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Seeing Glass

First shown at the Objects To Play exhibition during Dutch Design Week last year, Brit van Nerven and Sabine Marcelis’ Seeing Glass has recently been taken into production. Comprising a series of reflective glass shapes, the designers describe them as “objects that play with you”.

By Cassandra Pizzey / 09-01-2014

Van Nerven and Marcelis are both Design Academy Eindhoven graduates but became design partners when they both moved in to their live in studio in Rotterdam. Although both designers have a different background – Van Nerven graduated with a fashion project while Marcelis is more product oriented – their similar aesthetics and complimentary skills made the collaboration a natural choice. “I have a fashion background and focus on the subtlety of shapes, while Sabine has strong technical and material knowledge,” says Van Nerven. 

For Objects To Play the duo worked within a larger collective named Objects Present. Finishing their fourth year of presentation, the group of twelve strong presented their playful objects at the TAE building at Strijp T during Dutch Design Week. Designs included a series of carpets by OS ∆ OOS, Escher-like wooden sculptures by Lex Pott and a cabinet of curiosities courtesy of Lotte van Wulfften Palthe. Laid out unassumingly, many of the object didn't reveal their playful nature until visitors hovered closly above or took to a ladder set against a window.

The same goes for Seeing Glass, presented as a series of reflective glass shapes, propped up against a wall in the gallery. Get close to the objects and see yourself and the surrounding space reflected in them. Van Nerven explains: “Instead of objects to play ‘with’, we designed objects that play with you and your visual perception.”

The minimalist disks and rectangles feature a series of reflective surfaces in different colours, materials and opacity, all made from glass. Distinctive in their own right, the objects invite the beholder to interact, see themselves and their surroundings reflected in an unexpected and surprising manner.  

Van Nerven continues: “We wanted to play with reflections and optical effects. Glass was an obvious choice as the material allows for both. It was a material we both had only minimal experience with prior to this project and we were interested to explore it’s possibilities.”

After small-scale research in their own studio, the duo approached glass manufacturers Van Dijken Glas – with whom Marcelis had worked before on her graduation project TABLE-TABLE. The company allowed the designers free reign in their factory to experiment with the various materials available and test the limits of the machines on a larger scale. 

All manner of techniques were let loose on the material including sandblasting, UV glueing, laminating, layering, implementing different foils inside glass layers and playing with colour overlays. It led them to new combinations for the existing technology but also called for another party to get involved which specialises in applying a mirror layer on the glass in the traditional way using silver.

Van Nerven on their experience working with this new material:  “After doing many, many experiments inside our studio with small mirrors, different types of glass, paints, scratchings, we really had to admit that this wasn’t a project we could complete ourselves. The material asked for sophisticated machinery to effectively create the object in the scale we wanted to present.”

“Because the process had not been executed prior to our experimentation, and given the short time span, we kept our fingers crossed up until the very last minute that everything would work out.  And thankfully it did!”

After a successful presentation during Dutch Design Week and a limited edition production of Seeing Glass, now the duo have set their goals higher. For the 2014 Salone del Mobile in Milan, they are working on a second edition and continuation of the Seeing Glass project. Although their separate lives as designers take centre stage, Van Nerven says they like combining their skills as designers and have plans to continue presenting collaborative projects during the design weeks.

Main image photography: Lisa Klappe
Other images: Karl Ketamo 


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