way into his design degree at the Arnhem Academy of Art and Design, Reudler had already decided to stay solo.  “I was just dying to get started,” he says.  “School got annoying once I knew what I wanted to do.”  

After completing an internship with Richard Hutten, Reudler graduated in 2005 and then got straight to work on an extension of his graduation project, the Asylum Collection with Seroj de Graaf.  He also opened his own studio, the Bo Reudler Studio.

With De Graaf, the plan was to maintain control over every facet of the business from design to production and distribution.  “But it really was so much harder than we imagined,” Reudler says.  “You end up spending 90% of your time on the business side of things and very little time designing…. We got to a point where we felt that our business was running so tightly that we could quite easily manage 25 people.  It was overdone so we started to relax a bit more about that side of things.”

And then came the invitations to participate in exhibitions and events. The time, money and effort required to keep up with all that though started to get to Reudler who said he almost turned down an invitation the year before last to participate in Dutch Design Week. But it was there that the ToolsGalerie in Paris noticed his Asylum Collection and asked to represent him.  

“It just proves that in the beginning you have to be patient and exhibit everywhere you can because it takes time for the right person to notice your work,” Reudler says.  “I also think that when you are young, it’s important not to reflect too much because it can make you scared.  You just have to see every opportunity, no matter how small the result, as a development and a tiny step forward.  First comes the publications, then a few sales, now we are also in a few books, and we get a bit more money.  Nothing super, but everything improves bit by bit.”

On the prickly and controversial issue of limited editions Reudler says designers are often cornered by galleries who expect what they exhibit to be limited.  “And if you produce yourself, and produce in Europe it is very expensive,” he says.  “But for the ‘Slow White’ it had to be limited anyway.  It takes a long time to collect and prepare the wood.  It would be impossible to mass produce work like this.”

He also talks about the importance of photography in the world of limited editions.  “Only 8 people can own this,” he says.  “But you don’t need to be in possession of an object to be able to enjoy it.  That is why photography matters.  Only 8 people might own a piece, but many many more can see it.”

As well as his new relationship with the ToolsGalerie in Paris, Reudler will be exhibiting in Art Basel this June.

Images: all from “Slow White”.

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