Amsterdam design firm Studio Roex is a partnership between designer Nic Roex and marketing and PR manager Jeske Kapitein. The studio states their work uses sharp construction and strong lines to increase awareness of everyday objects.
“Immediate acceptance of the presented objects is not the purpose of our work. The designs confront the viewer with familiar and established processes, elements, shapes and techniques, in a transparent manner. This unexpected approach to their combination and application elicits curiosity and interaction. In the designs, we try to actively draw the observer into the object. We want to increase people’s awareness of what they see, heightening their ability (and desire) to understand it.”
Their project, “Plumber’s Piece,” marries two common household objects, vases and expansion tanks. The shape of these leather vases is determined by a rubber membrane taken from the less-showy hot water tank.
They state of the project:
“Fascinated by the silhouette and properties of a rubber membrane, Studio Roex developed a design that does justice to the membrane in terms of both function (waterproof and solid) and shape.
“The constructive value of leather combined with the flexible rubber membrane creates a new visual language. The shape of Plumber’s Piece originates from the proportions of the existing membrane. The ribs give the material structural value, so that the vase remains in balance and the original properties of both materials are accentuated.”
We need to take issue with one part of the design statement, however, as it could be an example of “green washing” in the design industry. The designers state that they worked with production companies in the Netherlands, noting that Dutch production companies are becoming scarce. That’s fine. The problem comes with the following statement. The emphasis is ours.
“We work with vegetable tanned leather only. This way, we contribute our part to the people, planet and profit framework.“
The leather market, as a whole, has been criticized recently for being harmful to the environment. There are a variety of tanning methods in use today, some probably more harmful than others. Vegetable-tanned leather is sometimes seen as a safer choice, as Studio Roex implies in their statement. However, there is an ongoing debate within the design world about that stance as well. This line comes to us from Ecouterre.
“From start to finish, the amount of energy required to create a leather hide is 20 times greater than what’s used to produce a synthetic material…
“Although vegetable-tanned leather is often touted as being less harmful to the environment, Bill Bartholomew, a representative for The Leather Group admitted at the World Shoes Accessories ecoEthics Conference in February that “eco-friendly” vegetable tanning is just as polluting as chrome tanning.”
We point this out not to attack Studio Roex or their work. If we didn’t find their vases to be of interest, we wouldn’t have profiled them in this issue. Perhaps Dutch leather companies are more careful about the environment; we weren’t able to learn much about the Netherlands versus manufacturers in the rest of the world, so we can’t say for certain. We’re also sure that some of the works we’ve profiled on this site in the past have had equally-egregious production methods. However, the eco-friendly claim was made by Roex and we should address it to the best of our ability.
Bill Rodgers is a Contributing Editor at CFile.
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