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‘Form Talks’ with Maribel Carlander

Maribel Carlander is an up-and-coming product designer from Copenhagen, with a degree in Industrial Design, and a socially responsible mindset to manufacturing. We got the chance to catch up with Maribel and learn more about her intelligent designs, and here’s what she had to say…

Nice to meet you Maribel, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

“I grew up in Copenhagen and attended a Rudolf Steiner School (a group of schools with a controversial view towards their ‘alternative’ forms of education), so my earlier education was very hands-on and creative. After a failed attempt at being a socialist hippie, I went on to gain a Bachelor and Masters degree in Industrial Design at Kolding School of Design in Denmark, and completed an exchange at the Design Academy Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. My time in Eindhoven was particularly rewarding, as it was my first real experience of international design.”

We’re always interested to hear about how designers are inspired to create their best work. Is there a particular thing or person that inspires your work the most?

“I hate to sound clichéd, but this question is nearly impossible to answer because it can really be anything, from a new material to a technical function to the colour of an ice-cream wrapper. Once I do have an idea for a new product, I spend a lot of time researching and developing before I settle on the final outcome.”

You mention materials, are there any particular materials you prefer utilising in your product designs?

“Of course it depends on the brief, but I do have a weakness for materials that change with time.”


When we stumbled across your portfolio, the Nohogany Stool is the first thing that caught our eye, could you tell us a little more about it?

“The point of the project was to explore the use of exotic — yet sustainable and FSC-approved — tropical woods in Scandinavian design and to challenge the idea that using local materials in design is the only sustainable choice.

The project emerged from a trip to Colombia. I went there with the objective of finding inspiration for a new project, with the main focus still undecided when I was leaving Copenhagen. The trip was incredibly experiential and I ended up learning how to surf, more than doing actual work, but the main thing I took from it was how visible deforestation is, the imprint it leaves on the landscape and how it affects the people who live in the jungle, who are forced to abandon this way of living because of it.

Sourcing and shipping wood from the rainforest may not seem like the most environmentally sound idea, however, by creating a demand for the right varieties of wood – lesser known FSC certified species – you increase the value of the rainforest and discourage the use of over-harvested and endangered popular species. By using lesser-known species, a greater economical value is generated for forest owners, whilst simultaneously lessening the over-exploitation of threatened species such as mahogany and teak.”

“The colour palette developed from wanting to draw attention to the wood in different ways. For example, by choosing a tone for the metal that was close to the natural wood colour, it forces you to question the dyed appearance of the wood, whilst making another stand out by choosing a bright and contrasting colour.”

We noticed you’ve also worked with Frama to produce the Fundamental Candleholders. What has your journey in the industry been like so far and are there any other design brands you’d like to collaborate with?

“I was fortunate to have my candleholders selected by Frama for their current collection whilst I was completing my Masters. Frama has an honest approach to form and materials, which is a natural fit for my work. I hope to collaborate with them again in the future, and actually, some new editions of the candleholders will be launched very soon.”

Scandinavian design has been on the radar in the UK for a while now, and shows no signs of slowing down as it expands from interiors inside the home, to the designs within the workplace. As a Danish-Finnish designer, do you feel your work is typically typecast under the broader term of “Scandinavian design” and how do you try to move your own work on from this generalisation?


Where did the idea for the name ‘Nohogany’ come from?

“The ‘Nohogany’ name is simply about drawing attention to the over-exploitation of certain tropical wood species, for example Mahogany, and to illustrate a purpose for other variants.”

As a new technique, how did you decide which tropical wood species to source for the collection, and what where the qualities that attracted you to the use of woods such as FSC Angelim, FSC Amaranth and FSC Pau Amarillo?

“People can be quite conservative when choosing wood types. I wanted to work with some unusual species, as it was important to show a variety, rather than promoting one lesser-known species, which again might lead to over-harvesting. The purple Amaranth appears stained although it’s completely untreated and the Angelim has a really interesting marble pattern, which is my personal favourite.

I actually chose to disregard the different properties of the specific wood species, in order to make a flexible system that meets the natural cycle of the forest and the different wood species it offers at different times. By using a simple and standard processing of the wood it allows for the use of a wide variety of lesser-known species, instead of relying on the research and experience of others who have worked with the wood.”

Successful colour palettes can be tricky, but we were particularly impressed with the theory behind your colour-ways. Where does the inspiration for your colour palettes come from?

“There is definitely a expectation of what a Scandinavian designer is, but I do think that studio’s such as Frama are beginning to challenge that generalisation and are becoming bolder in the designs that are being showcased. Having said that, I think I will always be drawn to minimalism and efficiency. As I mentioned previously, part of the concept behind ‘Nohogany’ was to challenge the almost-dogmatic belief that Scandinavian design must be sustainable and that, of course, means using locally sourced materials.”

We can’t wait to see what you have planned next, so what can we expect to see from you in the not too distant future? Any new product launches we should keep an eye out for?

“I recently started working with Nomess Copenhagen on their 2017 collection, so you should definitely keep an eye out for them – they are working on some very interesting new products.”

And finally, could you please provide a question that we can ask the next person we interview for our ‘Form Talks’ feature?

“What would be your dream collaboration? (You don’t have to say me!)”.

You can explore Maribel’s work further here.