Kaspar Hamacher teams his wood with the leather of the Radermecker Tannery Design - 13 April 2016
For the Salone in Milan, Kaspar Hamacher and the Radermecker tannery have pooled their respective expertise and come up with a prototype for a chair. It will be exhibited at "A Matter of Perception: Tradition & Technology", an event organised by Belgium is Design and DAMN° magazine. Interview with the designer.
Let's start with that hackneyed question: who are you?
The answer is not as hackneyed as the question because my work hovers at the intersection between design, crafts and art. I'm a carpenter by training. I then went to art school in the Netherlands where I developed a personal approach to woodworking that I still apply today. Today, I live and work in my home region, near Eupen, on the edge of the forest. My creations are unique pieces, somewhere between sculpture and furniture. I like handling raw wood by giving it the rough treatment, cutting it with a chainsaw, for example, or using fire, as was the case for my Ausgebrannt collection.
Where can we find your work?
Everywhere really. Obviously in my studio, but also abroad. I have many clients in Paris and New York. At the moment, I’m working with two galleries in Berlin and San Francisco. I don’t work with a manufacturer because I’m determined to produce all my pieces myself. They are unique and customised. This means that my work tends to be marketed and distributed via galleries and exhibitions. I’m regularly asked to show my work in cultural institutions. Last year, for example, I participated in the Future Archaïque exhibition organised by the CID Grand Hornu, which was also presented at the MUDAC in Lausanne, Switzerland. This year will be my fourth participation at the Salone in Milan. The exhibition is a great way of gaining a foothold in the professional world of design and gives me a unique international visibility.
This year you’re exhibiting a joint project. Can you tell us something about your partner?
My partner is the Radermecker tannery situated in Warneton in Hainaut. The company was established back in 1870 and has an exceptional expertise in the field of leather. Their work covers all stages of processing, from the reception of the animal skins to the finished leather. What is so special about this tannery is that it works cattle hide and produces a thick leather suitable, among other uses, for industrial applications. Over the past fifteen years, it has branched out into other sectors such as upholstery and furniture. It even has a factory shop, which distinguishes it from other companies in the sector. The work perpetuated in Radermecker is ancestral and is a dying craft Belgium and even in Europe. I hope that the project we are bringing to Milan will help to put the spotlight on their activity and to rekindle interest in leatherwork in general.
What was the role of the tannery?
The Radermecker tannery gave me access to a raw material of exceptional quality. It also guided me through the possibilities of shaping and processing the leather. The opportunity to immerse myself in this particular world has been great for me. As a designer and artist, I admittedly took a few liberties with the traditional methods of tanning. I wanted to use a very buff leather, as natural as possible. I bypassed the stage of leather treatment that refines it and makes it "workable" using tanner tools. Just like my work on wood, I wanted to use a raw, whole material to which I apply a strong mechanical treatment.
What is the project proposed at the Salone in Milan?
It’s a prototype for a low chair. The project was prompted by an urge to rework leather on which I had experimented several years ago. It consists of a single piece of wood, which serves as the chair structure and a thick leather sheet, stretched and nailed onto the wooden seat. Leather and wood are two natural, strong and dense materials, one rigid and the other flexible. Their dialogue opens up new perspectives for my work. The chair is the first piece of a future collection that will be completed with chairs, benches, footrests, etc.