9 May 2011
Last month I’ve visited the Salone del Mobile in Milan and I met this interesting couple that founded HillSideOut in 2009. They transform old antique pieces of furniture into new personal multi media art design. Their design is very original, even poetic. Hereby my interview with the Nat and Andrea from HillSideOut.
How did the idea of HillSideOut came up?
‘We live close to the Apennines, south of the Alps, and more you go in the south of Italy more you notice this phenomenon. There are really a lot of lonely and abandoned houses. That’s the first point. The second is our love and care about history. It is more the history of objects and of craft skill and the importance of a story or past of a life of certain people. Surely, both are connected. Andrea, who comes from restoration, was and is worried because the craft skills he learned are not asked anymore and it would be very sad if this practical knowledge would get lost. Hence, Andrea wanted to invent something, which permits him to use the maximum quality of his knowledge. Often he found very antique beautiful objects that could not be used anymore because there was missing the second part or there were just one piece and not the three like requested or people changed their antique floor and so on. Therefore we started to work with new materials and transparent ones, because they needed to emphasise and valorise the antique object. Let’s say that this was the starting point in 2009.’
You missed something in comtemporary design?
‘Our need was completely personal. We did not start from a specific place or a specific story. Sure, when the project started we needed to define ourselves and ‘design’ seemed to us the best sector.’
Do you have any connection with these Apennines villages?
‘If you mean personal connections, so we can tell you no, we don’t have official or family connections. However, we feel connected to the theme and to the history. More you deepen the subject, more you fell in love and then sure you get somehow connected and it gets a bit your own story. Let’s say you choose where you want to go, what will be a piece of you, that’s a nice freedom. The project was since the beginning a very open project. You can apply our methods in any place because every place has a history and stories. At the beginning, we informed ourselves through old newspapers or books and then we found old pictures, which lead us to old houses or abandoned villages. If the village has something interesting, we deepen the research. However, we ask also people who live in the Apennines or who know well the places, if they can suggest us villages that are abandoned and then, if we are lucky, we find them. However it is not enough to visit the village, we really need to find some archive or historical document, which permits us to start with a piece of furniture.’
What I think is amazing in your work is the connection between crafts, emotion, poetry, design, and re-utilisation, many characteristics of your work. What were the reasons/needs that brought you to this concept?
‘Thank you a lot. We think all these connections came up with the challenge and maybe, because we are very different. We work together, have the same idea of importance about history or concepts and we have a similar taste, but we have completely different backgrounds and therefore, if we want to work together and to put all our qualities together, we need to experiment and to trust in the capacity of the other. There is a continuous motivation in working and a great respect for the knowledge but also need of the other person.’
What do you think it will be the role of design in the future?
‘For us it is difficult to give an answer because the design world is a really big container. However, we think that a lot of people don’t want to have consumer furniture of masses anymore but researched and elaborated ones where the handcraft skills get more and more evident. People are tired of furniture, which are all equal. Many young designers try to work their prototypes in a handmade way and this is an outstanding example. For us the handcraft skill is the most important aspect in our project.’
What do you think that consumers needs are in our times? And in the future?
‘That’s a good question. We think a sort of stability is needed because it is a very confusing time but it cannot be simple or limited because we are all quite intelligent now. However, even though there are too many products, which stimulate to consume, we think that “healthy” consumers will put more priorities towards their real needs, which will be more sincere. Maybe there will be a trend of very simple things, it is possible, but at the same time people will need something personal, a sort of identification. Moreover, design and contemporary art are getting always closer. Hence, the consumer or the one who is searching for or buying today’s design inevitably approaches to contemporary art, but with the difference that design makes new collectors possible because it is not the same investment that contemporary art requires and at the same time they can take advantage of the practical aspect of design.’
What the importance of emotional connection with objects?
‘People can ask us to valorise an object, which they love or they want to use in a new way. People are related to objects and some of them get old or are far away and we take just a piece of it for creating something even more personal.’ And memories? ‘That’s the most personal, sensible and maybe challenging part in our project. You can start from a historical picture or just memories and both, client and us, need to be creative. We need to know which type of furniture is wanted and that’s the concrete “frame”, the limit, where we work in. We don’t get into personal details; we just valorise the picture, story or object, listen to the needs of the client and apply our methods and skills, and for this we create a piece of personal furniture, which is a form of “living memory” and a beautiful way of interactive heritage.’
Thank you, Nat Wilms and Andrea Zambelli form HillSideOut. For more information, visit www.hillsideout.com