Designer interview: Studio Thier & van Daalen

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In this interview series, we will enter into a dialogue with the designers we work with. How do they perceive the design profession? Where do their motivations and fascinations come from? How did the products that are included in the Vij5 collection originate and what influence has their education had on what their design studio looks like now?

This time an interview with Iris van Daalen. Together with her partner Ruben Thier she runs Studio Thier & van Daalen in Eindhoven. Technology is one of Ruben's strengths and he has a great problem-solving ability. Iris is fascinated by light and has a keen eye for how colours respond. Together they create beautiful products. Designs arise from their fascination with light, reflection, colour, connections and sustainable materials. The Angled Cabinet is an example of this, since 2017 the cabinet is part of the Vij5 collection.

Text: Daniëlle van de Haterd
Photography on location: Blickfanger
Portrait photography: Blickfanger
Product photography: Vij5 + Studio Thier & van Daalen

Arjan & Anieke: 'Can you tell us a bit more about how you came to the design of the Angled Cabinet?

Iris: 'This cabinet came about primarily as a result of Ruben's technical approach. He was inspired by the joints in the wooden frames that we use for our other designs and explored what else could be done with them. The Angled Cabinet was actually born out of a fascination with wood connections and the fact that you can make something very strong out of thin slats. The layering of glass from which the shelves are made ensures that it has become a real Thier & van Daalen, because it creates color stacking and light reflections.

Iris: 'The biggest stumbling block in the design was the production price (and thus the selling price). To limit that, we now put a little extra love into the closet. For example, we drill the holes ourselves; Ruben has made a mold for this. We can do this because we're not dealing with large numbers. If we were to sell a large number of cabinets every month, we would be forced to find another solution, and that would be a new challenge!'

"The essence of product design is that something works in every way and you want to keep looking at it."

Studio Thier & van Daalen

Arjan & Anieke: 'Why do you think the Angled Cabinet fits in well with the Vij5 collection?

Iris: 'In particular because of the material the cabinet is made of. You see 'just' a wooden cabinet, but if you look closely you can see the innovation. That's the way I see it with all the products in the Vij5 collection. Something seems simple but it's technically very innovative.

I think that's also the essence of product design; that something works in every way and that you want to keep looking at it.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'Which education did you follow and what did you really remember from it?

Iris: 'Both Ruben and I were educated at the Design Academy Eindhoven. For me, it was initially the building that appealed to me a lot. I really liked the experience of the space. In addition, I recognized myself in the people and I was inspired by the diversity of the courses and teachers. This has enabled me to get to know the various sides of the design profession and to develop my own style.

Ruben took the course from a different starting point than I did. He is more technical. Even as a child he took things apart to see how they were put together. That's why he focused more on the product side while I focused on the interior side.'

"In retrospect, we were very naive. 'Yeah why not?' we thought and suddenly we were at the design fair in Milan with our products."

Studio Thier & van Daalen

Arjan & Anieke: 'After your training, you started your own design studio. Why did you choose to do this at the time?'

Iris: 'When we completed our education in 2011, we were in the middle of the crisis. Jobs in our sector were not easy to come by so we decided to start our own business. In hindsight, we were very naive. 'Yeah, why not?' we thought and suddenly we were at the design fair in Milan with our products. It was very overwhelming, we had a lot of visitors but we had no idea who was interesting for us and who was not.. It was only then that we realized what is actually involved in having our own company. Everything we know now, we learned by trial and error and by surrounding ourselves with like-minded people. We now see this crisis as a blessing in disguise.

It's not like we've never done something other than work for ourselves, by the way. We've had several part-time jobs besides the studio and even now Ruben works two days a week as a design engineer at a company in led lighting'.

"By not acting too well behaved, innovative ideas emerge."

Studio Thier & van Daalen

Arjan & Anieke: 'What does a design process look like for you?

Iris: 'Designs actually always arise from research and curiosity about a material. When we discover something interesting, we get to work on it. Inspiration can come from all sorts of places. In the days before Corona - when we were still getting around - we found it in museums, factories, or on holiday.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'Talking about corona, another crisis. Does this affect your work?'

Iris: 'In a positive sense, you could say. At first, our work fell silent, which gave us time to think and focus. At a certain point, the demand for our products suddenly increased. The colour shelves and lamps, in particular, were very popular. People had to be home a lot and wanted to make their house beautiful, they couldn't go to the store and had to rely on online purchases. Fortunately, they also found us. For us, this meant that the focus shifted. We had to create instead of invent. The latter is also because there are no fairs, this reduces the pressure to design new items. Of course, we are still designing, but at a different pace.'

"Our designs are always a fusion between natural behavior of a material and a path we have devised."

Studio Thier & van Daalen

Arjan & Anieke: 'What do you think is characteristic of your work?'

Iris: 'Our designs are always a fusion between the natural behavior of a material and a path we have devised. So we put something of ourselves into a natural process. We have a preference for materials that have flexibility in them, we give them a restriction which gives them a form that is partly natural and partly man-made. A good example of this is our framed glass forms as you see for example in the Captured Bubble Light.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'How important is collaboration for you?

Iris: 'We find that very important. Anyway, as a duo we like working together, we have our own qualities and tasks, we help each other by asking critical questions. We also find collaboration with other companies, craftsmen and brands very important, we would like to do that even more in the future because it can lead to surprising results.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'Is there something you want to pass on to a new generation of designers?'

Iris: 'Think carefully about sustainability. You can make something that looks very beautiful, but if the materials or production lines are bad or harmful it won't make the world a better place.'