Self Portrait

Self Portrait
Holly Pepper

Tread Lightly

Currently I am undertaking an internship in Utrecht, Netherlands with the renowned design team consisting of Tejo Remy + Rene Veenhuizen. Through this blog I plan to document my design experience in Holland.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Inflated Concrete Furniture

Over the past couple of days I have been assisting Rene with refining their concrete furniture. Both Rene + Tejo created a series of exhibition pieces late last year created from a method of sewing 3 dimensional moulds out of rubber and plastic and pouring concrete into the mould. The flexible moulds give the concrete an inflated appearance.

Yesterday I was tinkering away most of the day trying to prepare a mould for casting a table in concrete. The mould is very complex and it is so easy to stuff up cutting and punching holes in the mould pieces. Like any intern I regularly slip up and stuff the process up. But this is all part of the learning experience I suppose.

Anyway, we are working towards creating a table, which requires no sewing in the moulds, making the rubber mould reusable for each chair. This requires a lot of clamps, bolts, rubber moulds and wooden clamping pieces.

By the end of the day we frantically poured the sewing free chair. We will see how this piece pops out. It may compromise the organic qualities of the piece having a wooden structure forming the edges of the chair leg.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Just Married

A stand I forgot to mention from Milan Furniture fair was a group called ‘Just Married’. This was a very fitting name considering these designers had travelled from Brittany in France. Anyway, they showed a lot of enthusiasm and determination to display their work. Three designers towed a caravan from Brittany to Milan, to show off there work. They parked the caravan on a prominent walk-way between exhibitions. In the back of the caravan were a number of different products. One was a cast vibrator with a relief print of Jesus on the cross! This was very brave considering the number of Catholics living in Milan! Anyway, I was just impressed by the initiative the ‘Just married’ design team showed, overcoming the expensive challenge of exhibiting at the Milan furniture fair.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I am not to good at keeping up with this blogging business I have a back log of stories in my mind to write about, but never seem to find the time to sit down and stick them on the blog.

Anyway, I will start with the most current event. Yesterday I was determined not to be your typical tourist and arrive in the tour bus to see the tulip fields of Lisse. Instead I was determined to slog it out to get there. I made use of a beautiful summers day and cycled about 70 kilometres from Utrecht to Lisse. It took an exceptionally long time on my clunky old Dutch bike. I am guessing I had lots of old people comment in Dutch about the amount of noise my chain guard was making.

Anyway, the ride was pretty spectacular, I cycled through a lot of small towns, following the canals most of the journey. I did exceptionally well not getting lost until I got to Leiden. You would think it would be straight forward finding a tulip field, but not for old Hol. After many stops pulling out the map, asking for directions I found my way.

By the time I made it to Lisse, my knees were creaking and my thighs were aching. All I wanted to do was see a bloody tulip and my mission would be completed.

However, once I found one field I had a lot of inspiration to keep on riding. The wide expanses of colour were almost like an abstract painting. It was a very spectacular scene, seeing such vibrant colours. The cycling pains disappeared into the back of my mind, over taken by a visual feast of flowers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tectonic plates

Yesterday we had our own mini earthquake at the Remy + Veenhuizen Atelier. We were gunning though making another floor mat. We had a nice bit of team work going on. When the whole piece was complete an eruption occurred in the middle of the mat. All the the woolen blanket pieces were curled up under pressure and burst out with a huge crack across the middle of the work.

Anyway, we spent an hour repairing it yesterday, and I am sure there are another few hours to go today to fix the piece.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Open Source Design- Droog Design


The most challenging exhibition I visited during the Furniture Fair in Milan was a stand by Droog Design titled ‘ Make Me.’ Droog are renowned for commissioning innovative and conceptual exhibitions. This is basically the reason that I was drawn to working in Holland with Tejo and Rene who are represented by Droog.

The ‘Make Me’ exhibition was based on the idea of Open Source Design. Open Source Design basically capitilises on our global accessibility through web technology. It enables designers to create products, place them on the Internet ‘open source platforms’, then the consumer can manipulate this design to suit their personal needs. The consumer then purchases these plans from the designer. The consumer outsources a local manufacturer to create the piece.

The benefit of this platform for design is that the end user can to some degree manipulate and design there own furniture pieces, it cuts out the large commissions that retail outlets take for furniture pieces, effectively driving the product price down and it reduces the green miles that the piece needs to travel.

It sounds interesting in theory, in practice I was not so convinced. When I visited the Droog exhibition I struggled with the electronic interface to create the work I wanted to make. Even after running around finding someone to show me how the software worked. I still had this niggling frustration, with the program.

A lot of the pieces where CNC cut wooden furniture pieces. The joints in the pieces were generally finger joints, reducing the need for special fixings and screws in the piece. The pieces basically looked like something from Ikea, and lacked the same structural integrity that a piece of furniture from Ikea would too.

I also struggled with the fact that it is hard enough for a designer who has a general understanding of manufacturing processes, the appropriate manufacturing language and the suitability of materials, let alone you average joe, who barely has the handskills to get a bloody alan key out of a packet and follow some Ikea DIY instructions.

