We met up with Erwan Boulloud, a renowned French designer and sculptor with whom we accomplished a first collaboration - “Yareta”. For this collaboration, our workrooms, under the artistic directions of the designer, created two sculptural seatings. Unique, they stand out with decorative elements in brass marquetry. This ambitious project required our upholsterers to combine technical expertise and savoir-faire, to achieve the connections between the different elements and sculpt the foam, in order to obtain the required shapes.
Can we start by briefly looking back at your career?
"After graduating from École Boule, I worked for a few years in museums such as the Louvre or the Grande Galerie de l'Évolution, where I did plinth work for artworks in display cases. It was a very enriching experience because I was exposed to a multitude of collections and various cultures. Afterward, I quickly started creating small pieces alongside my job as a locksmith. I have always engaged in creative work in my workroom, and gradually, through participating in trade shows and exhibitions, the creative aspect took a larger role. For the past fifteen years, creation has become my predominant activity. Today, I work for galleries, luxury companies, or directly with clients."
What is your relationship with creative workshops?
"It's something quite new for me. Until now, I used to create my pieces in my workroom with my ten artisans. We rarely relied on creative workshops, except for the foundries with whom we have developed a relationship over the years. I would say that I started collaborating with them at a later stage, after establishing my initial collections, in order to access a level of expertise that would be impossible to achieve internally. It also allows us to explore more creative possibilities. For example, in the case of upholstery, it's a distinct craft that I hadn't yet explored. It's quite special because the act of designing, for me, is an instinctive process, and working with workrooms such as your own, requires me to understand your own production process. It's a very interesting exercise that opens up a lot of perspectives for future creations."
What inspired you for this new project?
"There were several things that inspired me. One of them was the concept of growth and invasion around a fixed object. The 'Yareta' is a plant that grows very slowly in the Andes of South America and gradually invades rocks over thousands of years. That's why I wanted to symbolize the marquetry plate and cube with upholstery. It represents a sense of temporality, a relationship between two materials in symbiosis that gives a certain character to the curves. I also recall that during our initial discussion, you mentioned the term 'cloud.' Although it wasn't my primary inspiration, I think it works as well because one can imagine a cloud surrounding a mountain."
How would you describe this first collaboration with our workrooms?
"How many stars should I give you? (laughs) No, seriously, I think we achieved a good result for our first collaboration. Personally, I’m never satisfied, which is what drives me to constantly reinvent myself. I learned a lot from this experience, and it gave me food for thought for the future. Just in terms of the nature of the sculptural seating, I believe there are countless possibilities. On a more practical note, I learned to understand your way of working, and I must say that Alice and Pascaline (Project Managers) provided excellent support. The overall process was very smooth, and we instantly understood each other, which was very pleasant."
What approach did you have with our Studio Design & Méthodes during the technical and aesthetic development phase of the project?
"What I find really enjoyable is being able to discuss subjective ideas and concepts, but to be understood even before invoking elements such as the frame, foam, fabric. The sculptural and conceptual aspects were immediately integrated into their way of thinking, and from there, it became very easy. Our collaboration worked very well with Augustin (designer) and Mathis (upholsterer) because we were on the same level, and I didn't have to push hard to defend my ideas."
Could you tell us about the materials and color palette?
"At the beginning, when I designed the collection, I imagined the plate and the cube in various ways. I thought of stone, marble, raw sheet metal, or even a rusted element. Between sculpture and furniture, I had to make compromises, and the same goes for the choice of fabric. In terms of the metal, patinated brass marquetry on a wooden structure seemed to be the most cohesive material as it brings ergonomics without betraying the concept. It allowed me to bring a precious element, a certain delicacy to the piece. However, if I had chosen rusted sheet metal, it would have worked conceptually, but it would have been too fragile. As for the colors, we are working with shades of white and a little gray. The color palette allows me to give volume to the pieces. White is a less assertive color, and for a first experience with very strong choices, I chose to use more consensus-driven colors."
Would you like to collaborate with our workrooms again in the future?
Yes, the ideas are there, the desire is there, but there is the issue of funding. In my mind, the Yareta project is already behind me, and it should pave the way for others. I feel like I've learned a lot, and it has given me a base to continue developing in that direction. Now, I need to make it happen. Ideas for new pieces have already been sketched out. If it were up to me, we would already have 2 sofas and 3 armchairs in production. However, it comes with a cost, and I need to finance it and sell this collection first. This filter will matter. Let's say I don't sell it, that's not a problem, I might make another one, but it will take time to self-finance. On the other hand, if it succeeds commercially, things can then move forwards very quickly."
Our entire team would like to warmly thank Erwan Boulloud for his trust and for agreeing to be interviewed for our new "The words of a Designer" series.