If the name Cecilie Manz isn’t familiar, her works certainly will be. One of the most revered and prolific designers working today, Manz has been integral in bringing contemporary Danish design to the world stage. Through collaborations with brands as diverse as Duravit, Fritz Hansen and Bang & Olufsen, as well as her independent creations, Manz has built a portfolio that defies easy categorisation and demonstrates her curiosity and craftsmanship.
Coming off her Designer of the Year recognition at Maison & Objet 2018, we were fortunate to learn the stories behind some of Cecilie’s most iconic designers throughout her career. One thing’s for sure – Manz may be humble, but her name is certainly worth knowing.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and first forays into design?
Cecilie Manz: Becoming a designer was never my intention; I wanted to paint. But it makes sense that I ended up in this field. Looking back at how fascinated I’ve always been by ‘objects’ : how things are made, materiality, colours etc.
For the next few questions we’d like to concentrate on the background behind some of your most iconic products. First; the Micado table. What inspired this design and why do you think it is such a recognisable work of yours?
Cecilie Manz: The table was a result of experimentation and play with wooden ‘sticks’ as a primary part of the furniture. Traditional hunting chairs do not exist with this construction, but they all have a metal ring to hold things together – I skipped this detail by adding a bump on the sticks (to prevent it from running through the hole in the table top). So the table is actually the result of static exercises more than shape. It is perhaps a good example of how the way things look are often a result of construction and materials, more than aesthetic grounds.
Next; the Caravaggio Lamp. What were your influences on this lamp and how important was both form and material for this piece?
Cecilie Manz: The lamp consist of very few elements, cord, light source, shade and fixture. I wanted to highlight these carefully – even the electrical cord. The cord is part of the lamp, not just a white plastic piece you wish to hide or retouch in Photoshop.The starting point of Caravaggio was a light source(bulb) with a metal shade wrapped around it. The fixture is visible and light runs both upwards and downwards, illuminating the fixture and cord – no secrets.The shape of the shade is therefore a result of this: two points that needed to be connected in the most beautiful way.
Third; the Pluralis Chair. What first sparked your idea for this chair? What kind of conversations or engagement do you hope the chair will inspire, or that you have heard of since it was released?
Cecilie Manz: I call it a chair in its plural shape: it has room for a whole family, and who’s dependent on who? Perhaps all seats are all dependent on each other, like in a family. On a more practical level it’s a chair for more people, like a stepping stool, or a sculptural piece.
Forth; the A1 Portable speaker for B&O. What was the process like to design a technology piece, and how was design for this inspired by your existing portfolio of work and design aesthetic?
Cecile Manz: I really like working with technology. In this way, it doesn’t need to be seen so differently from designing a chair or a cup. It all has to do with solving problems, with functionality, with looking into how people use and react to things. Of course B&O Play products have a higher degree of complexity, but that’s also the interesting part, making electronics ‘human’ and approachable.
The final piece is the Luv Bathroom Collection for Duravit. What was it like to work on a larger, more permanent object, and how did you work with materiality in particular for this design?
Cecilie Manz: I really enjoyed working with Duravit on this collection. It carries (as you mention) the aspect of time: It’s made to last and it actually will for many many years because of its materiality. I always keep in mind that when I do something – design something – it should last long in all senses of the word. I should do my very best – and here it really makes sense with this approach.
Craftsmanship is also a keyword. You tend to forget that behind all objects, even the very industrial ones, is loads of work from skilled craftsmen.
It’s actually crucial to understand that craftsmanship is not only an image of a hand sanding a wooden chair – it’s in all fields. Manufacturing the moulds for casting is completed in it’s own workshop with specialists at Duravit in Hornberg. It’s wonderful to experience, and I have great respect for their work.
What was your inspiration for your Maison & Objet exhibition and how did you develop the concept from there?
Cecilie Manz: I was very happy about the appointment, but the main treat was the exhibition. It’s a nice opportunity to develop new designs and sort of make a status: now I’m here, I did this over the last couple of years. I really enjoyed it, placing everything on one ‘stage’. My approach was a bit theatrical: come inside, have a seat, find peace and get an overview. The Kvadrat textile helped a great deal to make this atmosphere.
Finally, what’s something you haven’t achieved in your career yet?
Cecilie Manz: Oh a lot. I take one thing at a time, see where it brings me and see what comes around.