There are a lot of logistical matters that keep flowing around in my head that prevent me from being convinced by Droog’s open source design idea.

- -You are basically limited to very sterile products that only employ cnc/laser cutting techniques in the design.

T They suggest that designers could use 3 D laser printers to create more organic work. However, this technology is so expensive it is not really a viable option.

-T There are a lot of inconveniences placed in the consumer’s hands like… negotiating with manufacturers, transportation issues.

- This style of design does not leave opening for the designer crafts person.

- Maybe it is an egotistical reason this concept from Droog is niggling at me. Basically it devalues the skills that a designer develops over time to create work. We develop the knowledge and understanding of materials and processes. We learn to build relationships with manufacturers to easily translate computer generated ideas into real objects. All of these aspects of design will be compromised for the sake of reducing the products price and making different designers work more globally accessible.

As highly critical as I am, I was impressed that I was challenged on day four of design saturation.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tortona Design Week- Milano

Today I spent the day roaming the Tortona exhibition area. This was a lot more up my alley than the Fiera Milano. The Via Tortona area is an industrial area of Milano. Spaces like mechanic workshops have basically been boarded up partially and turned into temporary exhibition spaces. People have given up there houses and moved every object out to accommodate for hordes of visitors to walk through a temporary exhibition space.

This style of exhibition reaches out to designer maker crafts people. The exhibition felt much less commercialised than the Fiera Milano.

It is slightly disappointing that there are no really interactive events at the exhibition. I thought it would be a perfect forum to engage in design debates + undertake different workshops. However, it seems as though most stands are purely focused on exhibiting.

I visited the Domus live at Tortona, which is focused on presenting talks, interviews and design debates. However, it seems that the whole thing was really geared towards posting the event on a social media platform. The speakers were position awkwardly close to the camera, preventing the real audience to really watch and listen to the interview. There was no attempt from the organizers to rally up real live crowds of visitors to the interviews.

It just seemed a little bit absurd not to engage a live audience, when you have a captive audience rearing to rest there weary legs from walking to endless exhibition displays.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Milano Furniture Fair 2011- First Impressions

Well I have taken off on another small jaunt across Europe to the Milan Furniture Fair. Finally after studying Italian for six years in primary school I can put the phrases to some use. I am kind of wishing we learnt a few more useful things other than singing happy birthday and hide the la gomma! Anyway, staying with Mamma + Pappa should see some speedy adoption of more Italian phrases.Thank Christ for the Italian/English dictionary, it is doing wonders in translating.

Anyway, today I spent the day roaming around the Fiera Milano site. It is pretty overwhelming being confronted by about 22 jumbo sized sheds which have all been converted into exhibition halls that house displays ranging from Student exhibitions (Salone Satellite), to lighting (Euroluce) right through to office furnishing.

I kicked off the day by visiting the student display, placed at the very rear of all the exhibition spaces. Many of the students stood there hopefully handing out business cards, in an attempt to have their work picked up by manufacturers. It was kind of nice hanging out in this area, most of the students lack the pretention that most of the other display spaces had. But at the same time a lot of the work wasn’t particularly impressive and I wondered why you would blow so much money on hiring an exhibition space/transporting the work and then sitting at a stand for 4 days for some mediocre work.

One of the most stand-out student pieces was from Kirsti Taiviola. She has developed blowen glass globes that reflect different patterns onto the wall surface. They were simple but elegant and you could see them adapted in many different architectural situations.

Then I spent a lot of time wondering around Euroluce.. I haven’t scene so many glass chandeliers. The place was sparkling with diamantes, Euroluce was full of Italian bling. There was a lot of bad taste going on in a lot of these stands.

Moving onto the modern furniture stands I was most impressed by the Zietaprozessdesign a Polish design firm. They had developed a collection of works made from inflated steel. I must say I was pretty inspired by this method of creating organic looking metal works. I think this technique could be adapted into sculptural works. It will just take a dam fine welder to weld .5 sheet metal together, and have an airtight joint.


And the winner of the worst piece of design i saw today, goes to someone that produced some white fur like fluffy panniers on the back of a bike. I can't post a photo because i ran out of batteries on the camera... but it was pretty hideous.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dutch Illiteracy

For the past week I have been experiencing being illiterate. Putting little to no effort in prior to leaving for the Netherlands, I have been greeted by a sea of Dutch words, plastering advertisements billboards, signage, newspaper and shopping isles. I have resorted to shopping from pictures.

Friday afternoon I thought I would do the housemately thing. Invest in a carton of beer + a jumbo size pack of toilet paper. Everything you ever needed for an exciting weekend! Anyway, wobbled home, with beer balanced on the back bike rack and the toilet paper in hand

It came time to crack one, so I sat down to my nice jumbo pack, ruffled open the plastic packaging only to find a JUMBO package of absorbent paper towel. Sadly I haven’t got an arse the size of an absorbent paper towel piece that would compensate for this stuff up.

Instead I am considering whisking the package into the kitchen pantry in anticipation of my ‘weekly fry up.’

