This month, CID talks to one of France’s leading industrial designers Benjamin Graindorge about his inherent love for science and his plans to visit dubai
Largely recognised as one of France’s most reputable young designers, Benjamin Graindorge doesn’t seem to have reached his current position through meticulous calculation; rather it seems his prominence as a designer is the result of combined universal elements that have lead him forward day by day.
“I was born to a family of scientists,” explains Graindorge. “My father is a doctor, my mother is a midwife and my grandparents are engineers…I wanted to find a way between science and art.”
Graindorge seems to have inherited his family’s taste for the scientific world and reflects his childhood disposition to the experimental realm through his designs, whether it’s intentional or not.
He describes: “I was always fascinated by science, especially with mathematics. Through it, I discovered the beauty of reality and [of] nature. And through the abstraction and freedom of mathematics, I discovered art and design.”
Many of Graindorge’s designs explore innovative and sustainable solutions to modern products, like his Floating Garden fish tank, designed in 2009.
The Floating Garden fish tank created a unique solution to the daily maintenance limitations of freshwater aquariums by using a filtering system that was completely natural. The product used a cushion of sand and a water-purifying plant that adapts to each model of the product. It applies a recyclable principle based on hydroponics and exhibits the designer’s ability to merge design with sustainable functionality.
Born in 1980, Graindorge studied at École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle, better known as ENSCI. The designer’s studies spanned over a seven year period, as Graindorge explains it took him quite long to find himself.
He says: “I started at ENSCI in September 1999 and graduated in March 2006…I went to this fabulous school just after my bachelor degree and I was not ready to accept the freedoms school offered me.
“I got lost many times before I found my future job as a designer. It took me time. [ENSCI] is a school for adults and it takes courage to become one. I love this school, it gave me everything.”
Though Graindorge comes off as a bit of a metaphysical wanderlust during these years, he certainly showed promise during his final year project, entitled le Paysage Domestique, which received support from the VIA and he went on to be selected for two years in a row for France’s Design Parade Festival.
It was during this time that Graindorge also won the Cinna and Audi Talents Awards for design. Following the designer’s education programs, he moved to Kyoto, Japan to live as an artist in residence at the villa Kujoyama.
Of his experience abroad, Graindorge says: “Living in Japan was a great adventure for me. I had discovered the calm of the creation. It is what every artist is looking for…to not to be afraid to try, and to try every day.
“Being a designer is probably closer to being an artisan than it is to being an artist. Only work and endless sketches can bring us to beauty.”
While Graindorge doesn’t exactly separate himself from being an artist, he does see the beauty in quality craftsmanship. And his initial sketches of his design are quite graphic, delicate and simply put, beautiful.
The initial sketch of the Soft Wild sofa shows a monolithic polar bear emerging from the multicoloured, textile layers of the sofa. The fortitude of Graindorge doesn’t merely exist in the end result of his products, but rather in his entire creative process from the moment the idea strikes, to its artistic sketch, and finally to its tangible manifestation.
In an interview with Uta Abendroth from StylePark, Graindorge once said: “I’m not an artist. I consider myself a designer through and through; after all, I always work with the tools of the trade. My designs are wholeheartedly geared toward this, both in their production, later use and even in the spirit of the design itself.
“Having said this, I do adhere to the notion that an object should have a life of its own, should age gracefully. That is what I aim to achieve with my approach to design. I am constantly seeking to explore new territories in design. If there is one thing I’m afraid of, it has to be boredom. I believe that when you sketch a new object, you also begin to feed and nurture the emotional side.”
After Graindorge’s time in Kyoto, he returned to France and quickly began building contacts and relationships. In 2010, he collaborated with François Bauchet for the Biennale Internationale du Design in Saint-Etienne. This partnership followed his participation in the fair Art Paris with Ymer&Malta, which allowed him to do the scenography for Designer Days for AUDI.
It is in part due to his relationship with Ymer&Malta, that Graindorge’s name and brand has transcended international boundaries.
Speaking of his relationship with Ymer&Malta, Graindorge explains: “I met Valerie Maltaverne just before going to Japan. I thought it was just a good contact, but very soon Valerie quickly asked me to work for Ymer&Malta.
“I am very lucky to work with her. Valerie works on her instinct, she trusts emotions and in this regard we are very much alike. I like Valerie very much [as well as] our relationship. We will perhaps never be a family, but we will always be more than friends. In my opinion, we do not work together…we collaborate.”
Since graduating from ENSCI, Graindorge has participated in a number of group exhibitions such as Draw the Design, 2009; mimiParty, 2009; the International Design Biennial, 2010; Marble Featherweight, 2011; morningMist 2011, and Blackout, 2012.
“I was lucky,” states Graindorge. “I met the right people at the right time. I was not building it as a career path on purpose, it just happened. And I had the privilege to showcase my work.
“To make a living, I used to work for other designers so my professional activity was pretty free. I wanted to get feedback from the public; I wanted to compare my sensibility with the reactions of others. It was not easy but it taught me a lot.”
Currently, the Middle East market can look forward to Graindorge visiting Dubai during Design Days with Ymer&Malta. He looks forward to exhibiting a number of new works including the Fallen Tree bench, which starts off as a contemporary wooden bench on the right end that gradually extends into a crown of branches belonging to the tree toward the left.
Other Graindorge products to look forward to at the design fair are the Sofascape, made from oak and calfskin leather, and Miroir Mirage, a series of three mirrors.
Of himself, Graindorge notes: “I do not know if I have a style. But if I had to define my way of working, it would be ‘a scientific study of the structure of living pieces that I interpret in my own way in order to reveal its intelligence and beauty.’ I create nothing. In my works I put together what I perceive as my environment.”