The experience was very humbling and has given me the kick to start working through the 101 of Dutch language.


Yesterday I went to Amsterdam. It was a cool Metropolitan city, which felt a little like Melbourne, with arty stores lining the streets. Trams continually streaming past looping back and forth to central station to the Museum quarter.

However, Amsterdam had a bit of seedy undertone as well it felt a little bit like a circus at times. The European Bali. It seems like lots of Europeans and tourists flock here to make use of the liberated culture. Smoke dope and shag chicks. This was just one feeling in the city, which i am sure is ripe on the weekends.

Anyway, that aside after a long walk being lost on the complex canal system I made it to the Van Gogh Museum. It was teeming with tourists. But tourists aside I put my headset on and zoned out.

It is pretty striking to see how contemporary Van Gogh was for the times. His strong use of colour and texture creates really intense moods in his paintings.

I was most struck by his works featuring cherry blossom trees. I have not really seen these works in reproductions before. However, the works manage to capture the delicateness of the tree and the atmosphere of Spring.

Standing shoulder to shoulder, with streams of people crawling along the walls of the Van Gogh museum appreciating his works, I felt a tinge of sadness. To think Van Gogh’s work went relatively unappreciated until after his death is a bit disappointing. He was probably just considered a mentally impaired man during his life.

It is a little bit ironic the way the arts scene works!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Culture Lab

I am onto day 3 of the internship with Tejo Remy and Rene Veenhuizen. When I arrived at the studio I was very reassured to see a room full of treasurers. A collection of old glassware for lighting projects, bags full of old blankets, a sea of prototypes floating in every spare space.

The sight of the single stitch industrial sewing machine was also pretty exciting.

Anyway, the studio is based out in a very industrial part of Utrecht. The studio has an outlook onto a DHL depot, and the street with lined with lots more factories. It is pretty much on par with the serenity of Midland. Not the type of place you feel like venturing out for lunch in. Anyway, luckily where the studio is housed is a ‘Culture Lab’, basically a whole heap of creative’s have leased this building. Which means lunch often consists of conversa

tion with different architects, painters, set designers or engineers. This makes for a good social working environment.

Over the last couple of days I have been working on an ‘Accidental mat’. The piece recycles old blankets, and turns it into a very organic floor mat. It is nice to see the full working method of making the piece. It is also great to see what was probably conceived as a one off piece be developed into a marketable small production run product. The investment that Tejo, Rene + Tanja have put into developing the first rug has paid off through the development of the piece into a product. It is also reassuring to know that I am not the only designer who invests crazy amounts of labour into her work, the Accidental mats take approximately a week to make.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


It is pretty exciting to see so many bicycles being ridden in Holland. Nothing stops the Dutch getting around by bike. There are young women stilettos cautiously mounting their bikes. Groups of Oma’s (Grannies) picking up there shopping. Mums cycling with their multiple children strapped front and back to the bike. Not even a trip to Ikea is an excuse to drive flat packed furniture home. Instead it is planted under the cyclists armpit, and precariously balanced on the handle bars all the way home.

Cycling is ingrained in the culture!

This is very inspiring compared with my recent experience back home. To cut a long story short I work part time as an Art Technician at a Perth High School. Anyway, we were delivered the best professional development session I have experienced a few weeks ago. The session focused on ways the school could become more sustainable in social and environmental aspects of school life. Reading the body language of most of the staff they hesitantly participated! Middle-aged people stuck in their old consuming ways not willing to change their habits for the benefit of the greater environment. By contrast me being the young and enthusiastic person I am, I filled my page with potential changes that could be made around the school to create a more environmental sustainable place.

-Ban all personal use vehicles to the school. Staff must carpool, cycle or catch public transport to the school.

- Ban selling water at the canteen. Students must refill from refrigerated taps around the school.

- Stop selling meat dishes in the canteen.

- Health + fitness should be valued over personal grooming in the school environment.

The list went on, I scrawled the ideas down with enthusiasm. I thought that implementing these initiatives in a small school environment would be relatively easy to organise. It would also be an environment that you would be able to actually see progress. Finally teachers could be valued for their role modelling, leading a green revolution!

Ok so I got a little carried away...little bit to radical in my train of thought. Instead I let the enthusiasm bubble away inside. I got a little distracted preparing for my trip away and never actually managed to try and initiate any of these ideas. However, one other teacher managed to pull finger and started to rally up support for carpooling. First it came with an email…. With no response… then it was brought up at staff morning tea. You could feel the staff role there eyes and silently zone off into the tray of cakes sitting on the table.

So with no luck I boarded my plane for Holland silently disillusioned by peoples’ inability to try new things, to change some aspects of their lifestyle for the common good. So for now I will lap up the Dutch’s enthusiasm for cycling + the good public transport born from high-density living!

First impressions of Utrecht

Midland Atelier

Midland Atelier
The Water Tower Studio.

The Water Tower View

The Floor Mat

The Floor Mat
This is an organic looking floor mat I am creating. It was inspired by mold crawling up the wall